Graphic by Josh Kelly
An “American Teen” no more, Khalid releases his second album, “Free Spirit,” reflecting on the qualms of being 21 and successful.
Unlike many artists who seem to have a dramatic change in sound by their second album—like Halsey or 5 Seconds of Summer— Khalid remains in his comfortable niche of not quite hip-hop with strong ‘90s R&B influences. “Free Spirit” is a sequel to “American Teen”—in sound, in concepts and in lyrics.
Slight variations from his first album are sprinkled throughout the album thanks to contributions from other artists. John Mayer appears on the song “Outta My Head,” and the ballad “Heaven” was written by Father John Misty. Electronic duo Disclosure also produced one of the singles from the album, “Talk.”
While the album isn’t groundbreaking or a highlight in the contemporary music scene, it’s exactly what many in this generation need. “Free Spirit” reveals the growth Khalid has gone through since the release of his first album and shows how many of his listeners have grown with him.
“American Teen” came out in March of 2017 when many of his fans were likewise still teenagers and living with their parents. Now, two years later, tracks like “Twenty One” highlight the complexities of entering adulthood at the same time as those fans.
“Cause I’m in pain, but I’m to blame,” Khalid sings on “Twenty One,” perhaps revealing that parents are no longer to blame for his problems.
“Hundred,” “Self” and “Alive” all reveal the deeper issues plaguing his mind. Khalid reflects on his current state of mind on “Self,” questioning whether his emotions make him “less of a man.”
He calls out the people who only use him for his success in “Hundred,” discusses fighting his own demons and asks where people are when he needs them in “Bad Luck.” While successful, he’s recognizing that people take advantage of that aspect of him. He says that if someone is going to love him, they need to love all of him.
“Free Spirit” isn’t without its share of love songs, whether they be to the girl who says she’s just a friend in “Better” or to the girl who he doesn’t want to leave, but recognizes that the end is coming soon in “Bluffin.” Apologies to current love interests for not being around can be found in “My Bad.”
Khalid includes a few songs reminiscent of a movie montage. “Paradise” is a vibey, lazy summer tune that seems appropriate to bump while walking down the boardwalk of your favorite beach.
“Free Spirit” is the song that plays while on a roadtrip with your best friends, begging to live in the moment. It’s a hopeful tune reminding anyone that despite the difficulties that come along with growing up, pausing and simply letting go can be beautiful.
The album ends with “Saturday Nights,” a lullaby for the ones who feel alone. It closes the album out on a hopeful note, promising that there is always someone who cares.
“Free Spirit” is a compilation of love, self-reflection and the exploration of freedom. While not a dominant force, this album serves as a reminder for its listeners to take a moment, reflect and let go.