Though it may take a few listens, new album Suncity is another hit from Khalid

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Whether it’s dancing in the summer to “Young Dumb & Broke,” driving with the windows rolled down and “8TEEN” blasting, or a late night with friends and “Shot Down” slowly lulling everyone to sleep, Khalid captured the attention of teenagers nationwide with his breakout debut album, American Teen.

Now, a year after the smash-hit success, Khalid has returned with Suncity, a seven-track ode to his hometown of El Paso, Texas.

I excitedly dove into the album as soon as it released and was frankly deflated upon my first listen. I found it unextraordinary and anticlimactic, so I disappointingly set the album away for another day.

But, I refused to let that initial reaction permanently deter my enthusiasm. I faithfully returned to the album after a bit and sure enough, after a few more listens, I was able to find some love for it.

In short, though there was a bit of a delay period, I actually do like the album. However, with a mere seven tracks, I was left feeling rather unsatisfied. I think the length inhibited audiences from receiving a larger variety in music; nonetheless, I appreciated the artistry of the album and its makeup. The album had a central theme and focus- El Paso- and played like a true, cohesive body of work, complete with a prelude and interlude (“9.13” and “Salem’s Interlude”).

Though I can recognize the musical flair that preludes and interludes provide to an album, it did make me feel a little cheated out of two songs on an already very short album. They hold some artistic value and beauty, but these “songs” are just voice recordings over instrumentals and harmonies. Voice recordings in songs can be meaningful and contributive, but Khalid is rather notorious for this, and truthfully, he overdoes it in Suncity. Besides “9.13” and “Salem’s Interlude,” there are voice recordings in three other songs– that’s five out of only seven.

All things considered, I give Khalid a pass for that particular blunder because I understand the value he saw those recordings contributed to the storytelling of this album.

And, the songs are good enough to make up for it. “Suncity,” for example, is a culprit of the voice recordings, but there’s too much else going on to focus on it. Coming in as the final track, “Suncity” is a little more dance-y than the rest of the album, though it still retains Khalid’s signature melancholy tone. The catchy beat and melody interestingly contrast with the darker, sadder vocals and lyrics. It’s a collaboration with Empress, whose smooth voice rivals and compliments Khalid’s, and it heavily incorporates Spanish in a natural, fitting, and non-gimmicky way.

Another interesting track was “Motion.” I enjoyed the pleasing electronic instrumentation, and it’s simultaneously catchy and calming– an art Khalid has mastered. This song showcases some of Khalid’s smoothest vocals on the album by incorporating his serene, effortless falsettos. Moreover, I really like the development of the songs; it builds, escalating to a climax of soaring vocals and harmonies, then falls to calmer beats. Finally, it concludes with the return of just enough power to make for a satisfying end to the song.

“Vertigo,” however, might just be my favorite from the album. I absolutely love the combination of the fluid orchestral instrumentation with Khalid’s classic synths. The song is calm and dreamy but balances out with a beat-centric chorus.

Finally, “Saturday Nights” and “Better” add a bit of variety and dimension. “Saturday Night,” though still chill like Khalid’s music always is, is an interesting take on traditional acoustic music. I like that Khalid branched out to that type of music while still maintaining his style and tone. “Better,” on the other hand, is more R&B than the rest of the album and is all that one would expect from Khalid– electronic instrumentation to create an upbeat and catchy, but still soothing, track.

Evidently, my initial dismay was rather premature. Sure, I could do with fewer voice recordings and a couple more songs, but overall, I really like Suncity, and I can certainly see myself growing even more fond of it as it becomes a regular in my playlists.

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