Khalid expands his realm yet again on Free Spirit

In 2017, artist Khalid debuted himself to the world with the release of his first studio album, American Teen, in a truly iconic work brimming with electricity and imagination.

Now, almost exactly two years later, much has changed. Khalid’s exemplary, unforgettable voice rocketed him to fame, and the relatively new artist now holds five Grammy nominations and millions of streams under his belt.

However, in his sophomore release Free Spirit, Khalid channels the same passion, talent, and fire found in his first album. Remarkably, it’s as if nothing has changed at all.

American Teen focused on Khalid being a teenager, moving on from high school, and his devotion and dedication for his hometown of El Paso. Free Spirit, however, focuses on the changes to Khalid’s life in the last two years, both the headway and the heartbreak.

In this way, Free Spirit truly encompasses Khalid’s growth, both as an artist and as a person.

Free Spirit builds off stronger R&B vibes and booming beats, in comparison to American Teen’s chill, idle vibes. This is most apparent in “Better,” a breakout single that has sat in the Top 20 charts for over two weeks. “Better,” along with six other trackers, were also featured in Suncity, an EP Khalid surprisingly released late last year.

Beginning with “Intro” and culminating with “Saturday Night,” another single off Suncity, Free Spirit is a long album, sitting at seventeen songs. There’s a certain sense of cohesion as they all channel the same themes of growth and are assembled from the same instruments and tonality.

There’s a certain sense of cohesion as they all channel the same themes of growth and are assembled from the same instruments and tonality.”

While this coherence is welcomed, I feel as if one or two songs could have served as divergences or irregularities. It’s a slight disappointment that an opportunity to deviate from the norm was not taken within the seventeen songs presented, even in the few songs that do feature guest artists.

But it’s not as if Free Spirit is a monotonous work lacking diversity. There’s enough variety within its ninety-five-minute duration for the album to easily become this summer’s anthem; in fact, I’m almost sure that it will do so.

Standouts within the album included “Hundred,” that transported listeners a few decades back with its synth and backing beats emulating an 80s style. “Bad Luck” can best be described as a few minutes of mournful falsetto, while “Self” utilizes Khalid’s deep tenor to explain that Khalid has “never been very good at self-reflection.”

Admittedly, though American Teen and Free Spirit are evenly matched, I would have to give the slight advantage to American Teen, solely because it more closely aligned with my music taste. However, that speaks more to American Teen’s excellence than Free Spirit’s lack of it.

For a devoted Khalid fan or a complete newcomer, there’s no doubt that Khalid has made his mark in the industry and is here to stay, and Free Spirit is just more evidence of his widespread influence.