*Note, we recommend listening to the album as you read. Trust us, you wanna hear what we’re talking about!
From the city of the 9-1-5 to the top of the charts, Khalid Robinson takes his sound to a whole new level in his latest EP, Suncity. Named after his adopted hometown in El Paso, Texas, Khalid treats his fans to a more intimate display of his character, with his musical artistry evident in the seven song setlist. Khalid released his debut album, American Teen in March of 2017, taking the music industry by storm and flushing the pop charts with his contemporary R&B blend of vocals and production. Suncity acts almost as the grown-up version of American Teen as the 20-year old tells his story through acoustic melodies and Latin flares that gives his music a whole new dimension.
Khalid opens his EP titled with the date he received the key to his hometown earlier this year. The track opens with Khalid’s harmonies almost dancing with a surreal instrumental, layered with the brief recording of his friends and family cheering him on as he receives recognition from the mayor himself. For those who don’t know Khalid’s background, his mother was a member of the military, and their family lived in various places including Kentucky, New York and Germany before settling in El Paso when Khalid was a junior in high school. Although his time in El Paso was short lived, Khalid believes it to be the place where he receives endless love and support. “Forever from the city of the 915,” Khalid will always represent his city as the place that calls him home.
A melodic autobiography, Khalid’s song, “Vertigo” is his personalized experience as a human in the present, past and future. In this song, Khalid’s the mask is removed and we are introduced to his more vulnerable side, his past experiences and a the next chapter of his life as a young adult. In a way this is what connects us deeply to him. This song in particular pulls at our most vulnerable selves, leading us to reflect upon our own personal emotions. “I’ve been learning, I’ve been growing but the worst is yet to come.” We see that this song encompasses all of life’s emotions and their fluidity within us, like waves. This song not only juxtaposes somber lyrics with lively instrumentation, the repetition of “darker days, brighter endings” is the keystone theme of the song. The unifying experience of living is difficult and some days may knock you down hard (darker days)– but Khalid explains that whatever you may be feeling now or have felt before, is constantly going to be molding you into the person you will end up becoming (brighter endings).
#3 Saturday Nights
Following a song that began with a string quartet, Khalid opens the third track with an acoustic guitar, making the list of, “Things Khalid Can’t Do” even shorter. The simple sound of the guitar is a new one for the R&B artist, but fits the summer-y tone of the young love Khalid has for whoever he is singing about. Snapping back into his world of multi-dimensional rhythms and synths, Khalid tells the story of the unrequited love between him and a young woman whose dreams are too big to let go. Throughout the song, Khalid paints a detailed character of a girl, one who drives an old Silverado and works multiple jobs with “plans wrapped in rubber bands…the only thing (she’ll) never lose….” The second part of the song is from Khalid’s perspective, where he seems to be trying to convince her that she will never lose him, that he understands her like no one else, especially her parents. The chorus reigns in with Khalid singing, “all the things that I know, that your parents don’t, they don’t care like I do, no way like I do.” This song seems to be Khalid professing his love and care for a dear friend (or maybe more) who shares similar dreams and aspirations to his own. This song could be an entire movie plot in that it leaves the listener on the edge of their seat wondering what happened to the young protagonists. Will they become more than friends? Will they run away together? So many questions! It pretty much calls for its own motion picture or at least a part two… Sunday nights?
#4 Salem’s Interlude
This track serves almost as a behind the scenes look at “The Making of Khalid.” This humbling interlude featuring a voice memo from a conversation with his friend Salem Mitchell, brings the album right back down to earth. The 20-year old model goes on a 90-second rant confessing her fears of failure, embarrassment and the desire to practice fearlessness as she emerges into adulthood. She describes herself as “not always going in the right direction even though I know I’m on the right path,” (something everyone can relate to) as well as her advice for Khalid, “… to see how far being a genuine person can get you.” This track is one of my favorites in that we can all relate to it as it, and reminds us of the times when we call our friends for advice. It’s short and sweet shedding a little light on Khalid’s personal growth as he makes his way through the world.
The title explains it all. It’s a living, breathing representation of the euphoric feeling we get when we experience a moment of connection with someone we love. Khalid takes us through the motions of this blissful feeling, beginning with synthetic instrumentals kick-starting our journey into a space odyssey of the mind. Almost like a scene from Stranger Things, this song takes us on a thrilling ride and we cannot help but be entranced by his lyrics.“Let the love pull you in slowly, the river is running, we’re flowing,” Khalid paints all the moving parts of a still moment making us want to jump right into the feeling with him. Although this song is clearly about a specific time, it rings true for those seemingly evergreen feelings we get in the honeymoon stages of a new relationship.
“Love to see you shine in night like the diamond you are,” may lead listeners to believe that this track is another love song, but c’mon. It’s Khalid. Nothing is as it seems! The lines that follow, “I’m good on the side it’s alright just hold me in the dark,” and “no one’s gotta know what we do just hit me up when you’re bored…” show a whole new side of the popstar we have yet to explore. The lyrics depict unrequited love in a purely physical relationship between Khalid and a mystery girl. Whoever she is, Khalid is at her mercy, singing, “so we meet when you need it, it’s yours…” falling hopelessly into the chorus which rings, “nothing feels better than this, nothing feels better, nothing feels better than this…” Sound familiar? This haunting chorus echos at the end of the “Motion”, fading the track into “Better,” a perfect example of Khalid’s artistry and talent as a musician. A close friend of the young artist describes the song as, “feeling like I’m just speeding, doing 65 in a 35, we’re sitting in a car just holding hands…” revving up the engine for a ride into the sun…
“Take me to Suncity, take me to where I left my heart, take it there, only in suncity, take me to where I left my heart.” This last song brings us home. Khalid longs for the places he knows so well but is also excited for what the next chapters in his story hold. He calls to El Paso, singing, “I hear you calling me, so come onto me tonight,” showing us that it’s the place where his heart not only resides but thrives. Listeners are pulled into a Latin wonderland with upbeat tones and rhythms, the song almost entirely sung in Spanish. The ending has a farewell message from a woman wishing him well and hoping he comes back soon.
This is clearly not the last we will be hearing from the high flying pop powerhouse that is Khalid. His enchanting voice and melodic production in this album keep popular music forever young and his fans excited for what’s to come in his blossoming career. With Khalid, nothing is as it seems, there’s always a funny story behind a song, and a smile on his face when he tells it. His sound is contemporary with a little something familiar, and from his heart and soul to ours, Khalid snags a spot on our playlists, once again.