Khalid retains youthful sound in “Free Spirit”

Tanner Owens

After a disappointing EP in late 2018, Khalid Robinson, known simply as Khalid, found his stride in his sophomore studio album, “Free Spirit.”

“Free Spirit” finds Khalid older and wiser, three years after the release of his debut album “American Teen.” Khalid, now 21 years old, returns to the roots that made his debut album so successful.

Released April 5, “Free Spirit” features an abundance of 80s-inspired synth accented by trap-style percussion. With Khalid’s raspy verses and beautifully-crafted falsetto choruses, it is impossible not to view “Free Spirit” as the “it album” for summer.

While Khalid’s latest venture brings back memories of the hugely successful “American Teen,” the album does suffer from a bit of listening fatigue around three-quarters through the album.

Featuring 17 songs, Khalid’s sophomore album comes in at just under an hour long. While cohesiveness in an album is appreciated, having 17 songs that use similar instruments and musical styles can create a droning album.

Listening to songs in small portions, however, gives way to an appreciation of each song as it comes. The album features production from electronica-heavyweights Disclosure and Murda Beatz.

Disclosure lent instrumentals to the single “Talk” which is a breath of fresh air in the first half of the album. Switching from 80’s-inspired synths, “Talk” utilizes a modernized electronic sound that yields a perfect platform for Khalid’s signature falsetto. “Talk” has all the makings for a perfect summer song.

The collaboration with Disclosure became a highlight for Khalid during the production process of “Free Spirit.”

“I love Disclosure so much, and they were on my wish list of people I wanted to collaborate with since I started music,” Khalid told Apple Music. “It’s like a gift to myself … And there is definitely another Disclosure song floating out there somewhere in the world.”

“Free Spirit” also carries 2018’s “Suncity” singles “Better” and “Saturday Nights.” Despite the average reception of “Suncity,” the singles mesh together with his latest album’s songs well.

“Bad Luck” is a clear highlight of the album, lending help from an infectious trap beat and a simple and subtle guitar riff. Keeping with the trends of today’s hip-hop culture, “Bad Luck” finds Khalid examining the loneliness of the world and how it has affected his life.

“Everybody actin’ like they give a damn / Where is everybody when you need a hand,” Khalid wails during the latter stages of the second verse. The album stays the course of “American Teen,” putting a spotlight on Khalid’s relationships and experience with fame.

“Free Spirit” also complements a short film that bears the same name, which was directed by Emil Nava. The 46-minute film follows Khalid and a group of friends becoming unsatisfied with small-town life and taking a road trip through the desert filled with love interests, drinking and smoking weed.

The album ends with “Suncity” “Saturday Nights,” a slow and steady tale of a teenage romance as a result of parental neglect.

“I don’t think I really wanted to end the album on such a dark and tense note,” Khalid said in an Apple Music interview. “It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written … the fact that it plays a big part of the film as well — it was perfect. It had to go last.”