Khalid loses youthful spark in “Suncity”


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Khalid was nominated for Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best R&B Song at 2018’s Grammy Awards.

Tanner Owens

Unequivocally, Khalid is a phenomenal vocalist.

However, no amount of singing in Khalid’s new EP, “Suncity,” can compensate for the agonizingly uninspired instrumentals. The singer’s timid entry into true R&B could be considered a success commercially, but the content of the singer’s EP is a hollow shell of what “American Teen,” the artist’s first album, gave audiences.

The singer keeps things light in his latest release, choosing to focus on the relationship he has with his hometown, El Paso, Texas. The opening track, “9:13” features Khalid’s gentle humming dubbed over audio.

“The people of El Paso, Texas, proudly present the key to the city to Khalid Donnel Robinson. Forever from the city of the 915,” says the voice on the track.

In an EP with seven songs, a 54-second opener seems like a waste of a track and takes away from the experience. On top of that, yet another audio-clip track plagues the album in the form of “Salem’s Interlude.” The listener, in essence, is only receiving five songs that feature the man of the hour’s insanely addictive voice.

“9:13” acts as a prelude to “Vertigo,” one of the few bright spots of the album. The singer shows off his superb vocal control during “Vertigo” over a pulsing beat and atmospheric hum. The song features plenty of trap-inspired hi-hat sounds that give it a little flavor to work with, something most of the song’s on the EP lack.

“Saturday Nights” is highlighted by a simple guitar riff that sounds straight out of a Thomas Rhett song. The singer reminisces on his youth with great nostalgia.

“Saturday nights, new berry cigarillos, Swishers make my throat hurt, rollin OCBs and it’s all for me,” sings Khalid in the track.

The song left me with little desire to return, as it was painfully unremarkable and only made me nostalgic for his first album’s sound.

The fifth song of the EP features Khalid going back to his first album’s sound with plenty of synthesizer sounds that could be plucked right out of the 1980s. The song’s instrumentals are the best of the album. That doesn’t say much because this song also has little playback value. The chillwave-inspired instrumentals and Robinson’s digitally-altered voice singing through the last half of the song didn’t feel right with the rest of the album, which taste tests vaguely different styles.

The album’s only single, “Better,” was released mid-September and stays true to the album’s roots in R&B. Other songs on the EP lacked anything noteworthy, but had more inspired instrumentals than “Better,” which is carried on Robinson’s back only by his voice.

The closing song, “Suncity” makes for the worst song of the album. Hopping on the latin-inspired beat bandwagon with the help of Empress Of, the song mercilessly drags the EP to an end. The EP takes up 21 minutes, and taking out the doings of “9:13” and “Salem’s Interlude,” leaves listeners with a measly 19 minutes of new music. The content listeners are left with pales in comparison to the beauty of “American Teen,” which torched the charts for weeks and left listeners foaming at the mouth for new music.

Artists constantly face the sophomore slump. It happens. Is there any reason to panic and label Khalid as a one trick pony? No, but “Suncity” did not deliver the goods in terms of instrumentals or lyrical prowess. Khalid was brilliant in “American Teen” and shows glimmers of that same genius in his new EP, but at the end of the day, “Suncity” won’t be making an appearance on any of my playlists.