If the subjects on 19-year-old musician Khalid’s solid debut are instantly relatable, that’s because they are made of the stuff of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
However, American Teen isn’t so much a record about youthful social commentary as it is a record about post-millennial youths. There’s no sense of pretentious conceptualising here, only straightforward lyrics about teenage aspirations and love in the time of tweets and texts. (The breakout song Location sees the Texas native asking a love interest to “send me your location”.)
The album opener and title track that revolves around youthful listlessness sets that tone in a brilliantly remarkable way. You can see it in the lyrics, “I’m high up, of what?/ I don’t even remember/ But my friend passed out in the Uber ride”.
It’s a light and breezy number, perhaps a reflection of the carefree teenage phase. But one gets the feeling that the recently graduated high school student is not one who sings in metaphors.
Born Khalid Robinson to a mother who performs with the US Army Chorus, the young singer tackles his lyrics with the kind of casual syrupy delivery akin to The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye.
However, while that voice is compelling in itself, it’s the addictive melodies that will land this 15-track collection in all the H&Ms and Cotton Ons out there.
Khalid has a way of weaving elements of throwback R&B, Sam Smith-esque soul and 1980s pop into infectiously catchy beats. And he does that without being overtly saccharine or resorting to that derivative drop-that bass.
American Teen is filled with instant sing-alongs that speak volumes of this promising singer’s longevity on the airwaves.