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Reviewing Khalid’s Free Spirit

RCA Records

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Khalid, the Location and Love Lies singer, released his sophomore album Free Spirit on April 5, 2019, accompanied by a short film released on his YouTube channel with the same title. The 17 song album, as a whole, stays true to its name with a mellow, soulful, and inviting sound. 

Intro

The nameless first track is one for the audience. In talking to Apple Music about this song, Khalid said, “I wanted people to find their own name for this song and what it means to them.”

This song would fit perfectly into a coming of age or awkward romance film in that one moment right after the climax, and you realize that everything has changed. It’s one of those songs that belongs of a “preparation for things not to be the same” playlist, and it’s an intriguing start to this album.

Bad Luck

Bad Luck balances between being a love song and a breakup song. It serves to express how Khalid has had unfortunate issues with some of his relationships leaving intense emotional wounds. The lyrics and beat are set up so as to communicate this pain, holding the same tone as the first song. Though his voice is soothing, Bad Luck shows that Khalid understands how to create a piece of work that hits the listener on a deeper, more relatable level.

My Bad

The third track and second single on Free Spirit, is about a relationship in the “Coming Apart” phase from Knapp’s Relationship Model, more specifically the “Circumscribing” stage. In the relationship, communication boundaries have been placed, and the more serious topics are avoided while time spent talking is limited. Lyrics from the chorus read, “Gotta put my phone on silent.” This relationship is slowly unraveling and a tiredness flows out of this track. My Bad stands as a sad song for mellow, post-breakup, ready to cry to sleep playlists.

Better

From Khalid’s October 2018 EP Suncity, Better is full of positive vibes. It’s about being with a specific person that makes you feel like you, and makes you feel better, Khalid encapsulates this idea in less than four minutes. This track makes me feel like I’m in the clouds with no worries, floating by with my favorite person. No wonder it peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Talk

The first single Talk was released  February 7, 2019 (four days before Khalid’s birthday), the day after he teased his followers about this track on the sixth. The common theme of being in a relationship that is at a confusing stage is threaded throughout this album, and this song is no exception. The relationship has progressed quickly without solid communication occurring, so the two need to back track and figure out where they really are together. Because there is no solid foundation of communication, the relationship can fall apart. This song makes me feel like I should rethink some of the friendships I’ve had with people, and I end up in a wistful state.

Right Back

The sixth track of Free Spirit is, in short, groovy, and you can’t make fun of me for thinking that way. It’s another ‘floating on clouds’ song which you can’t help but vibe with when it plays. Khalid’s use of layered vocals as well as filler words to end a verse gives the song an echo of sorts, like it’s being played in the room next to you, but nothing else is making noise, and it’s a style that I can appreciate.

Don’t Pretend (ft. SAFE)

Released two days before the album, Don’t Pretend is a track created with the 18-year-old artist SAFE. I had to listen to this track a few times, not because I couldn’t understand it, but because it was so relatable. About wanting someone to be real with you, the song can easily speak to a wide range of audiences without getting confusing. It sounds like a road trip song, but it’s one that anyone can identify with on the daily.

Paradise

This will sound like a terrible way to describe such a good song, but Paradise sounds psychedelic (for goodness sake, “Smokin’ himalayan haze” is apart of the pre-chorus). It’s the type of song you’d play when you astral project or when you’re sitting by a slowly dying fire. The vocals on top of a beat that sounds the way a squid moves urges me to nod my head along. The slightly blocked and echoed guitar to conclude the song adds to the effect, and I feel like I’ve achieved a moment of higher consciousness.

Hundred

I feel somewhat encouraged by Khalid’s middle track Hundred. The song is mainly about how you have to ‘keep it a hundred’ all of the time, no matter how hard it gets. He keeps it real in this form of expression, going so far as to mention that the world doesn’t stop for you and your bad days. At one point, he even comments on how he cut off all of his fake friends, making this particular track the most relatable on the entire album.

Outta My Head

This is another song on the psychedelic level, and it’s almost 100% due to the echo and layered vocals that Khalid incorporated in this cute love song that he produced with John Mayer. The situation set in the song is being attracted to someone on such a level that you continue to think about them on a daily. It’s so often that when you attempt to stop thinking about them, you can’t. Sounds an awful lot like a song from a teen romance movie (here’s looking at you 10 Things I Hate About You and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). Don’t take that as a bad thing because it’d be in a top-notch romance film, not one where the actors themselves hated the fact that they accepted the role.

Free Spirit

Let’s go! More than halfway through, the album’s namesake is placed. True to its name, the song itself is freeing in an unexplained way. This must have been how Icarus felt before he fell, or how the first drop of a roller coaster feels given the combination of the view and the wind in your hair (in both situations). Free Spirit is a “calming down” song for after you’ve done something that you hyped up, capturing the feeling of this entire album. That must be why it’s the title track, right?

Twenty-One

Twenty-one is the age when you are legally allowed to drink the U.S. Having a track on your album that is your age is a pretty concept, something that Khalid has done with his sophomore album, and something he came close to doing with his debut. However, Twenty-One starkly contrasts 8TEEN from American Teen because the message is no longer about how great it is to be 21. This track focuses on the progressive sorrows of being an adult and that you have to hold on tight for as long as possible. The lyrics help you discover harsh realities that you probably already knew existed, and it gives you a different perspective of the world.

Bluffin’

Is this allowed? Is this man allowed to have such smooth vocals? Is this man allowed to have lyrics that hit me hard regardless of what situations I’ve been in? Bluffin’ is about a broken relationship where both people are in denial of its brokenness. I shouldn’t be able to relate to this so deeply having not been in this situation, but Khalid and his musical genius is on full display for setting up this circumstance in a way that others can understand so fluidly.

Self

Released March 29, Self is the track dedicated to self-reflection. Khalid is working on becoming a better person, facing his anxieties and insecurities. It seems like I’ve said this a lot, but this another psychedelic track, but the plane isn’t one the transcends reality, it’s like a reflecting pool. You see yourself, but the ripples effect your picture, and it takes time to understand what you see. Self makes you think, and that’s all there is to it.

Alive

Alive would be on the top of my “crying” playlist if I had one. I couldn’t listen to this song on repeat too much because I felt the need to contemplate my life. Lyrics like “Here’s the thing with disappearing / You can yell and no one hears you” and “I shouldn’t have to die to feel alive” make me realize that there are so many issues in the world that are continuing to progress, and I can’t do much to solve them. A three-minute song should not be able to evoke such a reaction, but I felt almost empty listening to this track.

Heaven

Similar to the preceding track, Heaven is about feeling empty. A theory is that this song is from the perspective of someone that lost an important person in their life, and they are now begging heaven to let them “disappear” because there is nothing left. This is one of the songs on a movie soundtrack played after a funeral (my first thoughts were Infinity War) because it reverberates in an unstoppable manner.

Saturday Nights

Khalid closes his sophomore album with another track from his 2018 EP Suncity. He decided to end with another song about a significant other, specifically about how he cares for and knows things about this person that their parents don’t. He’s their rock, not the people that are supposed to be their greatest support system. It’s an interesting choice to conclude this album considering that some of the other tracks were heavy hitters that could’ve left the audience wanting that much more. It was probably the smartest choice, though, considering that a majority of the album is about different relationships and stages of relationships.

Overview

I think listening to this album induced sad gurl hours. I contemplated myself, my friendships, other people’s actions, and reality more than I usually do. I didn’t know it was possible to emotion this much in less than an hour. Khalid topped his debut album American Teenager with Free Spirit. This album was much more relatable and hit closer to home than expected. The only thing that really bothered me was overall composition (track order) because it had me going from relationships to self-reflection to contemplating reality and that’s a lot to deal with, but that is also just my opinion. That being said, it’s was a better than average compilation of songs, and it made me fall in love with Khalid and his vocals all over again.

Good

5 Star Rating System 3 stars

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About the Writer
Keana-Leoni Balalio, Cub Reporter

The glass is half-full and half-empty. I'm just living a life, trying not to get killed... or worse… expelled.

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