RCA Records · April 5, 2019
In his latest release Free Spirit, Khalid has graduated from his youth-like, carefree lyrics and now attempts to share matured tales of heartache and loss, while maintaining his ‘summer before college’ vibes. For the most part, the 21-year-old succeeds, providing listeners with an easy-on-the-ear record that makes it feel like there’s sunlight ricocheting off their cheeks. The album is sure to get fans ready for the summer, where free spirits are given the most time to soar.
The album’s introductory track gives listeners a sense of reawakening. It feels as if Khalid is catching his fans up with what they’ve missed out on in his life since his last album. The track also resembles the growth Khalid has experienced since American Teen, as certain aspects of his lyrics hint to the heartaches and pains he’s endured over the last two years.
“Right Back” is saved by the shift between the first verse to the chorus, initially coming across as a style of storytelling that would have gotten old very quickly. Thankfully, once the chorus picks up, the beat picks up too. The central narrative recounts the main character’s desire to continue his pursuit of a relationship, making for some relatable – but totally cliche — content. Despite this, Khalid’s playful take on the typical tale will make it nearly impossible for listeners to hold back their smiles.
In terms of the record’s fan favorites, such tracks seem to be less ambitious than other overlooked cuts. In songs like “Better” and “Bad Luck,” Khalid often romanticizes youth, including young love and the freedom that comes with a lack of responsibility. He did the same thing on American Teen. Throughout Free Spirit, you’re waiting for the singer to take a leap of faith and make a bold move. Sure enough, such anticipations come to fruition throughout the album’s last few tracks.
“Hundred” discusses the rock bottoms and hopeless moments of life, and it feels like Khalid can’t communicate the idea that even when life is most difficult, you have to keep going, enough. With lyrics like, “the world keeps spinning, the sun won’t shine on my face,” and “even dying ain’t free,” this song hits home – hard. When you hit the bridge, Khalid breaks down into a rather monotone repetitive speech, feeling more like the confession of a personal struggle, but it’s the plot point before the climax where the unlikely hero prepares to seize the day.
In the second to last track “Heaven,” Khalid devliers a melancholy performance. It’s a powerful song with a heavy heartbeat carrying the chorus as Khalid allows his vocals to soulfully run rampid with emotion. It exhibits a different side of the artist, one where he is less care-free, and it does him justice.
Though not an incredibly groundbreaking piece of work, this album will please fans who have anticipated the release of a new project from Khalid. Free Spirit feels like a commencement from adolescence to the beginnings of adulthood, where you’re still trying to get a grasp of life. Even if the quality of the record wasn’t top-notch, it’s a comforting listen and a comfortable thought to know that someone like Khalid, who is young but famous, sits in the same emotional boat as the rest of us.