Thirty seconds into Khalid’s new album Free Spirit, I knew I was going to love it. In the first track, simply titled “Intro,” the 21-year-old’s voice soars as he muses about going back and forth with someone he loves. With every the lyric, the song builds and you become overwhelmed with the feeling that something amazing is about to transpire on this album. For me, the intro of an album is usually a song I ignore past after the first few listens because it’s often very short and sometimes a weird recording of someone talking. However, “Intro” did not receive this treatment from me. Since the album’s April 5th release, it’s one of the songs I’ve gone back to every time I’ve listened to Khalid.
An El Paso, Texas native, Khalid rose to fame in 2017 with his debut album American Teen. For quite some time, songs like “Location” and “Young Dumb & Broke” dominated the charts. When American Teen dropped, I wasn’t a Khalid fan. I hummed along to the singles when they came on the radio but I didn’t connect with the album for some reason. Khalid’s 2018 EP Suncity converted me with smooth tracks like “Vertigo” and “Suncity,” a song sung mostly in Spanish. When he announced Free Spirit, I knew if it sounded anything like Suncity it would appeal directly to my music taste. In addition to “Intro,” I also love “Bad Luck,” “Saturday Nights,” “Talk” and “Right Back.”
Khalid’s emotion on this track makes it seem like you’re simultaneously going through the same experiences. Lyrics like “no one really means it when they’re wishing you well” convey loneliness, and the chorus expresses a desire for someone to love him completely and not abandon him. “Bad Luck” is a perfect ‘look out of the car window and pretend you’re in a music video’ type of song.
A melodic guitar and positive outlook keep this song on my list of favorites from this album even though it already appeared on Suncity. Khalid serenades to a mystery person, explaining how he cares for them more than anyone else in their life does. The emotion in his voice separates songs like “Saturday Nights” from the pop love songs that regularly top the charts. While all of the songs on “Free Spirit” showcase Khalid’s exceptional range, this one especially demonstrates the sheer vocal talent he possesses and how it combines with strong instrumentals to make phenomenal music.
The album’s first single, “Talk” really brings electricity and excitement to a chill tracklist. Many of the other songs are guitar-heavy, but “Talk” relies on the bright sounds of a synthesizer. It’s exactly the kind of song that will probably make it onto everyone’s summer playlists. Likewise, I’m counting on “Talk” to boost my mood for the rest of the quarter.
At first, “Right Back” sort of tricks you into thinking it’s going to be another chill song. When it gets to the chorus, however, the beat gets stronger and it turns into more of a upbeat jam. The song’s lyrics talk about being at the right stage in time with someone and help give balance to the album.
While Free Spirit is very soulful and some of the lyrics are on the sad side, the instrumentals make it a pleasant thing to listen to while sitting on the Lakefill enjoying warm weather. Khalid has given me an album that will help me float through Spring Quarter into summer.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included a thumbnail photo depicting DJ Khaled instead of Khalid. NBN recognizes how hurtful and damaging it is to confuse two people of color, and deeply regrets the error.