Album Review: Khalid plays it safe in ‘Free Spirit,’ album falls flat

Khalids recent release Free Spirit lacks compared to his debut album. (Photo courtesy of iTunes)

Khalid’s recent release ‘Free Spirit’ lacks compared to his debut album. (Photo courtesy of iTunes)

Francesca Keeler

“Free Spirit” feels like the musical equivalent of that awkward stage everyone has while growing up – it doesn’t know if it wants to stay similar to Khalid’s debut album or age with him.

The R&B artists’s second album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. While it received mixed reviews, it sold 202,000 equivalent album units in its first week.

Khalid has had a very new-age rise to fame. He burst onto the mainstream after Kylie Jenner shared a snapchat story with his song “Location” playing in the background.

Due to his social media promotion and his unique music style, Khalid is seemingly a perfect Gen-Z pop star. It’s not very often that you see both Murda Beatz and John Mayer in the same album credits. 

Although Khalid’s life has changed drastically since his 2017 debut album “American Teen,” not much has changed in the sense that his albums are still pretty mediocre, save for a few gems. While his voice is beautiful and can fit over any instrumental he is given, as demonstrated by the diversity of collaborators on this project, the result is always the same…generic Khalid.

There’s not much he’s said that hasn’t been said already. The album doesn’t really have an edge; it’s harmless and inoffensive.

With lyrics like “Can you feel the tension? You’ve got my attention/I know we’re just friends, but I’d rather be together instead” from his song Outta My Head with John Mayer, his songs sound like they belong in the trailer for a cliché high school romance movie on Netflix.

Furthermore, his attempts at dark songwriting come off as contrived, and it’s hard to hear any real emotion behind the lyrics.

While I don’t doubt his sincerity, his lyrics lack poetic beauty and are quite bland, especially with the abundance of self-reflecting music available already.

In the era of streaming and Spotify playlists, Khalid is the perfect artist. His singles are usually hits, making it onto charts and popular playlists. Given the large gaps of time in between these hits, it’s hard to point out any flaws in Khalid’s composition.

The problem is that once he releases a whole album, it is easy to see how he falls flat in terms of how much the music drags on and how much he plays it safe. The one thing redeeming factor of this album is its production.

Given his rise in fame, I’m sure it was easier to get talented big name producers such as Charlie Handsome on this record. However, even with the high-budget production, the album lacks the spontaneity of his debut.