R&B artist Khalid turned the genre upside down when he released American Teen. Songs like “Location,” “Young Dumb and Broke,” and the titular song, “American Teen,” created a sense of relatability toward teenagers and young adults through powerful lyricism and chill vibes through his beats. 

Khalid’s most recent LP, Free Spirit, is another solid piece of work, but unfortunately Khalid played his style way too safe for the satisfaction of his fans. The songs are individually great, but don’t quite create the exciting and nostalgic reaction from audiences that American Teen did. 

Before the album’s release on April 5, Khalid released a few singles to tease the full album, including “Saturday Nights” and “Better,” which appeared on his extended play Suncity. In addition, he released “Talk” in February, and “My Bad” and “Self” in March. The singles, especially “Talk,” generated a lot of excitement for Free Spirit, but end up being the only exciting thing about the album. 

It’s important for artists to release good singles from the album to generate hype toward their work, but Khalid released the best songs first, leaving much to be desired from the remaining tracks. Of course, Khalid’s vocals stay consistently beautiful no matter what music he releases, so no matter the conventional style of Free Spirit, the vocals are cause enough to listen to the album. However, the positive aspects don’t outweigh the sense that Khalid couldn’t quite find the message he was searching for on Free Spirit.

A huge reason that Khalid is such an earthquake to the music industry is the quality of his voice. His vocal control and intonation is consistent throughout every phrase and note, creating an exciting and soothing quality to his songs that is unmatched by most artists. He is able to utilize a lot of range in his songs, and a great part about Free Spirit that isn’t heard much in American Teen is his use of falsetto, which is especially evident in “Talk.” On top of all of the incredible qualities his voice possesses, his falsetto is icing on the cake. 

Transitioning from an up-and-coming standout to a consistent pop star can be difficult, especially for someone who only has two albums. As a whole, Free Spirit is beautifully done, but lacks that special something that Khalid normally brings to his music. Khalid struck gold with American Teen, but leans more toward convention with Free Spirit — a choice that isn’t really paying off.