Khalid Robinson, the R&B singer from El Paso, California, released American Teen, his debut album, on March 3. The album is a celebration of Robinson’s youth and chronicles his excitement for the future. Nine out of fifteen songs of American Teen are a disappointment – Khalid doesn’t bring the originality that the public had a sneak peek of with “Location” before the album’s release.
Khalid rarely switches up the tempo, sound or rhythms, making the songs seem redundant. In terms of instrumentation and arrangement – the album is flawed. There are redeeming qualities though. Some lyrics make up for the pieces’ musical flaws. The unique sound of Khalid’s voice, for instance, is raspy yet clear and he offers range in hitting any note. Khalid’s vocal qualities help illustrate the emotion behind the lyrics. It is the delivery that helps sell the lyrics.
The artist’s single “Location” was played during one of Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat stories, launching Khalid’s career in the public eye. Although the album was number nine on the Billboard 200, the number three for R&B albums, and the sixth on Top R&B/Hip Hop, the musicality of the album isn’t pieced together seamlessly. Khalid’s popularity may be caused by his link to Jenner, but is most likely because of the high expectations listeners had based off of “Location.”
“Location” is a song with a chill, laid back vibe and an R&B feel that puts its listeners in a positive mood after hearing it. Since Robinson’s song debut in Jenner’s Snapchat story, the 19-year-old singer/songwriter began to build a following. Fans couldn’t wait to hear more from him. However, this album isn’t what fans like me were anticipating. The same uniqueness showcased in “Locations” doesn’t transcend through the American Teen.
Despite the fact that American Teen isn’t a ten out of ten, there are some gems on the album that can pull a listener in. The song “Angels” is a strength of the album, the piece has a contemporary sound, yet doesn’t get lost in the radio teen pop. It has elements that set it apart as unique – the quality in Robinson that listeners were searching for after “Location” “Angels” helps in showing off Khalid’s diversity from just the typical teen pop sound which is shown in his “American Teen”, “8Teen” and “Young Dumb and Broke”. Like “Angels”, “Coaster” is a nice break from the rest of the redundant sounds on American Teen, the lyrics of the track get the reader to think about the ones who have left them behind to find “bigger and better” things. This is a concept that the “American teen” of the album’s title can relate to.
Khalid’s lyric showcase emotion, they are personal and open: “As time passes I’m feeling high/ You’re not the one I’m thinking of tonight.” The artist provides hope, the power to move on, that healing can occur over time.
The song “Cold Blooded” adds an acoustic element into the product, which again breaks up the monotonous teen pop qualities of the album, containing the lyrics: “I can’t feel my fingertips, but you feel better when we touch.” Obscure, metaphorical descriptions that seem illogical, yet logical. This romance provides so much feeling that it is almost numbing. This song is the complete opposite of “Coaster”, more of a love song like “Location.”
All in all, Khalid’s American Teen isn’t a bad debut album; however, Robinson’s fans believed that he had more in him than the teen pop songs that he presented on March 3. Maybe, expectations were too high for the artist- but “Location” clearly shows that he has more to offer than the album delivered.