Consumer Guide Album
Khalid: Free Spirit [RCA, 2019]
Stuck with the impossible task of maintaining the matter-of-fact candor that made his debut a teenpop milestone, the double-platinum 21-year-old is too smart to try--and also too decent to sink to the male entitlement and wages-of-fame angst Biebs and so forth fobbed off on their legions. Right, he's not only getting laid and enjoying his new house in Encino, he's also having trouble adjusting to success. Some might even call him anxious. But he retains the gift of expressing his feelings in songs that cut star-time inevitabilities down to human scale. So however beyond us his privileges and woes may be, we at least feel we share a species with the guy--truisms like "Couldn't have known it would ever be this hard," "I didn't text you because I was workin'," and "If the love feels good it'll work out" are hardly exclusive to the rich and famous. Note, however, that because Khalid now enjoys access to pricier musical materials than when he was in high school, the hooks pack more texture than tune, making this the rare album that comes fully into its own when you up the volume.