The “American Teen” takes us to “Suncity”

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Sarah Lefkowitz

Hailing from the city of the 915, Khalid released his new EP, “Suncity,” on Oct. 19. The 20-year-old El Paso native just dropped his first project since his 2017 debut album, “American Teen.” After rocking Quinnipiac’s annual Wake The Giant show last year, Khalid took a bit of a step back from his solo music and worked on various collaborations including “Love Lies,” with Normani and “OTW,” with 6LACK and Ty Dolla $ign. Khalid starting teasing new music in early October on Twitter and eventually started a countdown, getting fans very excited to hear new music.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of RCA Records” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]”I never go in thinking about making a hit record,” said Khalid in an interview with Billboard earlier in the year. “I just go into the studio with people I love and respect and see what happens. It’s more about getting to know my peers and putting our heart and soul into the music, and hopefully [the result] is something that we’re both proud of.”

Prior to the EP release, Khalid dropped the lead single, “Better,” on Sept. 14. In this song, Khalid sings about how nothing feels better to him than the relationship that he is in and the love that he feels. This song is fairly slow with the main instrumentation being hip-hop drums and piano. Khalid’s tough vocals and lyrics bring the song to life.

Since this EP is a dedication to his hometown, it is no surprise that the opening track of the EP is a dedication to El Paso. The introductory song, “9.13,” is more of a dialogue than a song, as it features the old mayor of El Paso granting Khalid the key to the city. The dialogue is overlaid with harmonies. The title of the song reflects the day that this audio was recorded and gives a shout-out to his home.

“Vertigo,” is the next song on the tracklist. On this song, Khalid appears to be reflecting upon all of the hardships he has faced in his life. Growing up in a military family, Khalid did a lot of moving around and switching schools which can be tough. Over a Coldplay sounding symphony of strings, Khalid wonders things like “Are we better off believing what the ignorance suggests?” and “Is it me or vertigo?” Khalid reflecting on his journey so far could be the reason he strived to achieve such a new sound on this EP.

The guitar-driven, “Saturday Nights,” features lyrics in the chorus similar to those in his “American Teen” track, “8TEEN.” On both songs he sings about parents and how they differ between his love interest and him. This slow song shows off Khalid’s range, as well as how he can successfully break away from his typical R&B style and sing a lower tempo song.

“Salem’s Interlude” has a strong Frank Ocean feel to it. It is a voicemail style track that a lot of artists like Khalid’s previous collaborator, 6LACK have released. It features Khalid’s friend Salem Mitchell speaking about both her fears and her life. It transitions into the bass heavy song, “Motion.” This is a very new sound for Khalid. The lyrics in the chorus, “I’m coming down, you’ve been rollin,’’ might be a shoutout to Calvin Harris’ 2017 release “Rollin,” which features Khalid alongside Future on Harris’ album “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.” The outro of the song features lyrics from a previous song on the EP, “Better.” The lyrics are pitched down and remixed to close out the song.

The closing song on the EP is a bilingual duet between Khalid and Empress Of and is the only collaboration on the EP. This isn’t the first time the two have worked together, as they both sang on DJDS’ 2017 song, “Why Don’t You Come On.” The Latin influenced song is a funky close to the album.

Every song on the EP has a different sound to it. It is surprising that he introduced so many new sounds because of how well “American Teen” did. Listeners can really see how Khalid has grown as an artist since his last project and how his work with a new experimental sound has been successful. Fans can expect more new music from Khalid in early 2019.