Khalid’s Confessional ‘Free Spirit’ Upends The Notion Of Genres By Being Great At All Of Them

04.08.19 3 months ago

RCA Records

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about how we categorize music by genre. Fans and industry professionals alike have wondered about why and how artists and their work are funneled into genres like country, pop, rap and others — many have begun to dispute the validity of these kinds of groupings as musicians begin to diversify their sounds and their influences in the anything-goes, all-access age of social media and streaming. Khalid’s new album, Free Spirit, is likely going to intensify the debate — and that’s a good thing, as it’s a high-quality microcosm of the versatility of the modern approach to music, how almost nothing is ever just one thing anymore. Free Spirit could reasonably fit into any of a number of genres — and has all the makings of a hit in each.

Khalid is no stranger to genre-bending himself. His debut album, American Teen, casually blended elements of honeyed soul and lighthearted pop, borrowing as much from the traditions of early-1990s R&B like Ghost Town DJs’ “My Boo” as modern dance pop on tracks like “8Teen” and “Hopeless.” Meanwhile, the album’s lead single and Khalid’s slow-burning, viral introduction to mainstream audiences, “Location,” was all raindrop soaked, moody R&B. There were hints of country and blues, mainly in Khalid’s smoky, husky tenor that sounds 100 years old — in a good way — laid atop instrumentation that could make listeners swoon and sway.

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