Khalid: a True Musical Genius

By Leila Rocha

Khalid is an immensely talented musical artist. He smothers his songs with his unique raspy voice and relatable stories, catching the attention of A-list celebs over the years, leading to amazing collabs. 

He grew up with his military mother, who also sang, moving from place to place including Atlanta, Germany, and New York, eventually calling El Paso, Texas his home. After all, that is where he started releasing songs. 

In his first album, American Teen, Khalid exemplifies the laid back, fun teenage life along with the rapidly changing aspects of it. He has been open regarding how ¨Saved¨ is about moving away from his friends, and as he told Teen Vogue, was a ¨story of resentment and loneliness.¨ 

In his song “American Teen” he sings, “We don’t always say what we mean…It’s the lie of the American teen”, something relatable to all. Listening to it triggers little memories and makes you realize that we are all connected in some way. At the end of the song, he even brings his friends, who definitely don’t seem to be singers, to sing the chorus, proving his humbleness. 

Of course, ¨Location¨ is a song to remember as well. He explained, ¨…it was prom season and I felt like everyone in school was thinking I’d fallen off or something and I wanted to win Prom King. So I was like, ¨we need to release this song right now.¨¨ Even with his newfound fame, he still had time to get voted prom king, making his life unique, yet relatable in another way. However, he also had a price to pay, he explained, ¨People changed-took advantage. Others stayed true.¨ 

The album came out in 2017- a time of political controversy. In an interview with The Independent, Khalid detailed, ¨The crazy thing about this song [American Teen] is that I wrote it before the election. I wrote it mostly in my senior year as an ode to my high school. It felt like everything related.¨ Even after the results, Khalid released the album, reminding us to be proud of where we came from regardless of whether or not we agree with who holds political power.

His laid back vibe throughout “Young Dumb & Broke” truly depicts American high school life. You’re old enough to go out and have fun and understand your emotions, and even though you have your entire future ahead of you still, you find a way to make the best of your current “young, dumb, broke high school” self. 

Khalid gave us more relatable moments in his song “8TEEN”. Although I’m not eighteen, the idea of oversleeping and still living with your parents during your first steps into adulthood feels so real, and is for many.

He also shows fans an even deeper side to his art when he was featured on Logic´s anti-suicide song ¨1-800-273-8255¨. He closes the emotional piece with ¨I don’t even wanna die anymore¨, inspiring anyone who needs to hear it that they are worth living.

Throughout the next couple of years, Khalid worked with other talented artists including Halsey, Billie Eillish, Marshmello, Normani, Ed Sheeran, and Justin Bieber, gaining the recognition and experience he deserves.

In 2019, Khalid gifted fans with another album entitled Free Spirit. In an interview with Billboard he elaborated, ¨I was so naive and young when I wrote American Teen. I thought I knew everything, but I knew nothing at all. I´m at the point of understanding that I still know nothing at all on Free Spirit. I feel like the music right now that I’m writing is very self-reflective.¨

Khalid floods Free Spirit with deeper maturity, honesty, and sophistication. It’s like he steps out of the American Teen mindset and into the real world-or at at least the more complicated one. 

In his song ¨Self¨ he sings ¨does my raw emotion make me less of a man¨. Whether or not listeners think it does, he shows them how he too feels down and lost at times, demonstrating that success will never truly solve internal problems, while leaving himself and his thoughts open for interpretation. He told Zane Lowe, ¨I wanted to leave my fans with something where they felt connected to me on a different level and they realized, ´Wow, he’s just like me and he goes through what I go through, and he has his time where he stares in front of a mirror and picks himself apart and then builds himself back together.¨ 

¨Talk¨, my personal favorite, guides fans through a common situation: trying to get the one you love to talk to you, or as Khalid sings it, “lend me your thoughts”. This is the kind of song where although the lyrics aren’t upbeat, you can play it in the background releasing a calm vibe.

Khalid admitted that between albums, he had not written new songs in a year, failing to reach a creative point-a slump many have trudged through during the pandemic. Fortunately for his fans, and himself, he was able to find that creativity again, cranking out Scenic Drive in 2021.

Scenic Drive is a different type of vibe, proving his experimental, fearless-artist side. In this EP he emphasizes the importance of being present with yourself, and with the world. Moreso with this project, he demonstrates that he has evolved not only as an artist, but as a person. 

Khalid is the guy to root for. His down to earth attitude, unique voice, and creative, relatable lyrics makes him an all around great celebrity. Khalid walks his fans through parts of his life with his music, building connections while offering inspiration to those living in a more “normal” life to give their talents a shot at becoming their career, explaining in an interview with Apple Music, “the music industry was my second form of education other than grade school.” He’s a timeless artist. I still find myself listening to his oldest songs because even though they came out in ancient 2017, the lyrics make it forever relevant. 

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