Album Review: Free Spirit; Recent Khalid album sets soundtrack for summer

If you’re looking for an album that exudes the feeling of summer, you’ve come to the right place.

Clearly taking notes from contemporary artists like George “Joji” Miller, The 1975 and Billie Eilish, the acclaimed Gen-Z artist Khalid’s sophomore effort, Free Spirit, is an ethereal exploration of soundscape and musical texture that panders toward the “genreless.” Between the polished synths and soulful vocals, Khalid manages to effectively capture summer vibes with grace.

Khalid’s rise to fame is reminiscent of many other Gen-Z stars’ paths to success. Starting on SoundCloud, Khalid built up a viral following and in 2017 he released his first studio album American Teen. 

Garnering critical acclaim and commercial success, Khalid rode that wave for much of 2018, dropping the well-received Suncity EP, two singles released for the movies Love, Simon and Superfly and a collaboration with Billie Eilish for Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why.” Based on his laundry list of successes, Khalid had set the bar quite high for his second album. And for the most part, he delivers.

Musically, Free Spirit is a sonic odyssey. Clocking in at nearly an hour, the album has a menagerie of stylistic influences, often pulling from classic influences like soft rock, R&B and soul and mixing it with modern trip hop and rap sounds. Khalid mixes these disparate sounds with an ease that is nothing short of impressive.

“Intro,” the aptly named first track, kicks the album off with a cinematic splendor that pulls you into Khalid’s synth-wave world of heartfelt vocals and hopeful spirit. The previously released single “Talk” and its follow-up “Right Back” have bouncy backgrounds that invoke a Bruno Marsesque nostalgia which keeps the soundscape fresh, evolving out of the modern sound. 

Khalid changes his musical tone again for rock and funk-influenced tunes “Hundred” and “Outta My Head,” the latter featuring a bluesy guitar solo from none other than John Mayer. The album closes out on calmer tones with the eponymous track “Free Spirit”—which sounds perfect for the start of a road trip—and “Heaven,” a song written by fellow artist Father John Misty, leading the album to a quiet close with the acoustic-heavy “Saturday Nights.”

In terms of lyrical quality, however, Khalid lacks significant depth and exploration. The most telling sign of this is the fact that the first four tracks on the album all speak about the same general story—Khalid suffers from a lack of communication in his relationships. 

The lyrics for most songs on the first half of the album take no leaps of faith and rarely develop much further than that core trope. That being said, he does begin to remedy this monotony in the latter half by turning inward and expanding his source material a little bit.

Overall, Free Spirit is the perfect kind of music to shut your mind off, get lost in the sounds of synthwave and get in the summer mood. A diverse conglomerate of styles and soulfulness, this record is another great installment into the late 2010’s “genreless” movement. Just don’t think about the lyrics too much.