Khalid’s small-scale groundedness sets him apart from the contemporary R&B pack | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Khalid’s small-scale groundedness sets him apart from the contemporary R&B pack

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R &B wunderkind Khalid trades on a sound and persona that can’t help but feel responsive to the Weeknd-influenced goth soul of his peers Bryson Tiller, Dvsn, and 6lack. On American Teen (RCA), he’s humanistic where they’re supervillainish, interpersonal where they’re self-important, and more interested in surfing the groove than achieving introspective catharsis. He doesn’t quite get the job done on his biggest hit so far, “Location,” where he’s limited by his reliance on his own vocals to carry the sparse arrangement—basically, he doesn’t have the range. But on transcendent cuts such as “Shot Down,” “8TEEN,” and the title track, Khalid conveys lovelorn bliss by embracing something far simpler: the power of a perky hook and indelible synthesizer riffing, and the oh-so-teenage counterpoint those provide to precocious mope fodder like “We don’t always say what we mean / That’s the lie of an American teen.”   v

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