The latest RCA Records artist to hit the international pop scene has been an earworm since releasing his debut album American Teen in 2017. He's made a name for himself by blending elements of R&B nostalgia and future house, with his hushed vocal style a perfect fit.
He's also a great collaborator, often including rap stars or other pop vets like John Mayer and Safe on his songs. On Free Spirit, those collaborations take a back seat to his own musical explorations of modern-day love, loss and heartbreak.
First single "Location" was a dreamy, teetering ballad that caught on quickly with an audience eager for a glimpse into Khalid's lonely bedroom. It also captured the singer's obsession with millennial mumble, such as the "send me your location" text message that's at the center of the album's hook.
Those motifs permeate the rest of his first album, which was a brilliantly nuanced portrait of a lonely teen's escapism. But the slumbering, louche soundscapes have been replaced by a broader pop-R&B spectrum on this follow-up.
"Saved" has a '80s synth-pop feel that's familiar to fans of Khalid's ethereal ode to love letters, but the production is more subtle, allowing the singer to take centre stage. It's a song about holding onto someone's cell phone number after a breakup, a sentiment echoed in the '80s disco-funk bassline of "Young Dumb & Broke."
Other songs on Free Spirit, such as the more ominous "Heaven," which features a sardonic vocal delivery from Father John Misty, show a bit more of an edge. However, those themes - fame, isolation and the pitfalls of life on the road - are largely presented over midtempo rhythms and unobtrusive guitar swirls. This makes the record less memorable than American Teen, though it's still worth a listen.