Review: Khalid’s “Suncity”
By Christina Reavley
Since his hit song "Location" back in 2016, Khalid has been a popular and rising young artist. “Suncity” is his first body of work since his 2017 album "American Teen," that featured hit songs such as "Young Dumb & Broke" and "Coaster.” In between albums, he has been featured on other artist’s chart topping songs such as Logic’s "1-800-273-8255" and Normani’s "Love Lies.” His music is diverse in both its tone and genre. His sound has been described by many as contemporary R&B and pop. However, there is no easy way to describe his music, as it can be interpreted in multiple ways. He prides himself on his versatility and range, which makes him such a unique artist. His latest EP, "Suncity" is no different. He announced the EP on Twitter, describing it as “The start of a new era.” After listening to “Suncity,” I have to agree. Because he is only 20 years old, his music tends to be well-received by people in the same age range. His songs are relatable to the young adult experience, with lyrics such as “We don’t always say what we mean / that’s the life of the American teen.” However, his targeted audience and relatability doesn’t make his music childish or immature.
The EP features seven tracks, none of which follow one genre, with each song exploring a different sound but that altogether can be described as ambient and melancholic. The instrumentals have a beautiful simplicity about them, created with minimal sounds and instruments building focus around the vocals. The first song on the EP, "9.13" does not feature many words, but is simply a 55 second audio clip of Khalid singing pitches.
An aspect I enjoyed about the engineering of this EP is the inclusion of the muffled conversations that are included in the songs "Suncity" and "Salem’s Interlude.” The EP tells a story of Khalid’s life starting from El Paso, Texas, and leads into the present. Each song has a story to tell that’s not completely apparent to the listener, but exists somewhere within the song. For instance, “9.13" refers to Sept. 13, 2018, when Khalid received the key to the city of El Paso for his continued success. With this track title, it can be inferred that Khalid won’t forget about his roots, but that he also needs to grow from the boy he was in El Paso.
The second song on the EP, "Vertigo," is a self-reflection of his downfall as Khalid analyzes how he has ended up in his current position. He talks about the feeling of having continuous troubles and failures in his life. In the first verse, he says “ I wish living life was easy / But mine has been a mess. / They say it comes with the seasons / But the seasons come and go / I go blurry when I'm thinking / Is it me or vertigo?” The song itself consists of calming violin and piano notes, only picking up at the chorus with a simple drum loop. It is one of my personal favorite songs off of this EP because of how relatable I find the lyrics and how calming it is. It is a great song to listen to while studying or working.
Some of my other favorites on “Suncity” include "Motion" and “Better.” Motion shows off the R&B side of Khalid's range and style. It almost sounds like it was recorded in an older studio set-up with its muffled tones. The ending of "Motion” directly transitions into track six, "Better.” In the outro of “Motion,” Khalid repeats “Nothing feels better than this.” This line is also the featured in the chorus of "Better.” In the track, Khalid tells a story of a relationship transforming from a friendship into something more, which is a relatable topic for many.
The album closes with "Suncity," a song with a Latin mix featuring Latin singer Empress Of. The mix is different from much of what he has done in the past. This song wasn’t included for lyrical value, but for its ear catching chorus and rhythmic flow.
To me, “Suncity” is a great EP and nothing less than what I would expect from Khalid. He stuck to his original sound while testing out new sounds, ultimately telling his story. He created a body of work that many people can find lyrically relatable, as well as music that sets a melancholic mood. I think this EP was a good way for him to jump back into the music scene and pull in a audience without creating only songs for radio play. “Suncity” is an EP I will continue to listen to for months to come.