If you haven’t heard of the rising pop prodigy Khalid, you probably should get to know him because he isn’t going anywhere for awhile. Last week we hit the road from Madison to Milwaukee and watched Khalid perform on his “American Teen” tour at the Rave Eagles Club.
At just 19 years old, Khalid is sitting in the front seat watching his journey as a star skyrocket. His debut album, American Teen, exposed listeners to the craft of Khalid; he sings with grace in the midst of blowing off steam during his teenage years. After graduating high school just last year, he lures in his audience with his relatable lyrics and overall persona of being an American teen himself.
The title American Teen was perfectly fitting for this concert, as the crowd featured thousands of American teens and was reminiscent of an oversized high school dance. The concert opened with Jessie Reyez, an up and coming female vocalist and songwriter. Immediately, we were taken by the raw, raspy, nature of her voice. Her music seems inspired by the hip-hop/R&B flare she gives off. She is energetic, and her emotion seeps through her performance. As she played her guitar, Reyez had unfamiliar fans like us trying to keep up with her songs. Some personal favorites that caught our eyes (and ears) were “Gatekeepers,” “Figures” and “Great One.” When her performance finally came to a halt, we found ourselves wanting just a little more. But then, Khalid took over.
Khalid opened his performance with one of his more known songs “8TEEN,” which immediately set the tone for the evening. His jaunty vocals echoed throughout the room accompanied by many dance beats. The song helped to establish the image Khalid is creating for himself fresh out of high school. Effortlessly relating to his fanbase, he sings about living with his parents at just eighteen years old and doing the dumb things that teenagers can get caught up in. He differentiates himself from other artists and takes advantage of his youth by truly letting his fans know he’s just like us. He doesn’t sing about money and cars, which is typical of new artists trying to keep up with mainstream pop culture. Despite the start of his rapid success, he’s not caught up in the glitz and glam aspect of it all yet, and based on the way his genuinity shines through his music, we presume he’ll stick to his roots.
Something we noticed about Khalid’s lyricism is that he isn’t stuck in the past, nor is he rushing to jump into the future. He writes and sings songs about living in the moment and cherishing his youth.These songs recall the drunken nights of high school and the hazy memories of marijuana filmed rooms. But more importantly, they ignite emotions of fading relationships, as well as the excitement of beginning new ones. His fans are able to internalize his lyrics as he delivers messages about all the facets of growing up. We enjoyed dancing to the more buoyant songs like “Let’s Go,” which were complemented by slow paced songs with piano chords trailing in the background, like “Coaster,” which reflects upon moving on from a lost relationship.
A key component for an entertaining concert is when the artist is having just as much fun as their fans, and Khalid was doing just that, if not more. For his more upbeat songs, he was he shared the stage with multiple dancers in cheerleading outfits. This was a bit of a tacky touch and wasn’t necessary for an artist like Khalid who shines on his own without background dancers and distracting visuals. Khalid showcased his own swaggy dance moves and flashed his contagious smile, making every member of the audience want to be his friend.
Khalid’s performance that night was something we’ll be thinking about as young hip-hop/R&B fans for a while. We were able to see him just at his beginning: before the ticket prices for his future concerts soar and before just about everyone knows his name. We’re excited to see how he maneuvers himself within the music industry in the time ahead. Although we thought the concert was cut short while just performing 11 songs, we still had an unforgettable night with Khalid.