The social media platform that brought us advice from DJ Khaled, won the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity award during the Super Bowl, and made taking selfies in public socially acceptable has worked its magic yet again. With the help of Kylie Jenner, Snapchat is also responsible for throwing 19-year-old Khalid Robinson (not to be confused with DJ Khaled) onto the scene.
Khalid’s single, “Location,” appeared for a brief 3 seconds on Jenner’s Snapchat story at the beginning of this year. Immediately, the single ran up to 77 on the Hot 100 and hit nearly 30 million saves on Spotify in January. Fast forward three months later and Khalid has dropped his album, American Teen. Not only has he taken No. 9 on the Billboard 200, No. 3 on the R&B Albums chart, and No. 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally, he’s also appearing on our television screens. In March, Jimmy Fallon welcomed Khalid to the stage of his show and social media went wild. Especially on Twitter, where Khalid is very active, some fans admired his first step into the spotlight while others referred to his charismatic performance as bittersweet – he finally received the attention he deserved, but was no longer “their secret.” This month, he had a Spotify-sponsored surprise concert at his alma mater, prepped for a major tour with Travis Scott, and performed at Coachella.
“Location” has your traditional markers for a juke jam favorite: nice bass, soothing yet sensual vocals and a steady rhythm to sway to. Soulful and spry, it’s as “roll your windows down” meets “summer night” as it gets. More importantly, it’s ironic, but not in a sardonic way.
The chorus begins with “send me your location,” which Khalid refers to as “kind of the ode to the digital era that we’re all going through.” It’s slightly mocking the idea of an impatient longing to see someone and relaying it through something emotionless, a manufactured text message. But before I throw you off, he doesn’t pull a pretentious veil over this. Rather, he notes that products of the digital era are fun; they’re just not completely wholesome. The next line, “let’s focus on communication” addresses taking away the safety net our phones provide us and physically put ourselves in positions to connect, to “vibe.” In an interview, he once stated, “I feel like it’s really necessary to kind of pick their brain, face to face, and see their reaction. Instead of seeing their emoticon.”
The entire album has gems like this one. We’ll probably hear “Location” on the radio sometime soon, especially with all the attention Khalid will attract post-Coachella. But allow yourself to delve into the other 14 songs on his album as well. Dulcetly, Khalid spews about never having fallen in love and that initial rush of vibing with a person. He also covers strict parents and living under their roof at 18 years old — something still fresh in my head. And then there’s a song where he talks about getting short of bare minimum and asks for a little therapy. At times he is silvery and dreamy or soulful and heartbreaking, at others he is carefree and youthful. American Teen has something for each of us. Plus, bonus points if you’re from El Paso because there are mentions of being from the 915 pretty often. Happy listening, my friends.