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Khalid - Suncity EP Music Albums Reviews

The latest EP from the versatile young singer is a harmless taste of pop-inflected R&B, a style in which Khalid sounds largely unremarkable.

No one hears a Khalid song and is like, “Yo, turn that shit off!” It’s harmless, nobody is mad at it. It’s like switching between radio stations in a car, passing over one for playing a song I hear too often, and another for commercials, before finally settling on a song that makes me shrug—it’ll do. Since arriving on the scene with “Location,” Khalid’s music has always felt like settling. The El Paso, Texas singer has talent: he can jump from genre to genre, his voice is strong, and he even has some charm. But where’s the fun in music made to appease everyone, music that only incites feelings of “I guess so?” Khalid’s new Sun City EP doesn’t escape that feeling. It’s pop-inflected R&B that is so extra-medium, finding reasons to care is difficult.

Khalid prides himself on versatility, a stylistic range that is showcased throughout the EP—no two tracks are the same. But that versatility also weighs down Khalid exposing how he’s not exceptional at one single thing but just pretty good at a bunch. On “Saturday Nights,” a guitar ballad that sounds like the ending credits on a CW teen drama, Khalid’s juvenile lovestruck songwriting comes to surface: “All the things that I know, that your parents don’t.” The song follows in the path of another Charlie Handsome acoustic guitar production, Post Malone’s “Go Flex” but with none of the edge. Khalid’s most successful branching-out moment is when he becomes the latest artist to jump on the money-printing reggaeton bandwagon for a bouncy track with Empress Of and background vocals from Spanish singer Rosalía. Khalid sounds at home having another vocalist to bounce off of and not having to carry the future hit on his own.

But Sun City is lighthearted to a fault. Khalid wants to be taken seriously on the R&B end but drops “Salem’s Interlude” which has to be the first R&B voicemail interlude to not be petty and hurtful. It transitions into “Motion,” a light and glimmery smooth jam that features Khalid without any vigor whatsoever. His voice is sharp and the melody is clean but it only makes me want to press pause and spin a Miguel cut, something with momentum. Khalid is a pop star, he’s capable on the R&B end, it’s just not where he’s most comfortable. “Vertigo” is proof that when Khalid slides into the pop alleyway—the song is reminiscent of the strange pop era when Coldplay ruled the world—his broken-hearted vocals fit perfectly into this world: “But I love you in the moment/I was happy, I was not/I’ve been learning, I’ve been growing/But the worst is yet to come.”

For as popular as Khalid is, he’s still trying to figure it out. The purpose of Sun City doesn’t seem to be a cohesive project but a vehicle to throw seven different sounds into the world and see what sticks. Khalid comes out of the project, mostly the same, still the least controversial pop star we have right now—which, in this moment, we need more of. Khalid is going to stumble into hits, as he should, and when it comes on the radio I’ll probably have little reaction just the usual shrug and a sway.

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