Over the last couple years, Khalid has made a name for himself on solo singles (the excellent “Young Dumb & Broke”) and guesting on more tracks than anyone would care to count. His melodic vocal stylings are great for adding a hook or offsetting a more aggressive rap verse, and there’s certainly something about his phrasing that can draw in listeners across various genres.
On his new EP, Suncity, the singer truly proves himself the king of mellow pop, though it soon becomes apparent that he may be coasting on overly smooth roads. The songs on this album are all pleasant and inoffensive, and some are inarguably good, but there seems to be little interest in taking risks or reaching for greater heights at the same time.
The opening songs are clear bids for crossover radio appeal, with “Vertigo” finding Khalid riding sweeping orchestration that could easily fit Coldplay or U2, wishing he was “more outspoken”. This is hard for him, since he’s such a soft-spoken singer, that even with the layered harmonies and sampling, the track never comes close to the arena-anthems of the previously mentioned bands. Khalid is far more in his element on “Saturday Nights”, a folksy, acoustic-driven pop song that has the perfect mid tempo flow that works for his relatable storytelling.
The production on Suncity pushes to diversify the songs, with lush synths over the piano ballad “Better”, or glitchy electronica that closes out “Motion”. Yet, Khalid‘s vocals remain generally even-keeled and reliably pretty, where it could have benefited him to get out of his comfort zone more. He gets close on “Motion”, with the intensity become more engaging until the electronica kicks in to disjoint the song.
The title track is truly the most novel cut here, using acoustic guitars and a guest spot from Empress Of to add some latin flavor that grooves enough to be danceable, though never ignites enough fire to truly be a club track. It will better suit an island beach walk in Cabo.
There is some irony in the album’s title, as Suncity is really an album for the evening, winding down and chilling with a lover and letting yourself fade into the night. Nothing here will excite or startle you, but you’ll enjoy it on some level all the same.