Khalid looks back to move forward with ‘Scenic Drive’


Kirsten Mikkelson | RCA Records press kit

Edeline Kalishevich

Pop and R&B artist Khalid dropped his newest project, “Scenic Drive” on Dec. 3, and this EP has one prevailing theme: growth.

Titled after the lookout spot Khalid and his friends frequented in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, Khalid flashes back to his younger years through visual imagery. The cover art of the album portrays him sitting on a vintage orange car looking out into El Paso through the Franklin Mountains, with a melancholic look in his eyes.

“It’s one of those places you go with your friends, and you park on the side and you hop out the car and you just sit in awe of how beautiful the city is, Khalid said about his hometown, El Paso.

With his steadily rising fame ever since 2017, the singer is paying homage to the memories that built him into the person his fans know today. His schoolboy naivete is relatable to listeners as the feeling of nostalgia is a universal and tough one to comprehend.

The first song of the EP, “Intro,” featuring Alicia Keys, begins with a meshed replay of songs from his older albums, the tragicomic equivalent of stalking an ex on social media or going through an old school yearbook. Now 23 years old, he seems to be mourning the process of shedding old skin as he takes on a new chapter in his music career.

While the album name and art act as a tether to the artist’s past, the music itself tells a different story. Through the nine tracks, Khalid highlights an aspect of his vocal parameters that he has not focused on in his previous work.

“The baritenor lets his lower octave dip and rumble righteously,Variety reporter A.D. Amarosi wrote about the vocals in the EP.  This choice as a singer seems to have a more figurative meaning behind it.

It may be that the comfortable ease with which one would speak of their childhood, through the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia allows Khalid to relax his notes. There is no need to heighten his pitch since the moods of the songs speak for themselves. Regardless, long-time fans of the artist still get to experience the intimately sulky beats he is known for, and prospective new fans get to see a side of him that is more nonchalant.

With this lower tone, Khalid sings of conflicted love, both to himself and an unnamed romantic interest.

“Backseat/I’m the one you need to be around/‘Cause I won’t bring you down,”  he sings in the song, “Backseat.” The lyrics  are heart wrenching; this tangled love affair has Khalid exposing his vulnerable sides, persuading the other person to let their guard down too.

This eerie sadness is juxtaposed with the song title track off the EP, wherein he sings of chasing highs with the windows down, driving with people he loves symbolizes the ambivalence of the youth that he left behind.

The most emotional song on the album would be “All I Feel is Rain.” This soulful track featuring JID, although based on more of a techno-pop beat, brings Khalid’s grieving process full circle. He sings of giving up on the said lover, and it becomes a simultaneous grieving process, the killing of two birds with one stone: his childhood and his love.

Khalid is moving on with his life and his career, leaving the past in the past. The mere fact that it is an EP is evidence enough, since they are usually released by new artists to create buzz or by disappeared artists to bring attention back to them. For Khalid these go hand-in-hand.

After a two-year break, he is back with the official album on the way. He is also rebranding, which is why the EP makes sense for him: his raw emotion and captivating baritone voice are taking the music industry by storm in a completely new way.

“Enjoy this with your friends and family. The tape is yours,Khalid said about this EP. He has successfully made his evolution a process to empathize with. Thus, this album is the emotional equivalent of driving down a beautiful road with close friends, careless and unapologetically hopeful for what the future has in store.