Khalid: "Scenic Drive" - Review
At only 23 years of age, Khalid has already grown before our very eyes. Arriving on the music scene back in 2017, the crooner released his debut album, American Teen blending both Pop & R&B in a smooth yet bubbly way.
Through the last few years, sensational hits such as "Young Dumb & Broke" and "Location," "Better," and "Talk' (and even more) all marked a different yet refreshing tone that infiltrated the listeners' hearts all across the world. For many, this blurred line of Pop and R&B naturally has led fans, critics, and listeners alike to gravitate to one style of the singer over the other.
For his albums, Khalid tends to shift between both dimensions of mainstream pop to the cradling, tranquil R&B that many enjoy. However, on his latest project, Scenic Drive, the focus is on the latter genre. Scenic Drive arrives as Khalid's first mixtape. Released on Tuesday (Dec. 2), the tape consists of only 9 songs, the mixtape runs for approximately 30 minutes and houses an ample amount of featured artists! The project initially started out as an EP before Khalid decided it was actually much more than that.
Conceptual and metaphoric at heart, the melodic body of work sets the exact tone Khalid desires - for his listeners to literally feel as if they are taking a long warm drive playing a collection of vibes that encapsulate and embody exactly what R&B is. The whispy intro places listeners inside a car as the radio dial switches between Khalid's top hits before the legendary Alicia Keys sets the dreamy atmosphere for the tape. "Thank you for tuning into Scenic Drive. We're here to provide the vibes. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride," Keys calmly states before fading away.
Before unleashing his platoon of heavy-hitting featured guests, the calm crooner begins the quiet storm with a couple of solo tracks - "Present" and "Backseat." In "Present," Khalid sings about giving his very all to his lover and being captivated at the moment at hand. So many times we are quick to look to a future moment or constantly move at such an alarmingly fast rate that it is easy to overlook the present moment at hand. Continuing the concept of the tape's title he sings to his interest about cruising around the town at night on autopilot and being fully engaged with each other's presence. His voice swirls over the acoustics and light tempo, upbeat pop production. "Backseat" is slower and even more stimulating. Khalid takes his time as he sings about desiring company, choosing Sativa or Indica, and being the right one for his lover. He compares his love to that of those pharmaceuticals explaining that his love will never let his lady down. He will be the very high she needs.
From there, the journey goes into overdrive as listeners are greeted by Khalid's guests on the remaining tracks. A personal favorite on the tape comes with the beautiful "Retrograde." Here, Khalid is at home as he bellows over guitars and twinkling production that revels in the nostalgia of previous Khalid works. Teaming with both the incomparable 6LACK and Lucky Daye, the song is elevated to even higher realms. Khalid sings about getting high to balance out the downpour within his current world. Both 6LACK and Lucky provide a certain... je ne sais quoi that truly amplifies the song as well as Khalid's delivery. The weather references continue on the JID-assisted "All I Feel Is Rain." The track possesses a somewhat ghostlike texture. Khalid's voice haunts the beat as he echoes his pain and hurt throughout the track. Even JID's quick sharp-tongued verse packs an eerie punch before transitioning to the chorus.
The mixtape is provided with some much-deserved female energy on duets such as "Brand New" with QUIN, and "Voicemail" with Kiana Ledé. Melodic and sensual, both of the tracks tell a story peeling back the facets of love. "Brand New" finds Khalid and QUIN coming together over this light romancing track. QUIN commands the track with her sensual low raspy verses as Khalid's background vocals and adlibs enhance the tune. The two make a marvelous harmony over the slow-grinding production. "Voicemail" explores the other end of love - conflict, and maturation. Khalid expresses himself and the issues he feels within the relationship. Kiana's airy vocals intesifies the feeling within the record as she provides the woman's perspective on the song. The two are at odds but are trying to find a way to efficiently communicate what each other is feeling. Another personal fave, the two hit a smashing homerun and provide the very vibes that Alicia referred to at the beginning of this journey.
Scenic Drive's second to the last song, "Open" recruits Majid Jordan and unleashes this nostalgic early 2000's aesthetic from production to the chorus. The fellas restlessly await the moment of being within reach of their respective lovers. The mixtape ends with what might be the best song on the project, the self-titled track itself "Scenic Drive." Saving the very best for last, Khalid joins forces with Smino and Ari Lennox to deliver a soulful, charismatic display unlike anything else on the tape. Here, Khalid takes the energy to an even higher level. With even more metaphoric car lines, a passionate falsetto, and a contagious chorus, he executes perfectly. Ari's voice reaches beyond the heavens as she sings about climbing in her lover's lap and doing the dash. Everything about the collaboration feels right. If things couldn't possibly get any better, Smino blazes through with an utterly smooth verse. His flow is unparalleled and he truly shifts the song into an even deeper gear.
Scenic Drive feels much like its title. It emulates the very feel of when you choose to take the long way home from an event or function so you can enjoy your music. The drive is usually filled with gems and diamonds that make it nearly impossible to exit your car. In this work, Khalid saturates himself within maturation. While there are hints/elements to allude to past songs and hits we know and love, Scenic Drive allows Khalid to grow up even more. Last summer, the singer revealed that his third album Everything Is Changing would be releasing soon. While it has not yet been released, 2022 could very well be that shining moment that the album is gifted to us. Nonetheless, Scenic Drive acts as a fulfilling appetizer to a highly anticipated full course meal.