Corpus Christi has Selena, Houston has Beyoncé, Dallas has Post Malone and El Paso has Khalid. And Khalid has El Paso, as he was recently presented with the key to the city.
While Khalid is still fairly new to the pop music landscape, he's already garnered himself a large following in the three years since his debut. He has released two albums and an EP and has collaborated with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Ed Sheeran and Kane Brown. He's also received a personal co-sign from Beyoncé (who this year told him “you’re very talented” in a leaked video clip from her and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Grammy Brunch). It's likely that Khalid will be the next legendary musician to come from Texas.
It’s hard to determine what defines a legend in a streaming era, as albums become picked apart like scabs with listeners curating playlists of their own, resulting in artists becoming less inclined to create cohesive bodies of work. But Khalid defies that trend, a fact made evident by his releases, and by his Sunday night show at the American Airlines Center, where he performed on the first Texas stop of his Free Spirit World Tour.
“It feels good to be back in Texas,” the 21-year-old singer-songwriter said after his opening song.
Each song in his set flowed seamlessly into the next, undulating between R&B, pop, electronic or rock. While many of today’s singers rely on Auto-Tune, Khalid proved his vocals are all his own, harmonizing over each backing track and belting out notes during each interlude.
Apart from his flawless vocals, Khalid and his live production delivered on the visuals. His dancers were precisely on beat, moving along to the stage's video background, which included photos of Texas landmarks and clips of studio sessions, in addition to hazy, flashy lights.The ambiance in the arena reflected Khalid's own work, an irrepressibly charming one of looming mystique.
Khalid is known not only for his vocal and lyrical gifts, but for his humility. In audio clips that played between sections of his set, he admitted that his first album, American Teen, came from a place of immaturity. While his second album, Free Spirit, has received much acclaim for its musical growth, Khalid admits he still has a way to go before truly becoming a “free spirit.”
Khalid's love for Texas is pointed largely at its people, his fans. During early parts of his show, a member of the audience in the pit held up a hand-painted portrait of the singer. Khalid grabbed the painting and signed it before handing it back. Toward the end of the show, Khalid invited a few audience members in the pit onto the stage to dance and sing parts of his songs.
While his songs are often melancholy, they're often accompanied by bass-heavy instrumentals. There was never a point where the audience wasn’t dancing or swaying, even to down-tempo songs like “Location” or “Love Lies.” Khalid's hardcore fans know all the words to every one of his songs, but even his most casual fans are familiar with a good portion of them.
With his infectious choruses, inimitable vocals and ever-present humility, Khalid has all the makings of a superstar.