Compared to the rest of my peers, I was a little late to the game discovering Khalid. Of course, I’d heard the popular “Young Dumb and Broke” as it took over the radio my senior year of high school, but I’m the kind of person who tends to like individual songs rather than the whole album, and I was never really inclined to click on the singer’s name and dive into his other content. It wasn’t until I mentioned this to my roommate freshman year of college, and she gushed about a few of his other songs with such passion that I decided to give it a try.
I found American Teen at a really big threshold in my life. I was starting college in a new place where I knew almost no one, and while I couldn’t relate to everything in all the songs, Khalid’s lyrics spoke to me on a personal level that I’d never really experienced before. He sings about being young and trying to navigate love and loss when you still don’t really understand it, and it’s no surprise that I basically fell in love with every track on the album in an instant.
I walked to class carried by the beats of “Keep Me” and “Another Sad Love Song.” I did homework in Torg Bridge to the mellow background sounds of “Location” and “Shot Down.” Khalid became the soundtrack to my life, always the first thing playing in my earbuds to propel myself out the door in the morning; he sang me through new friends and intense loneliness and the first real heartbreak of my life. It felt like no matter what I was going through in my life, there was always a song I could listen to and find myself in it. It made me feel a little less alone during my freshman year, which is a big and lonely place no matter how many friends you make. In the spring of 2019, Khalid released his second album, Free Spirit, and while I loved the songs, nothing resonated with me quite like American Teen did.
In August of this past year, right before my best friend and I hit our nineteenth birthdays, we saw Khalid live in concert at Capital One Arena. I’ve never been a big concert girl, but I have to admit there was something emotional about hearing “8TEEN” live right before I officially aged out of being able to relate to it. I have a sticker of the American Teen logo on my laptop, and even though I listen to a lot of other music, it’s nice to tune in every so often and ride the waves of nostalgia. It’s a nice thought to imagine that the universe might have been looking out for me, putting this album in my life exactly when I needed it.