For his debut album, singer-songwriter Khalid chose the title “American Teen,” which is exactly the kind of thing a precocious, preternaturally gifted 19-year-old would do. The lofty, all-encompassing title suggests that Khalid has teenage life all figured out. And across the album’s 15 tracks, he makes a compelling case to be a voice of his generation, musically and lyrically.
“American Teen” is reminiscent of the intimate, stripped-down, alternative R&B from the likes of Miguel, Frank Ocean and Sampha. Khalid’s music is mellow, almost sleepy, with twinkling piano, sprightly guitar licks and electronic, four-on-the-floor grooves that leave plenty of room for his trembling, emotionally charged voice. That gentle instrument delivers notebook poetry about the teenage experience, both evergreen (alas, parents still don’t understand) and contemporary. But although there are plenty of lyrics about our technology-obsessed age — passing out in Ubers, sending location data, erasing pictures from phones — Khalid doesn’t “wanna fall in love off subtweets.”
In that way, Khalid is like any American teen, during any time period — mostly concerned with the frequent broken hearts of adolescence, the fleeting romances that feel life-altering. Of American teens, Khalid sings, “We don’t always say what we mean,” but he’s more honest than he gives himself credit for.
Show: With Farrah Flosscett on Saturday at the Fillmore. Show starts at 8 p.m. 301-960-9999. fillmoresilverspring.com. Sold out.