When Khalid announced his new project Scenic Drive, and distinctly noted that it was a “tape” he was excited to deliver to fans, one thing came to mind. A little over three months ago, the Texas native offloaded a series of tweets that amounted to an honest admission of writer’s block and struggles with the “overwhelming” balance to meet expectations, remain authentic, and grow into something new and different as an artist. It’s truthfully something most, if not all artists, are forced to grapple with around their second and third albums. Sophomore slumps are already pressure-inducing enough, but even when they’re overcome, the pressure to do it a third time is just as high, if not even higher.
Khalid is a star in his own right. Both of his albums, 2017’s American Teen and 2019’s Free Spirit, are multi-platinum bodies of work with the latter serving as his first No. 1 album. Plenty of awards feature Khalid’s name and his work, and it all contributes to the pressures he feels going into his third album, which he already revealed is titled Everything Is Changing. As a musician, there are practically three options when a mental roadblock is hit while crafting art: trudge through it, wait for it to go away, or divert onto a new and hopefully uninterrupted path. Khalid’s Scenic Drive is the result of his decision to do the last option.
On Scenic Drive, Khalid seeks to overcome his self-doubts by just letting things be. The intention behind this project is to seemingly just do it, to just release music, get back into the swing of things, and even self-supply a boost in confidence. The music on Scenic Drive is simple and appetizing at most as Khalid plays things safely while remaining in a comfortable pocket. It’s the kind of easygoing bass-heavy R&B music that’s romantic, lovelorn, and everything in the middle. It falls on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from what he said Everything Is Changing will present. He previously noted that the songs on the album center “around trying to find a purpose and a sense of self in a world where everything is digitally connected but emotionally disconnected.” All in all, a sharp contrast from what we hear on Scenic Drive.
For what it’s worth, Khalid’s latest project is simply an observant journey through one’s love life, whether it be his own or someone else. It touches on all areas, including the shy moments in the early stages where the respective parties are scared to admit their feelings as “Brand New” and “Open” detail. On the flip side, Khalid keeps things honest and straight to the point about a woman who fails to hold her end of the bargain in a relationship on “Retrograde” and “All Is Bad.” There’s also the hesitance to acknowledge that love is fading away on “Voicemail.” However, if there are tracks that are no doubt made from Khalid’s first-person point of view, it’s “Backseat” and “Scenic Drive.” These see the singer relishing in the natural beauty and existence of what surrounds him while appreciating the fact that he’s able to enjoy it all together.
Scenic Drive unwinds a tense mind through effortless music. It’s something that’s apparent from the moment that Alicia Keys’ free-floating harmonies fall from our speakers. Only Khalid himself knows what he sought through creating this project. Maybe it’s a creative dump in the name of clarity or a moment to refine his skills and return to form. Whatever it is, a sigh of relief as Scenic Drive concludes can be felt as Khalid lets go and allows things to be in their most natural sense. Aligning himself with talented artists like Lucky Daye, 6lack, Kiana Lede, JID, Majid Jordan, and more only add to the appeal of the whole project which is filled with good and enjoyable music. Hopefully, this makes things easier and less weighted for Khalid as he returns to working on Everything Is Changing.
Scenic Drive is out now via Right Hand Music/RCA. Get it here.
Majid Jordan is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.