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Why Khalid is One of 2017's Most Daring New Artists

Khalid
Kacie Tomita

Khalid

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Guess Dare

After slowly making waves with his debut single “Location,” El Paso native Khalid upended the R&B scene with impressive speed at the tender age of 19. While he grew up surrounded by music (his mother is a singer in the military), it wasn't until he relocated to Texas during his senior year of high school that he dared to dream of music as a career. The crooner's first hit landed him a label deal with RCA Records, and helped him carve out his place as one of the biggest new artists of 2017.

“Location” is not an ordinary Top 40 hit — it is slow, meditative and marked by a sense of longing. Earlier this year, Khalid told Billboard that he almost scrapped the song from his album. Fortunately, he had an uncompromising vision for how he wanted his first project to sound, and ended up scoring a Top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart with his debut, American Teen.

“If people are telling me I'm not singing the right way and that my songs are too sad, I'm going to sing them the way I want to, and I'm going to sing my sad-ass songs and someone's going to like that shit,” Khalid declared.

With lyrics rooted in his authentic teen experiences, Khalid boldly described the reality of being on the edge of adulthood; it's something that caught on with listeners, alongside his tender vocals and creative approach to song construction. Not only did Khalid release one of the most low-key lovelorn records of the year with American Teen, he took inspired chances -- and collected more hits -- through collaborations with Calvin Harris, DJDS and Logic. The latter led Khalid to his biggest, and most moving, hit to date: “1-800-273-8255,” Logic’s anti-suicide anthem featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara, became a Top 5 hit on the Hot 100, and led to a huge uptick in awareness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"My peers inspire me, especially being a newer artist,” Khalid explained to Billboard. "Even though I was super personal with American Teen, I want to tap in and not just tell my own stories, but tell the stories of other people — so that I can help as many people as possible."

Rising alongside artists like SZA, Kelela and Bryson Tiller, Khalid's music is on the forefront of an exciting time in R&B. But it’s more than just his sound: Khalid's welcoming spirit and optimism for the future can be appreciated across demographics, and it's no surprise that people keep wanting more. Popular music would be far less fearless this year if not for Khalid.

“I feel like music is changing, and it takes us as a whole,” says Khalid. “We are the change. We do have the power to change things.”

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