Last week, Khalid added another accomplishment to his stellar 2017 when rapper Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” featuring the R&B singer as well as Alessia Cara, jumped 20 spots into the top 10 (29-9) of the Billboard Hot 100 (dated Sept. 16). The uplifting single (its title is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) became the first top 10 single for both Logic and Khalid, the latter of whom never foresaw the song reaching — and affecting — as many listeners as it has.
“I hoped that it would help other people, [but] I didn’t expect it to go top 10,” says the 19-year-old of the song, which rises this week (on the Sept. 23 Hot 100) to a new peak of No. 5. “It’s kind of overwhelming, because it allows me to realize that, while this is the beginning for me, I do have a top 10 song with artists like Alessia Cara and Logic, who are amazing and use their platform to benefit others.”
Released in April, “1-800-273-8255” had hit No. 29 on the Hot 100 prior to leaping into the top 10 in its 18th week. The bump resulted from the trio’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 27; the artists were joined onstage by attempt survivors and loss survivors, and Logic ended the performance with a speech about how “we must fight for the equality of every man, woman and child.” The showcase gave the song a 258 percent increase on the Digital Song Sales chart in the week following the VMAs, per Nielsen Music, and a 20 percent lift in streams.
“For me, I didn’t really process the moment while I was performing,” Khalid explains. “Logic went up there and spoke his mind, spoke his piece from the heart… You never really know who you’re impacting, but the moment that I had walked off the stage, I checked social media and I saw how many people were thanking us for the performance. It was an amazing feeling.”
As for “1-800-273-8255” and Logic’s message, Khalid believes that they couldn’t be more timely. “I feel like a song like this and a speech like that — not just suicide awareness, but about being equal — was necessary,” he says. “2017 right now is not the best year that I’ve had, personally, especially being a minority in America. The light has been set on the negativity. I mean, we have a president who doesn’t really have a true understanding on how to be a president — that doesn’t always help — and I feel like it takes a lot of courage, especially for minorities, to speak out about what they believe in.
“It means a lot that [Logic] spoke out about equality,” Khalid continues, “and how people should be, and how we should be as a country – especially as America, a land that was built by immigrants. I think that’s outstanding.”
Khalid says that he and Logic “text all the time,” after meeting at the beginning of 2017 and playing each other their new albums (Logic’s Everybody was released in May, while Khalid’s debut American Teen was issued in March). On the other hand, Khalid had never actually met Cara, who now has four top 10 singles to her name, until immediately after the VMAs performance. “She was just as nice as I expected her to be,” he says with a laugh.
The success of “1-800-273-8255” follows a pair of Khalid solo tracks, “Location” and “Young Dumb & Broke,” becoming top 40 hits; his American Teen album surging into the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart months after its release; a VMAs win for Best New Artist; and a fall overseas tour in support of Lorde. Within all the milestones, however, Khalid views “1-800-273-8255” as a special moment in his young career — and, perhaps, a preview of the thematic focus to come on his next project, whenever he starts work on it.
“My peers inspire me, especially being a newer artist,” he explains. “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.”