Khalid has done it again. In his seven–track EP Suncity, which came out on October 19, he once again does what he does best: acting as the voice of the teenage generation. In a seemingly simplistic fashion, he magically makes teen recklessness and the problems they face, beautiful. Listening to his lyrics as a young adult, you somehow become nostalgic for this age even though you are in the midst of living it yourself. And Suncity, a "love letter" to El Paso, Khalid's hometown, makes you miss the Texas town even if you've never set foot there.
While the twenty–year–old artist has praised his hometown before, reminiscing about “the city of the 915, where all the girls are pretty and they’re down for the high” in American Teen, the EP reminds us of his love for Texas and the homesickness following his rise to fame. He's earned five Grammy nominations, collaborated with top artists like Logic, Halsey, Normani, and Lorde, and had a certified platinum album. But our most relatable celebrity still misses home.
Suncity begins with "9.13," an interlude that lasts less than a minute and features a recording of the mayor of El Paso granting Khalid the key to the city on September 18. The tape is played over a powerful, but soft and angelic hum that fades out and repeats. Right off the bat, we're focused on El Paso: the love Khalid has for his city, and vice versa.
But with love comes pain, as indicated by "Vertigo." The lyrics “I wish living life was easy / But mine has been a mess” and “I’ve been learning, I’ve been growing / But the worst is yet to come” demonstrates the struggles the platinum artist must face, like any teenager. The outro creates a sort of mantra repeating “Eyes closed, eyes closed / I’ve been falling with my” that is strikingly familiar to “American Teen"'s “We don’t always say what we mean” concluding chant. However, Khalid has a smooth, soulful spin that creates a more vibe–y hymn for Suncity’s listeners.
Returning to this nostalgic, American Teen atmosphere, Khalid’s “Saturday Nights” is reminiscent of strumming a guitar on your front porch, messing around and having a good time. In fact, this is similar to Khalid’s own writing process for this EP.
But when taking a deeper look at the lyrics, Khalid juxtaposes teenage casualty and recklessness “Saturday nights, blueberry cigarillos / Swishers make my throat hurt” with the severity of teen problems that are often unrecognized:
"I guess there’s certain dreams that you / gotta keep / ‘cause they’ll only take what you let ‘em see”
“And all the things that I know / That your parents don’t / They don’t care like I do / Nowhere like I do”
“You’ve got plans wrapped in rubber bands / And that’s the only thing you’ll never lose”
“Salem’s Interlude” provides a swift break in Khalid’s lyricism. Instead, a recording of his friend’s voice, complaining that fear has created an obstacle in the path to achieve her dreams, echoes the EP's overarching message.
Once again, we're brought back and entertained by Khalid’s soulful lyricism and hypnotizing beat on “Motion” and “Better.” Both tracks describe a casual friends–with–benefits relationship. “Motion” shows us a Khalid who's in love with the moment and the rhythm. The outro provides a smooth transition to "Better," where he provides more detail of this relationship, but with a more pop and EDM feel.
Khalid concludes Suncity by demonstrating his versatility.
“Suncity,” featuring Empress Of, mixes upbeat, Latino influences with Khalid’s iconic, soulful sound that provides listeners with something new. The song reveals the Texan’s love for his city “where [he] left [his] heart” regardless of his rising fame.
We're left with a final message: “I send you lots of hugs / And, hope to see you very soon.”