Following his incandescent 2017 debut, American Teen, Texas pop-R&B crooner Khalid became the toast of Hollywood. The Apple Music Up Next star’s breakout hit, “Location,” had been nominated for Best R&B Song at the Grammys, and with meteoric popularity came a slew of high-profile collaborations alongside the likes of Logic, Billie Eillish, Lorde, and Swae Lee—the latter of which landed on the Black Panther soundtrack with the song “The Ways.” Blasted into stardom right out of high school, Khalid was on top of the world, and that disorienting rise became the fuel behind his luminous 2018 EP, Suncity. Deviating from his newfound role as a pop MVP, Khalid returned to the melancholy songwriting that made him a generation's essential interlocutor and purveyor of wholesome school-dance anthems. As if inviting fans to tag along on a visit home, the opening track “9.13” layers cinematic ambient with audio of former El Paso Mayor Dee Margo awarding Khalid the key to the city. The track is a glimpse behind the curtain that underscores his status as an illustrious Texan as well as a longing for home—now that he spends more time on the road than in his own bed. Short clips like “Salem's Interlude” create a narrative structure that finds the young star grappling with his fame and a fear of disappointing his growing legion of fans. Suncity packs a hefty emotional punch in its short runtime. On “Vertigo,” Khalid harnesses orchestral majesty while delivering one of his finest vocal performances to date, pondering his worthiness of this charmed life and the never-ending barrage of critiques that sow doubt in his mind. “Saturday Nights” seems to harken back to teenage wistfulness, longing for slow dances and suggestive caresses over cozy country guitars. Since blowing up two years prior, Khalid began cultivating a reputation for being impervious to genre—building a name on pop and R&B though unafraid of dipping into country and electro. Suncity closes on a bold slice of reggaetón-inflected Latin pop crafted in conjunction with Honduran-American singer and producer Empress Of. Together, they smolder on the hook: “Llévame, llévame, donde dejé mi corazón” (“Take me, take me, to where I left my heart”)—both a nod to his city’s vast Spanish-speaking community and an earnest reminder that home is where the heart is.

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