September 19, 2020

Khalid – Free Spirit – RCA

By Kristi Kates | May 4, 2019

Seventeen tracks in all make up Khalid’s latest, a set that expands upon his ’80s-influenced 2017 debut album, which established him as a chart-friendly R&B-pop singer who can veer easily into other genres. Sometimes, though, it seems like it would be better if he took a little more care with those wheelhouses he ventures into; for every collaboration with someone like Disclosure (the result being the grooving dance tune “Talk”), there seems to be a mishap, like his team-up with guitarist/singer John Mayer on “Outta My Head,” which quickly devolves into generic muzak. **
MonstaX – We Are Here – Starship 
K-Pop outfit MonstaX, which survived the gauntlet of the Korean music competition show No Mercy back in 2015, is back with its third collection of tunes. After several experiments with N’Sync-esque vocals and hip-hop, this effort is one that finds the group settling into a distinctive sound. What works: dance-floor pop and vigorous beats on tracks like the bombastic “Rodeo”; some unexpected electric piano on “Play It Cool”; and an absurd yet undeniably catchy refrain on “Alligator.” ** ½

Sara Barielles – Amidst the Chaos – Epic
Barielles is a multi-faceted performer who’s taken the stage at all the major music awards shows, written a successful Broadway musical (Waitress), and notched a No. 1 radio tune (“Love Song”). She’s now on her fifth solo album, one earmarked by her conventionally structured pop. Expect recognizable radio-friendly melodies: like “Fire,” with its multi-Barielles in the choruses; “Wicked Love,” with its deceptively upbeat tones; and the album’s final track, which brings in none other than John Legend for “A Safe Place to Land.” ***
Griz – Ride Waves – GRIZ
Griz’ latest comes across as a big, uneven, funky hangout session in which he throws around sounds with a glossy list of hip-hop names. He gets Wiz Khalifa behind the mic with him for “Find My Own Way,” brings in the legendary Bootsy Collins for “Bustin’ Out,” teams up with DRAM for “It Gets Better,” and brings in Snoop Dogg for “My Friends and I Pt. 2 (feat. Snoop Dogg and Prob Cause). He even veers into the alternative-rock world by busting one out with Matisyahu on a reggae-inspired tune. With all that talent, you’d expect a little better result. ** 1/2


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