Khalid has a commanding presence. Not only in his personal bubble but in the overarching story of 2017, he has been everywhere. And he's just 19 years old. He issued his excellent, aching and honest debut full-player American Teen back in March, and the remarkably-wise performer, who grew up all over the world, including six years in Germany, rightfully snagged five nominations for the upcoming 2018 Grammy Awards.
He appears as one-third of Logic's timely "1-800-273-8255," a collaboration featuring Alessia Cara, which is up for Song of the Year and Music Video of the Year, and his three-time platinum hit "Location" faces off for R&B Song. American Teen also earned a spot in Best Urban Contemporary Album, alongside such heavy weights as The Weeknd, SZA and Childish Gambino.
Khalid's star seems to be peaking at just the right moment, too, usurping that of SZA, whose CTRL debut LP has gained an equal amount of critical hype, and Julia Michaels, who has yet to follow-up her blockbuster, Song of the Year-nominated "Issues." Cara failed to score a nomination for the 2017 ceremony, despite having reached critical mass the year prior, and Lil Uzi Vert remains the outlier of the bunch. Khalid strikes a suitable balance between R&B slink and wide, commercial-pop appeal. His voice is smooth, and his penmanship is smoother. American Teen embodies the struggles of a young adult trying to find their place in the world, crafted around thick beats, sticky melodies and a mature-beyond-his-years sensibility.
When the nominations broke, the upstart could hardly believe it, attempting to process the milestone but keep his feet firmly planted on the ground. "Not long after seeing the nominations, I got a phone call from my mom congratulating me — that was very special. She was screaming on the phone, telling me how proud of me she was and how all my work paid off," he reflected to the New York Times. As also illustrated with the other general four categories, white men are surprisingly absent from the proceedings, including in Best New Artist. He then mused on what that means for the greater music landscape. "The categories are just filled by so many versatile artists — minorities — who accept their own individuality. Uzi is insanely good and super creative. I’m so glad he’s nominated, because it’s a win for hip-hop music. SZA is a win for R&B and hip-hop. Julia Michaels, so amazing — a win for pop music. Alessia Cara, a win for soul and pop."
Khalid's meteoric rise deserves the ultimate payoff, and that lies in the voters getting it right. Best New Artist is his to lose.