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Khalid’s ‘Free Spirit’ shows why he’s one of the most exciting voices in music

Khalid’s excellent second album “Free Spirit” is full of unrushed, somber pop from a guy proving he’s one of the most exciting voices in music.

Khalid, seen here last August at Lollapalooza, is out with ans excellent second album “Free Spirit” that's full of unrushed, somber pop from a guy proving he’s one of the most exciting voices in music.. | Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

After knocking us out on his debut album, 2017’s “American Teen,” by singing about being young, dumb and broke, Khalid is back with an excellent second album, “Free Spirit.”

This time, we find the 21-year-old pop-soul-R&B star wrestling with deep stuff. The guy who worried a few years ago that his mom would kill him because his car smelled like marijuana now sings, “I shouldn’t have to die to feel alive.”

“Free Spirit” is a fuller, more layered album, 17 tracks of unrushed, somber pop from a performer stretching and proving why he’s one of the most exciting voices in music.

On the funky “Paradise,” he sings: “I’ve been thinking a little deeper/contemplation, getting cleaner.”

Two of the better songs, “Better” and “Saturday Nights,” appeared on his recent EP “Suncity,” and he reunites with producers Charlie Handsome and Digi, who co-wrote many of the tracks.

Before, , Khalid — who plays United Center July 25 — might go with just a little piano or a guitar lick. Now, he nestles his voice amid hazy clouds of warm synth and murky echoes, adding twisty bits of electronica and employing his falsetto to great effect.

“Free Spirit” by Khalid. | Right Hand Music Group/RCA Records

He gets introspective, too. “The man that I’ve been running from is inside of me/I tell him keep it quiet,” he sings on “Self.”

Khalid at the Academy Of Country Music Awards last weekend in Las Vegas. | Getty Images