ALBUM REVIEW: Scenic Drive (The Tape)

Review by: Aditya Thiyag

Artist: Khalid

Rating: 1.5/5

Khalid’s debut mixtape is an underwhelming effort from an artist seemingly incapable of growth with a star-studded feature list and warbly, soul-hop production.

Almost immediately, the tracks all start to bleed into one another, with Khalid doing nothing to elevate the identically low tempo instrumentals and continuing to harmonize with middling lyricism centered around love. The most egregious examples of these are “Present” and “Backseat”, the second and third tracks of the mixtape, as they have no features, and the listener is left at the mercy of Khalid’s crooning vocals that have neither regressed nor improved since his mainstream debut in 2016.

The standout among the sea of mediocrity is the title track, “Scenic Drive”. Ari Lennox’s authoritative vocals rouse the listener out of the stupor that the other songs might have left them with and Smino delivers a verse comparable to his exceptional performance on “Claymore” off of Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning released this past July. It’s unfortunate that this is the outro of the mixtape, because this is the only part of the mixtape that feels even remotely engaging. “All I Feel Is Rain” is a more enjoyable track present in the mixtape, but not even someone as versatile as JID can make this song anything more than just average.

By far the most unforgivable aspect of the mixtape is the potential left utterly squandered. Khalid recruited singer songwriter legend Alicia Keys only to have her deliver backing vocals and two lines on the opening track and Majid Jordan, the genius behind Drake’s 2013 song “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, is left to salvage the painfully boring “Open”. Alternative R&B artist 6lack also delivers a great vocal performance on “Retrograde” but the verse is not given enough time to matter, clocking in at an embarrassing 8 lines total.

“Scenic Drive” is a near soulless experience, and while its intention is to provide relaxing, chill background music, a plethora of mainstream artists are currently delivering more engaging and entertaining R&B/pop, like Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales and Adele’s 30. Hopefully, Khalid eventually grows as a vocalist and a writer, because all “Scenic Drive” amounts to is background music for an H&M rather than an enjoyable listen.