New Song Friday: "Saved" - Khalid
It's interesting timing that I stumbled upon this week’s song as I slowly creep towards full-blown quarter life crisis mode this weekend, in the form of yet another birthday. Khalid (sadly, not DJ Khaled) was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1998—for those of you playing at home, that makes him 18 years old. Where did the time go?
Anyway, “Saved” comes from Khalid’s album American Teen, which comes out March 3. As is the case with so many new artists, there isn’t that much information out there about him, so let’s jump into the song.
I don’t usually focus primarily on the lyrics, but this time they jumped out at me. Before I knew Khalid was 18, I didn’t think too much of them, but with that context, “Saved” seems like exactly the type of song that a high school student would write. It’s a song about love, loss, and fairy tales.
Look no further than the chorus, where Khalid clearly explains his desire to hold on to the phone number of a former "lover" so that in the future, if he gets the pride, he'll let her know that "no one else is gonna hold you down the way that I do".
Between iterations of the chorus, Khalid uses each verse to offer his insights into the recently ended relationship and how he’s been coping. This is where his age really shows through. He talks about how hard being apart is, how he sometimes forgets that they aren't together, how he's deleted all of their photos, and how love is unfair.
Let me take a step back: I'm actually not saying that his choice of words is childish or immature. I’d like to imagine that musicians write songs on topics they are passionate about, and there’s no time that a failed relationship stings quite like when it’s young love. Considering that Khalid is 18, it’s clear that this is fresh and raw for him.
Experiencing lost love for the first time must be great ammo for a song, and I think Khalid uses that to its full potential in “Saved.” My favorite lyrical choice comes towards the end of the song. In the final lines of a slightly altered version of the chorus, he says, "So I'll keep your number saved / Cause I hope one day I'll get the pride to call you /To tell you that I'm finally over you / I'm finally over you". It's as if over the course of this song, he has come to the realization that he can move on from the relationship. It's a powerful lesson about maturing and coming to grips with life.
I really enjoyed the lyrics, especially considering the context of Khalid’s age. However, the musicality of the piece is what has kept me hooked. The majority of the song is composed of clean guitar picking interspersed with simple percussion and a beautiful running bass line.
The instrumentation in each verse is sparse; it's just Khalid's vocals backed by the guitar and a clapping drum beat. In the chorus, bass and added percussion come in to give the beat some more meat [Editor’s note: I hope you read this in your head as you wrote it] and emphasize the message, "I'll keep your number safe..." A couple of times, during the chorus, Khalid does a fun trick where he waits a few lines to add the bass; when it drops, it is oh so satisfying.
Starting with the final, extended chorus (around 2:10), the percussion and bass are used to create a nice swelling anticipation that builds right into the chorus. To change things up for the listener, Khalid adds a second vocal track, but distorts his voice and raises the pitch—kind of like Kanye West's “Glory.” It adds a really nice vocal accompaniment that echoes his sentiments in the closing minute.
The two voices play off of each other until the song's end, where the distorted vocals are left to echo the final line: "I'm finally over you." This is the perfect note to end the song on. Closing with the high-pitched, effected vocals is like shutting the book on the possibility that his high school fairy tale will have a happy ending.
For the entire song, he urges the listener to believe in the fairy tale that they will get back together and fall back in love years from now. It's not until these final words that the fairy tale ends and Khalid realizes that sometimes, in life, you have to grow and move on. As I turn another year older this weekend, that’s a lesson that I get reminded of often.
Until next week.