I’m convinced that you could put any act on the stage created for Khalid’s recent performance at Apple Carnegie Library and it would be, at the very least, visually appealing. That’s not to say Khalid isn’t deserving of such a stage, with its towering grandiose facade fit for an industrialist in 1903 and a trillion-dollar company in 2019. The spectacle of it all was stunning but well-aligned. If the Apple Carnegie Library is corporate opulence at its most revered, then Khalid is the razor-edge refinement of modern pop music.
Khalid is very clearly talented. Despite leaning a little too much on recorded vocal tracks during his performance (more about this later), his live voice shone through when he wanted to take the reins. And that voice is at times prevalent with deep valleys of low-fi wailing and peaks of falsetto that feel curated instead of limited. Khalid’s stage presence is nowhere near as dynamic as his vocal calling card. I guess R&B doesn’t lend itself to much showmanship (unless you’re Usher) but Khalid did a great job of engaging the crowd, often waving and responding to his throng of supporters. Also, I’ve never seen anyone smile this much during a performance. You definitely get the sense that despite reaching astronomical early success at the age of 21, Khalid still remembers the formative years of his life moving around because of his mother’s military career. It’s always nice to see someone enjoying their deserved success without the feeling that they’ve lost all introspection.
Now, about those vocals. This event was very well curated by Apple and it had to be because if there is one company that prides itself on quality control it’s Apple. Prior to Khalid performing, Ebro Darden (of Hot 97 fame and now Apple Music Beats 1 host) hyped up the crowd by promoting Apple Music and telling us how Khalid’s performance would be recorded live for the streaming service. So from the jump, you knew this was more than just a live performance. The over-reliance on the vocal track made sense in that context. This was a night where Apple flexed in the only way Apple can (when was the last time you saw a live concert at a Microsoft store? Or a Google store? Or any store?). It had to be perfect and it had to span multiple mediums. Khalid’s safe but not too safe pop R&B music was perfect for this occasion. I just wish some of his imperfections were as celebrated as his polish.
Feature photo by Greg Noire, provided by the artist