Chloe x Halle
2020 – R&B / Pop
On their second album, the Bailey sisters present a more mature view and an even more comprehensive repertoire. Mixing dance tracks with songs with hidden social discussions, their new album emerges as a kind of movement for R&B.
Chloe was only 13 and Halle was 11 when they created a YouTube channel. In the description, they wrote: “Just two girls who love making music in our living room” and that couldn’t be more representative. In the beginning, the Bailey sisters recorded several covers by several singers, such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, however, it was their cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” that took them to a landing that they didn’t even imagine. Quickly, this cover went viral and reached Beyoncé’s radar, who was enchanted with the girls almost instantly and signed a contract with them for them to join her record company. In the beginning, they participated in the clips on the album Lemonade and were one of the opening acts of the Formation Tour. In 2016, they began to work hard on their music, initially releasing an EP and a Mixtape, and later their great debut, The Kids Are Alright. Now, they come back with their second album, Ungodly Hour, which tend to be even better and more interesting.
Although there were countless similarities to their debut, Ungodly Hour shows a mental, physical and artistic maturation of the sisters born in Atlanta. While in the previous projects they seemed to still search the sound box for a sound aesthetic that most pleased them, here they tap their feet and determine their sound. This time, their album is an even more cohesive project, full of tracks ranging from fun songs to dancing around the house to questions about the relationship between women within a betrayal. Also, here they nail R&B on the wall, not letting it escape even when they mix it with Pop and Rap. There is not a time when Ungodly Hour loses its essence and raw material. Whether playing fun songs or moral reflections, the album remains familiar. As much as some songs sound like overly simplistic tracks with lyrics and instrumentals designed to be niche hit songs, all the tracks here are amazing in their own way that don’t have to struggle to be something or pass on something. In short, Ungodly Hour still represents their YouTube channel description.
Without a doubt, the most pontent thing about Chloe and Halle is their voice. Since they were little, when they still covered the songs of their favorite singers, they showed a firm, powerful and very unique and striking voice. Right in the album opener, “Intro”, in addition to having a little bit of everything that will happen sonically on the album, we have this incredible vocal performance in which both sound like heavenly angels. And as much as the track is basically that, it is undeniable that this track is very beautiful. At the end of the first track, they announce: “Don’t ever ask for permission / Ask for forgiveness”, which perfectly matches the next track, “Forgive Me”, which at first looks like a track about regret in a relationship, but in a deeper analysis you see the lines are about self-love and recognize that you deserve the best. Alongside that, we have a perfect and homogeneous mix of electronic beats that remember modernized R&B, Pop and Rap. And that perfectly shows how the tracks here will be: important songs on important subjects that are treated in a normalized way alongside catchy beats. And that was very well done.
However, something even more surprising is how Ungodly Hour has tracks that sound like tracks made to be hit songs, but they are not. It is as if these tracks were born captivating hymns in a totally unintended way. We have several examples of this, such as “Baby Girl”, which actually looks like a letter to themselves where they report their suffering but in the end complete “Baby girl / It’s your world”, or “Busy Boy”, where they use it in a 2000s aesthetic to talk about a traitorous man, or “Tipsy”, where they use historical elements to contextualize a kind of religion or ritual where they sing “Better, baby, better treat me better”. And even with other tracks that are also very striking, like “Do It” and “Lonely”, none are as unique as “Ungodly Hour”, where they sing about reaching an epiphany and conclude that you only deserve to be with people who are good. All these tracks are extremely catchy and fun, but that does not exclude the importance that all these lyrics carry.
Furthermore, when Chloe and Halle are not working on tracks that are naturally born as extremely catchy songs, they are exploring new ways to work their sound and textures. At the end of the album we have tracks that are excellent and different from the rest, but of course, without losing their essence. In “Don’t Make It Harder on Me” they sing about an ex-boyfriend that they still feel something for and that becomes even more intense when he starts showing signs of reciprocity. However, even with the lyrics incredibly written, the highlight is the sound where we have violins and drums performing almost as if they were building a Christmas melody. In the same way, “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” appears with a strong instrumental, however, the lyrics here are also very strong. While there is an orchestra playing with synthesizers, the sisters assume the role of the mistress and ask themselves: “I wonder what she thinks of me / When you’re coming home / I know that she smells my perfume under your cologne”. This track is very strong, not only because of the point of view that is hardly approached, but also because of the lyrics that can perfectly paint scenes of betrayal and tension in your head. Both tracks are simply amazing.
In fact, it is difficult to find negative points within Ungodly Hour, however, they are here. “Catch Up” with Swae Lee and Mike WiLL Made-It is probably the weakest on the album because it appeals to very generic beats to build this track over a romantic conflict where each of the singers represents a side. In fact, it’s not a bad track at all, but it is something very usual and very disappointing when you put it next to the other tracks. In another moment, we have “Overwhelmed” which, despite having an interesting sound aesthetic, is quite unnecessary here. Unfortunately, not even the last track, “ROYL”, emerges as one of the best on the album since it sounds anything but a closing track. In fact, this one has a lyric that is very well constructed and most of the time it has a good bond between the vocals and the instruments, however, it sounds more like a track that should have been fitted at the beginning of the album because it gives a feeling that something big is yet to come (still on this album), but in the end there is nothing else. However, fortunately, these isolated negative points cannot shake all the other positive points of Ungodly Hour and this one still remains as a great album.