On June 12, what quickly became the soundtrack of my summer was released: “Ungodly Hour” by Chloe x Halle. The duo’s sophomore album entered the music scene with perfect timing, months into quarantine when my saved music on Spotify had long since grown stale. In fact, the album occupies a spot on my relatively short list of positive things to come out of 2020 so far.
“Ungodly Hour” is what caught my attention, but it’s the musicians behind the album who have retained it. Though already successful, this album and its promotion proved that Chloe x Halle are not just trending artists, but big names in music who are here to stay.
The duo behind the voices are sisters, Chloe and Halle Bailey, from Atlanta, Georgia. Those who are familiar with their work but not with the women themselves will be surprised to learn that they are only 22 and 20, respectively. Their talent and poise has likely resulted from years of experience.
Despite their young ages, both Chloe and Halle have been hard at work for many years. With a start in acting, they eventually turned to music, looking to YouTube as their platform. The first video on their channel, a performance posted in 2008, seems to have been shared by their parents.
In 2011, at the ages of 13 and 11, they released their first made-for-YouTube cover, a video style they stuck to. The video, a cover of Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had,” foreshadowed their big break moment, which was a 2013 cover of “Pretty Hurts” that catapulted them into the spotlight. It even snagged the attention of Beyonce, who, after viewing it, signed them to her management company, Parkwood Entertainment. This earned the sisters the title “Beyonce’s proteges.” This video is still the most popular on their channel, with over 19 million views.
Since then, the sisters have jumped into the world of original music with impressive ferocity. In 2016, Chloe x Halle released the EP “Sugar Symphony,” following it up a year later with a mixtape called “The Two of Us.” In 2018, they garnered two Grammy nominations with their first studio album, “The Kids Are Alright.”
On top of that, they have not abandoned their acting roots. They play the twin Forster sisters on the show “Grown-ish,” a spin-off of ABC’s “Black-ish.” “Grown,” a song on their first album, serves as the show’s theme song. Furthermore, Halle is playing Ariel in the upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”
The Musicality of “Ungodly Hour”
Clearly, the talent of Chloe x Halle is not new information. Their previous discography is fun, and their covers, no matter how old, are beautiful. However, their sophomore album displays clear artistic and personal maturation, which really makes it shine. It solidifies their names into lasting importance in the world of music.
From a purely musical and lyrical standpoint, “Ungodly Hour” is fantastic. From the beginning, it speaks of personal power, empowering not just the musicians but also the listeners. “Don’t ever ask for permission, ask for forgiveness,” Chloe breathes at the end of the album’s opening, titled “Intro.”
The empowerment doesn’t end there. “Baby Girl,” the third song, tells women who are listening, “don’t let the world take back all the love you gave out” and “this is all our world now, this is all your world now.” The song is an anthem for women and particularly celebrates the existence, love and joy of Black women.
In fact, last month, choreographer Thomeography shared a video of 20 Black dancers dancing over Zoom to the song in honor of Black women who lost their lives as a result of police brutality, including Breonna Taylor. Chloe x Halle, who are vocal in urging their fans to support the Black Lives Matter movement and actually postponed the release of their album as to not distract from the movement, shared the video on their Instagram.
The energy of “Do It” is contagious, and the song even has its own dance to go with it. “Overwhelmed” is a relatable interlude. My favorite song of the album, “Wonder What She Thinks of Me,” features the duo’s unmatched harmonies. Some may label it as overly theatrical, but I love how Chloe x Halle lean into the drama. I truly could go through each of the album’s songs and explain why I love them.
Overall, the music of Chloe x Halle is special because their sound is unique. They make their own music the way they want, not based on the rules or trends of music. And, yes, they write their own music. Chloe actually produced 10 of the 13 songs.
“We did most of this album in our garage here in our home,” she said in an interview with NPR. “When we were creating songs for this album, it truly felt like we were just storytelling and telling each other things that had been going on in our lives.” This lends each song an intimate and personal feel.
In the track “Grown” from their first album, Chloe x Halle chant “watch out, world, I’m grown now.” Yet, it is in “Ungodly Hour,” not “The Kids Are Alright,” that their maturation is obvious. “Ungodly Hour” speaks of maturity, womanhood, love and relationships, personal power and many other things.
“On this album, we have songs about our insecurities, our ups and our downs, our love lives, some things we do that are naughty,” Halle expressed in an interview with The Rundown. “We wanted to change the narrative about who we are because everybody always compliments us and says, ‘Oh, you guys are just like perfect angels.’ So we wanted to take that narrative and flip it. Show the other side, show the raw side of us, the insecurities that we have,” she continued.
Thus, the album celebrates loving all sides of not only the duo, but of yourself. Chloe shared with Billboard the meaning behind the title track: “It literally says ‘love me at the ungodly hour.’ It’s saying, ‘love me not only when I’m at my best, but also at my worst.’” This idea is represented in the album cover, where the sisters’ angel wings contrast with black latex dresses.
Promotion During a Pandemic
Anyone following Chloe x Halle knows that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how they have been promoting their album during a global pandemic. In lieu of in-person performances and live interviews, the sisters have been spreading the word from home, with various Zoom-style interviews.
They have also been putting on absolutely amazing performances from the tennis court in their backyard. These are not the backyard performances you would expect. Each one is complete with scenery, lights, extravagant costumes, impeccable choreography and, of course, gorgeous vocals.
In my favorite at-home performance, Chloe x Halle have a dance-off with themselves, and I don’t mean one sister against the other, but for the BET Awards. Even their campaign with Fendi, which Chloe x Halle had complete creative control of, was created from home.
Names to Know
“Ungodly Hour” is the album the world needs at this time. Halle noted how today “does feel like the ungodly hour,” and in response to that, they “hope that [their] music can be a healer right now.” Without a doubt, their music and performances are providing joy and comfort to all of their listeners.
Chloe x Halle have truly come into their own with “Ungodly Hour.” They are no longer just side characters on “Grown-ish,” or just Beyonce’s proteges. They are powerhouses by their own names, and they are undoubtedly musicians to watch, ones that have a place in music history. I am already anxiously awaiting their next album. Clearly, they’re on a trajectory that only goes up from here.