Sister act Chloe x Halle’s latest album Ungodly Hour marks a departure from their girl-next-door image by providing an insight into more mature issues such as sex and betrayal.
The duo first made their name as actresses, appearing in several films and Disney’s Austin and Ally before being taken under the wing of Beyoncé and embarking on a musical career. Chloe x Halle released their first album The Kids Are Alright in 2018, the third track of which was used as the opening credit for the Freeform series Grownish, in which they starred. Recently, Halle has been selected to play Ariel in the live-action Disney remake of The Little Mermaid.
Speaking to BBC Radio 1, Chloe revealed that the album aims to leave behind the image of the sisters as “perfect angels” by showing their growth and other sides of their personalities. The album navigates more mature themes, such as partying (‘Do It’), unfaithful relationships (‘Wonder What She Thinks Of Me’) and venturing into the world as an independent adult (‘Baby Girl’).
Chloe x Halle present a refined and polished sound on this album, with clear influences from soul and old-school R&B reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and Destiny’s Child. Renowned for their ethereal and ornate vocals, the duo does not disappoint, and the effortless interplay of their vocals shows an intimate understanding of each other’s voices. These old-school influences are combined with more modern features such as trap beats and innovative percussion sounds. The production is excellent, much of which was done by Chloe x Halle themselves.
Ungodly Hour showcases the range of the duo, both as musicians and producers. The album begins with a hymn-like prelude filled with their signature otherworldly vocal harmonies which transitions into the darkly vibrant ‘Forgive Me’, a fierce, unapologetic anthem cementing Chloe x Halle’s position as strong and powerful young women. The album then takes the listener through a variety of genres, sounds and influences: the warped melodies and percussion of ‘Tipsy’, the dreamy instrumental of ‘Ungodly Hour’, the early 90s appeal of ‘Busy Boy’. The album appears to intersperse these tracks with pleasant yet pedestrian tracks; R&B songs that are easy listening but lack the bite to make them stand out in the genre.
That being said, the clear standout track from the album ‘Don’t Make It Harder On Me’ is a remarkable exploration of the feelings of doubt after ending a relationship.This soulful and unassumingly exuberant anthem makes use of both R&B and late ‘60s doo-wop and contrasts its bright sound with raw lyrics.
However, in spite of all the inventiveness of this album, it’s impossible to ignore the niggling feeling that Ungodly Hour plays it safe. The vocals and production of Ungodly Hour are undoubtedly polished, but lack the edge to launch them into the mainstream. Despite its creativity and impressive vocals, this album will most likely remain a hidden gem rather than crack the Top 10.
Chloe x Halle have carved out a place for themselves as a creative tour de force in their roles as musicians, songwriters, producers and actresses. Ungodly Hour may not be Chloe x Halle’s magnum opus, but it definitely whets our appetite for what is yet to come.
Words by Joanna Magill