This article was originally published on Popjuice.
Two years after their debut album, Chloe x Halle are back stronger and more assured than ever with Ungodly Hour. Few artists have the esteem of being lauded by Beyoncé, and Chloe x Halle happen to be one of them.
The sisters, known for their ethereal, dreamy vocals, were discovered and signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment label by the singer herself in 2015. Since then, they’ve gone on to release an EP, 2016′s Sugar Symphony; lent their voices to several soundtracks; and solidified themselves as ones to watch with their sparkling if slightly lengthy debut effort, The Kids Are Alright.
The year is 2020, and the R&B duo is ready for their next statement. Where their debut saw them affirm their peers while navigating their transition from childhood into womanhood, Ungodly Hour tackles more loaded themes like desire and infidelity.
Album opener Forgive Me and previously released Do It see them shed their pop influences for a slicker R&B/hip-hop sound as they keep their lovers teased. And while they’ve always had a cheeky touch to their lyrics, Tipsy is without a doubt the most savagery they’ve delivered: “You’re strumming on my heart strings, don’t be dumb / if you love your little life then don’t fuck up”. Consider yourself warned.
Having been appraised by Beyoncé herself, you’d be hard-pressed to not draw similarities between the duo and the former Destiny’s Child member. Their rap/sung delivery on Tipsy, for one, immediately calls to mind Beyoncé’s braggadocio on her tracks like Diva and Hold Up. But on title track Ungodly Hour is where Chloe x Halle truly step out of the shadows of their mentor. Produced by Disclosure, the song takes a page out of 90s R&B, making for a perfect blend between the gliding instrumental and the pair’s distinctive harmonies.
Elsewhere, Busy Boy sounds like a modern take on the sounds of TLC, whom Chloe x Halle have revealed they are inspired by. Don’t Make It Harder On Me and Wonder What She Thinks Of Me provide the laid-back moments on the record. The former, a soul number replete with strings; the latter, a haunting ballad about a former flame moving on.
But just when you think that the album might be ending on a sombre note, in comes the confetti of ROYL, a bouncy, uplifting call for self-love. “You ain’t gotta let the world get to you / Why you lookin’ in the mirror like that?” they trade verses on the track co-produced by maestro Boi-1da (Rihanna, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar). It’s a fitting, celebratory closer for a body of work that has polished their previous sound while still playing to their vocal strengths.
That the album comes at a time of protests championing the Black Lives Matter movement is also all the more significant. Halle herself was previously the target of widespread racism, after it was announced that she would be playing Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. And while they opted to push back the album’s release by a week in solidarity of the lives lost, there’s no questioning that they’re moving full steam ahead now, using their voices as both light and weapon. And if anything, young figures like Chloe and Halle are proof that the kids are more than just alright.
Feature image by Robin Harper