Album Review: Chloe x Halle, ‘Ungodly Hour’

Chloe x Halle might have had their big breakout moment thanks to Beyoncé, but while Bey’s fans have been asking for a full-fledged collaboration with her sister Solange for years, this sister duo’s natural chemistry and collaborative spirit is precisely what makes their music so appealing. The way their voices float atop one another not only provides depth and colour to these compositions (their compositions, to be exact, as they are notably credited as sole songwriters on many of the tracks here), but also evokes a sense of sisterly solidarity that’s both inspiring and impressive. Combined with the smooth, elegantly clean quality of the production, Ungodly Hour becomes a lilting antidote to these turbulent times.

Chloe and Halle have come a long way, not just since starring on the Disney TV series Austin and Ally, but also since Beyoncé caught their viral cover of ‘Pretty Hurts’ and signed them onto Parkwood Entertainment. For one thing, the Atlanta-born, Los Angeles-based duo have become regulars on the teen sitcom Grown-ish, and Halle is set to play Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Musically, though, their artistic growth has been slow but steady. If 2018’s Grammy-nominated The Kids Are Alright proved that the duo had more chops than most Disney stars who try to thrust themselves into the music world, Ungodly Hour is a further testament to their talent and versatility as they flesh out their sound and display more signs of maturity.

Across the album, Chloe x Halle deliver lavish, confident R&B tunes that boast a winning combination of angelic vocal harmonies and frequently audacious lyrics. “Better, baby, better treat me better/ Better than those other guys who change up like the weather/ It is such a shame that they went missing, they can’t find ’em now/ Oh, I wonder how I accidentally put them in the ground,” they sing on the bouncy, infectious ‘Tipsy’, while ‘Busy Boy’ is fearless yet funny in its depiction of more mature themes, with the line “It’s four o’clock/ You sendin’ me too many pictures of your…” immediately sticking out. The album’s cover perfectly encapsulates the tone of the record – deceptively innocent on the surface, but self-empowering and playfully salacious at its core.

Ungodly Hour might not be the most original R&B album out there, but it’s so well-executed that it’s hard not to revel in its joys. It helps that the production, much of which is handled by Chloe herself, occasionally adds a bit more punch to the album’s gently unassuming qualities – small details like the finger-snaps on the Latin-inspired ‘Baby Girl’ or the pounding drums  on ‘Tipsy’. Meanwhile, the Disclosure-assisted title track packs a killer of a chorus as the duo coil effortlessly around the song’s dreamy instrumental. “When you don’t have to think about it/ Love me at the ungodly hour,” they proclaim.

While part of the album’s strength lies in the singers’ self-determination, Chloe x Halle aren’t afraid to express a softer side, particularly on the stripped-down interlude ‘Overwhelmed’ and the tender follow-up ‘Lonely’, which pulls you in to offer a warm, comforting embrace. While the album’s second half falters slightly – ‘Catch Up’ feat. Swae Lee being the record’s one big misstep – ‘Don’t Make it Harder On Me’ is a soulful late-album highlight that showcases the duo’s classic R&B influences. Nothing on Ungodly Hour is particularly new, but the way Chloe x Halle tiptoe around those superficial binaries – classy and modern, innocent and sultry, angelic and sinful – gives it a refreshing edge. And besides, they pull it off with such grace and charisma that you can’t help but succumb to its rhythm.

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