A mature sophomore album from the Beyonce-endorsed duo.
As one of just four artists signed to Beyonce’s ‘Parkwood’ record label, expectations were set high for Chloe x Halle’s second studio album – especially after their strong debut project, ‘The Kids Are Alright’. Now, with the release of ‘Ungodly Hour’, it’s safe to say that the two sisters have avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. ‘Ungodly Hour’ is a markedly more mature project than it’s predecessor and provides one of the clearest examples of artistic growth seen from any artist this year. In nearly every respect, Chloe x Halle’s second album is a success.
It was in late 2013 when sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey – then 13 and 15 years old, respectively – got their big break; a Youtube video of them covering Beyonce’s ‘Pretty Hurts’ went viral and got the attention of Queen Bey herself – who signed the duo to her record label shortly after the video’s release and had the two of them open her ‘Formation’ world tour. Since then, the Bailey sisters have consistently proven that they are more than viral, one-hit wonders – first in their 2017 ‘The Two of Us’ mixtape, then in 2018’s ‘The Kids are Alright’ and now in ‘Ungodly Hour’.
From the get-go of ‘Ungodly Hour’, the two sisters emphasise their new-found maturity. In the intro of their 2018 debut album, Chloe x Halle sang “Hi friend, how are you? What you need? Got you.” Now, compare that to the lyrics of ‘Ungodly Hour’s intro – “Don’t ever ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness” – the difference couldn’t be clearer.
Nowhere do the Bailey sisters distance themselves more from their child star identities than in ‘Tipsy’ – the album’s fifth track. During the track, the duo offer a stark threat to take a boyfriend to the “afterlife” if he doesn’t act “better than those other guys”. Then, in the penultimate track, they tackle the topic of being ‘the other women’, singing, “I’ll hold you close and pretend you’re mine… I wonder what she thinks of me.” (Though, Halle has stressed that neither her or Chloe have ever actually been ‘the other women’.) However, despite the album’s exploration of darker, more mature themes, Chloe and Halle are also capable of accessing a softer, gentler side – as seen in ‘Lonely’, where they sing “I know you wish you had somebody to hold, It don’t have to be lonely being alone.”
Nearly every part of the album is without fault. With a 13-song long tracklist and a 37 minute playing-time, the album neither overstays it welcome nor leaves listeners wanting more. The album also manages to be cohesive and consistent, without becoming repetitive. The only possible fault the album makes is being, at times, overproduced – with the production occasionally overshadowing the flawless vocals of Chloe and Halle. Yet, on the whole, the album is a wholly enjoyable listen. In 2018, on the track ‘Grown’, the duo sang “watch out, world, I’m grown” and if there was any doubt about the validity of those lyrics then, there certainly isn’t now.