Album Review: Chloe X Halle, Ungodly Hour

Chloe X Halle

Ungodly Hour (released June 12, 2020)

Mere hours before sitting down to work on this review, I posted the 25 best albums of 2020 so far. Unless you’ve been living on a space station the past six months (if so, can y’all make room for me? Please?) you know how challenging 2020 has been. Even though music releases have been few and far between, I thought it was still important to shout out the overlooked artists who gave us great music while our world plunged into anarchy.

And how did y’all repay my fine work?

HEY EDD YOU FORGOT TO ADD THE CHLOE X HALLE ALBUM TO THE LIST, THAT ONE NEEDS TO BE ON YOUR POST YOU SLIPPIN PLAYA

Bruh, give a playa a break. That album dropped probably 30 minutes after I finalized that gargantuan list. Your boy is good, but he ain’t THAT good.

But with the crushing weight of peer pressure on my shoulders and cancel culture breathing down my neck, I made sure to prioritize listening to the dynamic R&B duo’s sophomore set early this morning.

Sigh. Y’all were right. They DEFINITELY should have made the list.

Sisters Chloe X Halle have had an intriguing career arc. Child actors since way back in the days of The Fighting Temptations movie, the pair have spent the past few years rising up the ranks of both Hollywood and Billboard, becoming a big part of sitcom Grown-ish while delivering their Grammy-nominated debut The Kids Are Alright in 2018.

While artists like Luke James and Tyrese often put their musical aspirations in the freezer temporarily while pursuing silver screen glory, Chloe X Halle kept their musical dreams at the forefront, which is apparent on Ungodly Hour, an upbeat, refreshing release that shows maturity well beyond their years.

“Don’t ever ask for permission, as for forgiveness,” the ladies warn on the album intro, which dovetails right into “Forgive Me,” a thumping track from Sounwave and Jake One that’s coated with the girls’ buttery vocals. I bet you a roll of toilet paper that this will be one of the most beloved songs of the summer.

If you’re a regular around here, you know I have two major production qualms with modern R&B – songs that feature strong production but lackadaisical vocals that get lost in the sauce (aka, Summer Walker Syndrome), or decent writing and performances that turn into lullabies, courtesy of lethargic beats (or, Jhene Aiko-itis).

Thanks to songs like “Forgive Me,” Ungodly Hour is the cure for common R&B. It’s a potent mix of lively performances, inviting production and strong themes that resonate so strongly.

Current single “Do It” features an insanely catchy midtempo groove while “Baby Girl” is bouncy enough to snag your attention but not distract from its message of independence and self-discovery.

“Busy Boy” apparently had Petty Twitter abuzz, due to lyrics like “Think I just stumbled on your girlfriend’s page / Congratulations , she’s sayin’ that the baby comin’ any day.” Internet sleuths assume it’s a veiled shot at Chloe’s TV co-star/real life boyfriend Diggy Simmons and his alleged philandering ways. I assume I’m too grown for that convo and stay out of it. Besides, I’m more interested in Chloe X Halle’s layered harmonies, which give me 1995 Brownstone vibes. Their tone is especially fantastic on “Wonder What She Thinks of Me,” thanks to its rousing acoustics.

What really helps Ungodly Hour stand out from the pack is how the duo, who are just in their early 20s, have such a nuanced and mature approach to relationships. While their peers spend way too much time trying to fix broken men, the pair don’t waste their time, telling some poor guy on the title track to holla back AFTER he gets himself together. “I know you like to play those silly games/When you’re done, call my name.”

Instead of wallowing in misery, they offer empowerment on “Lonely”: “I know you wish you had somebody to hold/It don’t have to be lonely being alone,” emphatically stating later that “I had to learn to love me lately.”

Ungodly Hour does have its weaker moments – the intentionally woozy “Tipsy” feels a little too sparse, even though the C X H sound pretty exceptional on it, regardless. Also, compared to the other tracks here, first single “Catch Up” feels a bit too mundane.

The beauty of Ungodly Hour is that it’s a youthful, exuberant release that never wallows in immaturity – a lesson even some crass R&B veterans should heed. The kids are more than just alright: these women are becoming R&B leaders.

Best tracks: “Do It,” “Busy Boy,” “Forgive Me”

4 stars out of 5

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