My big sister and I have been fans of Chloe x Halle since their dreads were shoulder-length and they were belting Beyoncé on their humble YouTube channel. Even as preteens, their voices were otherworldly, and I remember us both being positive we’d never heard anyone sing that well before, let alone two regular girls in their bedroom. Half a decade and a couple A-list cosigns later, it’s no surprise that the sister duo has moved millions more around the world with their angelic voices and distinctive sound.
Since the release of their Grammy-nominated debut album The Kids Are Alright, Chloe and Halle Bailey have stood out as unicorns within the music industry. Their claim to fame isn’t an ostentatious or highly calculated social media alter-ego; it’s their irrefutable skill at their craft. And even as they begin to explore new creative outlets, including a recurring role in Freeform’s hit show Grownish and Halle’s lead role in Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid, they’re known first as those girls that can sing to the gods.
Ungodly Hour is their sophomore LP and latest release, and like their past projects its simple yet ethereal cover art gives the impression that the pair photographed themselves on a self-timer, tinkered with the colors and effects for a few hours, and sent it in. There’s something very natural about the way they carry themselves, not just as young artists, but as human beings.
What distinguishes this project from their others, however, are the proud strides they’ve since taken into their sensuality and womanhood. Their first explicit songs are on this album, and while they’re not enough to make you clutch your pearls, they depict a new, markedly adult chapter of their lives—one including unfaithful men, money to be made, and introspective self-love.
So whether you’re a bonafide stan or just stumbled across their single “Do It” on TikTok, I recommend you turn up your volume and join my track-by-track rundown of what’s doubtlessly their best work yet.
The pair’s angelic harmonies are gradually joined by descending strings, which are both threatening and inviting. Chloe says a mantra: “don’t ever ask for permission, ask for forgiveness,” channeling girl power before the interlude blends seamlessly into the next track.
This one starts with Halle’s whispery falsetto, and she sings that she “feel[s] like I’m high up / I’m too high up.” It’s a push and pull between Chloe’s richer, brazen style and Halle’s lighter, more delicate tone, and this dichotomy is part of what makes their music so captivating. The music video has the credits and creative genius of a short film, starring the two in a variety of stunning black cutout outfits surrounded by flashing lights, male servants, and religious imagery.
Mellow electronic chords underpin a rhythm that reminds me of a different era. The futuristic melody brings me back, though. The instrumental builds gradually, almost mirroring the song’s message—it’s a love letter to their younger selves. In the bridge Halle sings, “so don’t you forget about / the little girl that you met now / the one that’s in your spirit,” a reminder to nurture the baby girl that’ll always be inside.
The star of the show, period. From their Bikini Bottom-inspired performance on The Today Show to their Spice Girls-meets-drag queen production at the GLAAD Awards, the sisters have left fans reeling with every flawless iteration of this pop single. As one YouTube comment aptly observed, “this sounds even better than the original, they really be eating CDs for breakfast.”
Chloe sings both verses like velvet, including the lyrics, “that wig secure like the money in a safe” and “a bag the only thing I’m tryna chase,” which a lot of Black women felt on a spiritual level. Before this track’s release, you could vibe to Chloe x Halle’s music at home with friends but not necessarily on a night out (or on Tiktok with a viral dance challenge), and it marks a pointed divergence from their previous sound.
Halle starts it off, speaking lyrically and then apparently threatening a love interest: “if you love your little life then don’t fuck up.” This track gives me major country vibes, and by the time Chloe sings “I’ll take you to the afterlife, boy if you ain’t acting right” the story they’re telling becomes pretty clear: Chloe x Halle are poised but crazed girlfriends who are tipsy on love. But even if they’ve “accidentally put [their exes] in the ground,” the song has a nice twang to it.
Something about the pulsing club beat makes this eponymous track likeable. While it wasn’t my favorite at first—I’ve heard a lot of similar dance beats on London radio—their voices were unique enough to pull me in. During the bridge when the synthesized brass and drum kits subside, Halle repeats the muffled words “love me,” returning the track to my favorite, more visceral version of their sound.
The intro reminds me of schoolgirls singing on the bus, as the sisters chant that “playboys always finish last.” As soon as Chloe starts the first verse, though, her syrupy voice somehow dims the lights and changes the color of the room, and she ornaments the second pre-chorus with the same gorgeous ease. This R&B song draws on the bouncing rhythms of the ‘90s, and makes me want to dance so much that when 20-year-old Halle sings that her toxic love interest has “a baby coming any day” I don’t know what to do with myself.
Producer Mike WiLL Made-It and rapper Swae Lee are the only artists lucky enough to count themselves as features on this album, and they both appeared on this single back in April. Swae takes on the first verse with the simple yet calming timbre of a rapper singing just because he can, and in the chorus he harmonizes with Chloe x Halle before the latter starts the second verse, easily singing at the top of most people’s range.
While there’s no music video for this single, there is an “official visualizer,” in which a camera zooms in and out on a 3D-animated Swae surrounded by green soundwaves. Chloe x Halle, blinking, are tattooed on his chest, and while it’s a little creepy, I see the futurism they were going for.
A pianist accompanies this extended interlude while Chloe x Halle sing in unison alongside celestial ad-lib harmonies. With the lyrics “I don’t do well under pressure” and “I feel overwhelmed,” this snippet feels like it emerged from a cathartic, impromptu trip to the studio.
Soft, plush R&B. This one’s soothing and predictable, and despite the title’s bleak connotations, it makes me feel really good. The duo proclaims that “it don’t have to be lonely being alone,” and as they sing the catchy chorus in unison, their opposing timbres create the most beautiful contrast.
“Don’t Make It Harder On Me”
I feel like I’m in the big love scene of a rom-com—I’m talking roses, chocolates, and the lead sprinting from the airport to reunite with her lost love. Chloe sings the first verse and pre-chorus with the delicate passion only she could deliver, and soon after asking someone to let her move on and stop “acting so sweet,” a string ensemble joins her pleas. Halle takes the second verse and asks the same of her special someone with even more emotionally-charged, vibrato-loaded vocals.
“Wonder What She Thinks of Me”
Once again we have the idea of a guy who isn’t being fully transparent, but this time it’s Chloe x Halle who are the other women. The sisters sing that “it’s never wrong when you’re in love” while detailing all the ways their SOs have been careless about leaving clues at home, including hickeys, phone messages, and perfume signatures. The tension underlying the start of this track brings to mind a James Bond theme—not just due to their suggestive reference to a trip in Paris, but because underlying their apprehension and uncertainty is still an irrevocable sense of calm.
“ROYL” (my personal fav)
First we get bold, detached chords from an electric piano. Then, it’s a call-and-answer between the harmonizing sisters and a chorus of their voices. Halle is hands down the best part of this track and when she raps “hey hey, won’t you get on my thang / won’t you get on my wave,” I want my girls around me ASAP for a dance party. Chloe x Halle aren’t just basking in their royalty—they’re inviting others to do the same—and I’m completely obsessed.
By Simi Fagbemi
Illustration by Gabriella Shery