There are a lot of words you could use to describe Chloe and Halle Bailey, or Chloe x Halle; unbelievable, undeniable, underrated. Ungodly is not one of them. In fact that sister duo is anything but, with their soaring vocals a perfect soundtrack to any heavenly plain of existence. It is that exact reason why they are signed and mentored by none other than the Lord herself, Beyoncé. However, the ungodly part of the pair’s sophomore record, Ungodly Hour, is not the pair themselves but the experiences the material is based on. Everything else across the thirteen tracks is beyond godly, combining beauty, brilliance and boldness into a mature cohesive unit.
If the record’s lead singles ‘Catch Up’ and ‘Do It’ were any indicators, Ungodly Hour was set to be a much more mature effort than 2018’s The Kids Are Alright. The former trac is a meandering collaboration with rapper Swae Lee and prolific producer Mike Will Made-It (Miley’s ‘We Can’t Stop’, Kendrick’s ‘Humble’) and marks the only feature on the record, a rarity on modern R&B records, that are often laden down with collaborations. The latter track, the pair’s most successful single to date, is a perfect summer anthem celebrating friendship and is easily one of the best singles dropped this year. Both tracks see the girls move into a more grown-up space, dealing with wayward romance and self-worth on ‘Catch Up’ and lamenting that same romance and basking in that same self-worth on ‘Do It’. After hearing the album in full, it’s clear they were good introductions to Ungodly Hour.
Ungodly Hour shows a distinct shift to more mature themes from their debut, both sonically and lyrically. While The Kids Are Alright showed incredible vocal, lyrical and production talent (it even landed among our top albums of 2018), the record was long and wandering, much like being in your late teens feels like. Here, Chloe x Halle take a more direct approach, with the music finding itself more focused and concise, seeing the pair direct their vision rather than being led by it. “Don’t ever ask for permission, Ask for for forgiveness”, Chloe advises over an otherworldly harmony on the album’s intro. For the most part, the duo do just that, tackling the album’s messages with meticulous abandon, every detail born of emotion, but crafted with a distinct eye for detail. The girls feel more in control here, although they have always been heavily involved in every aspect of their work. On this record, both of them clock in writing credits on every track and production credits on a handful, with Chloe handling the production solo on four of the album’s cuts. One of them, ‘Tipsy’, is a real highlight, with immensely interesting production, so much so that it almost overshadows some of the most interesting lyrics on the record. Bailey links elements of R&B, trap, and even a splash of funk, for a really textured that contrasts the extremely to-the-point lyricism where the girls threaten their lover with death: “And I don’t give no apologies/If you lose a life, that’s not on me, yeah”. This attitude is also present elsewhere, including on the opening track, ‘Forgive Me’, for which they dropped a video on Friday (they kill a guy, it’s truly inspirational). Here, the girl’s pair their take no prisoners lyrics with matching production, layering their words over ominous, unrelenting trap. “Baby, what you think this is?/Why you wanna plead the fifth?”, Chloe raps with all the ferocity of Lemonade-era Beyoncé, “You ain’t gotta tell me what it is/‘Cause I saw the messages”. On the album’s title track, the duo double down on that sentiment, telling the boy, “When you decide you like yourself (Holler at me)”.
However, Chloe x Halle don’t abandon the sound that they established on The Kids Are Alright, making subtle references to the melodies they created. Ungodly Hour’s ‘Baby Girl’ echoes The Kids Are Alright’s ‘Babybird’ in its sentiment and vocal delivery, while ‘Rest Of Your Life’ nods to some of the melodic decisions in The Kid’s Are Alright’s ‘Galaxy’. The homages are very slight, but offer a fond look back for fans of the duo to catch on their millionth listen through.
The album isn’t entirely badass either, showing the human side of life too. ‘Overwhelmed’ is a blink-and-you-miss-it interlude, which perfectly actually captures its message of how overwhelming life can be. The aptly-titled ‘Lonely’ deals with how isolating it can be when you get too in your head, focusing on life’s worries and hardships too much. The closest thing to ballad the album has to offer is ‘Don’t Make It Harder on Me’, a wistful, soul-baring track shows the other side of the confident, no-nonsense duo that earlier tracks showcased, delving into how sometimes it can be hard to move on from a relationship even when part of you already has. Despite their presence, the album never sacrifices its message of self-worth and confidence for these tracks, instead allowing them to build a more developed, fully-dimensional message that accurately reflects the lives it’s written about.
There are many words you could use to describe Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour: gorgeous, incredible, stunning. Ungodly isn’t one of them. While all of that is easy to say, it’s hard to truly capture how incredible this record truly is, and perhaps biblical terms say it best; Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour is a divine masterpiece.