Chloe X Halle The Kids Are Alright Album Review
After what felt like an endless wait, Chloe x Halle’s debut album The Kids Are Alright finally released March 23rd. I was in great anticipation for this album and had almost reached a point of thirst for new music. So, when I heard there were 18 tracks I was thrilled. What I love about Chloe x Halle is their individuality. They are incredibly unique. They don’t really fit into any particular genre because their style and artistry is not one that is easily contained, it spills over genres as it is a true, heartfelt expression of their self-discovery, vulnerability and personal growth. When converting emotions, life experiences and authentic transparency into music the sonic composition must become the sound of those feelings.
Most artists try to keep this expression confined within a single genre which can lead to the music feeling passionless and redundant. But Chloe x Halle allow their music to liquidly spill freely into any direction or genre that they feel best conveys the message and emotion behind each song. That is why some of their songs are doused with operatic harmonies and others are constructed with classic R&B riffs. Sounds ranging from nostalgic acoustic black and white exospheres to the roar of rock n roll shredding on the electric guitar to the wistful sound of an organ nicely complemented by 808’s and smooth reminiscent vocals.
I built my expectations for this album on all that I heard on their past two projects “Sugar Symphony” (2016) and “The Two of Us” (2017). And what I got was quite different from what I expected. I thought the best way to review this album would be to individually rate each song and talk about what I thought and explain that rating.
The first track, “Hello Friend” in my opinion felt a bit anxious with the various toned “HI’s” and the undercurrent of the song felt somewhat eerie. Although it eventually evolved into an inspired layering of vocals over a beatbox, I don’t think this was the best intro song for the album. It feels like it would have worked better as an interlude further into the project. With that said I rated this song at a 6.5.
The second track, “The Kids Are Alright” is an anthem song. And I am personally not a big fan of “anthem songs” so with that said out of the songs “The Kids Are Alright”, “Grown” and “Warrior” I would have to go with “The Kids Are Alright”. I rated this song at a 7.5.
The third track, “Grown” captured the zealous feeling of becoming grown with a youthful variation of sound effects such as snaps and claps and echoed vocals. The background shouts of “I’m Grown!” was a great complement to the track. But simply because I don’t take to anthems, I have to rate this song at a 7.0.
The fourth track, “Hi Lo” caught my attention with the blithe lyrics and mellow style. I really liked the way they sang the hook. Insecurities are a universally relatable topic, so what gave the song a differentiating point was the way in which they chose to sing about them. The delivery was unapologetic and replaced a listener’s feelings of self-pity with a feeling of swagger over the same personal imperfections. This song did not just make you feel okay for being who you are, but it made you feel empowered to be who you are. Goldlink’s feature was a nice addition to the song, his voice added to the unbothered feeling of the song but his verse felt unrelated to the subject of the song. His bars would have been tighter if he stuck with the topic of self-empowerment and the song’s theme of not chasing the fantasy of perfection. With that said I rated this song at a 7.5.
The fifth track, “Everywhere” felt like a classy spin on trap with the staccato verses from Chloe and Halle. Different from their usual style, but the catchy hook and, the robust production made this track one to jam to. What really brought this song together was the round at the 2:28 minute mark, Halle’s ad libs over the staccato chants added a much-needed layer of texture to the song. Chloe’s last verse and the harmonies at the end was the perfect close as it landed the song at a place of gratitude. But overall it just wasn’t them and it did not feel original. I rated this song at a 7.
The sixth track, “FaLaLa” was a good interlude. A creative culmination of juvenile sounds such as the carefree singing, ringing of a school bell, the count off of 1,2,3, a scream and the slowed tempo halfway through felt like a wistful ode to teenage years. I am a much bigger fan of the interludes they have made in the past like “All I Ever Wanted” and “Partna”. This interlude wasn’t striking, I rated it at a 7.
The seventh track “Fake” had some of the realest lyrics on the project. The song was an accurate depiction of common female passive aggressive demeanor and behaviors. The lyrics painted a good illustration of this picture. But overall this was not a favorite of mine. I felt like it was too oddly broken up especially when Kari Faux switched her flow at the 2:03 minute mark. The way she started her verse was sharp, but when she switched it and the 808 was replaced by the drum and tambourine it took away from the song and did not really flow in my opinion. Aha Gazelle would have been a much better feature for this track, as he is known for being very matter of fact and despising fakeness he could easily relate to this song from his own experience and would have bodied his verse. Overall this song did not feel like Chloe and Halle at all. I rated the song at a 6.75.
The eighth track “Baptize” was a better interlude than “FaLaLa”. It gave me classic Chloe and Halle vibes with soft harmonies perfectly complemented by the mellow chords of an acoustic guitar and the calm pulsation of the background instruments. I love the lyrics “I won’t change for you”. Baptize is like the B-Side to “Simple” from their last project “The Two of Us”. I rated this song at an 8.5.
The ninth track “Down” was the first song on the album that really stood out and did not sound repetitive. I LOVE the production on this track! The arrangements are superb and the harmonies are layered to perfection, major props to the composer and producer. Halle’s singing at the intro set the tone impeccably and Chloe joining her further in with the 808 was seamless and added just the right amount of depth and texture. This song perfectly captured the feeling of nostalgia, lazy days and the loveliness of simplicity. I rated this song at a 9.5.
The tenth track “Galaxy” was one of my least favorites. Something about it just did not fit. The instruments, beats and singing didn’t mesh well and made the song feel oddly pieced together. I rated this song at a 5.
The eleventh track “Happy Without Me” is classic R&B. Very well constructed with great attention to detail. The sound of static at the beginning and the ending of the song added an influx of wistful nostalgia. The vocal arrangements were perfect and I loved the organ it really made the song. It was almost like a gospel testament of the sadness of a break up. Another track with solid production. But the verse from Joey Bada$$ took away from the song by killing the smooth reminiscent vibe. I would love for them to release a version without his feature. Despite that small negative this song is still undeniably a classic. With that said I rated it at a 9.5.
The twelfth track “Babybird” reminded me of the Chloe and Halle that I know and love. They sounded a lot more like themselves here with their fresh unique sound and the story telling structure. The way the song started it was already a wrap when the bass came in at the 32 second mark. The sound effects were all perfect and when Halle started slashing on her electric guitar at the 1 minute mark it took the song up another notch. The mesh of staccato background vocals added a necessary layer of texture to the track. This song feels like the B-Side to “Grown” because in “Grown” the lyrics are about how it’s okay to feel your way and stumble. “Babybird” is another allusion to the theme of growing up, but the song highlights the reality and pressure to assimilate with your peers and the message is to rise above peer pressure and have enough backbone to stay true to your convictions even in the face of adversity. In contrast with “Grown” the lyrics are not sympathetic but rather direct and empowering. The thick vocal harmony from the 2:27 minute mark to the end of the song gave it that signature Chloe and Halle touch. I rated this song at an 8.75.
The thirteenth track “Warrior” is a beautiful song, one that I think is great to be paired with a powerful visual as it was in the movie “A Wrinkle in Time” but not really something I would add to my daily playlist. With that said I gave it a rating of 7.5.
The fourteenth track “Cool People” was another showing of their versatility. I enjoyed the instrumental body of the song, it reminded me a little bit of some of the songs that would be found on Michael Jackson’s 1973 album “Music and Me” (one of my all-time favorite albums). This was one of the better songs from this album where they sounded more like themselves. But even with that said, it was not a personal favorite of mine. It was not captivating. With the softness of the acoustics and mellow tempo I wanted more dramatic operatic harmonies like those that could be found on “Sugar Symphony” and it did not deliver greatly in that aspect, for that reason I gave it a rating of 7.5.
The fifteenth track “Baby on a Plane” had nothing exceptionally special about it that made it stick out in my opinion. There was nothing about it that made me remember it. I rated it at 6.0.
The sixteenth track “If God Spoke” blew me away. I loved it immediately. This song perfectly captured so many transcendent soundscapes. This song serves as an impeccable expression of their ties to faith while keeping the song relevant and not feeling overtly religious. I love the lazy singing. The dragging was so creative and original. The creative use of the vocalizer gave this track so much beauty and texture and made the song classic. The personification of God speaking really came through with the sound structure and vocal exospheres. The tempo was perfect, it captured the eternalness of God and represented the speed at which he moves. An eternal being has no need to move fast. Though the tempo was on the slow side, it didn’t feel slow, it felt paced and sure. Symbolism that alludes to God. It may feel that he moves slow, but what he gives us is always sure and certain and comes at a better time than what we could have predicted ourselves. I love how the song breaks at the 2:25 minute mark and comes back with Halle saying: “Wait now!” And then saying Wait…Wait. That acted as a genius allusion to how God actually speaks to us. This song is a powerful and solid representation of God and his relationship and conversation with humankind. The harmonies of their ooooohhhs almost sounds like wind. Winds that represent our lack of certainty, fears and haste. Halle’s unhurried response of “Wait!” is a profound illustration of God’s solidness and certainty that only he provides. I gave this song a rating of 10.
The bonus tracks “Drop” and “Fall” have been out for quite some time already, so I won’t bother giving an in-depth review. But I will say that they are both incredibly creative masterpieces. True works of art that deserve no less than a rating of 10 each.
Cumulatively this album earned a total of 141.5/180 points giving it an 79% / C+. I must say that I was a little disappointed, this was by far not their best work. This was a great debut album for just another R&B artist, but not so much for Chloe and Halle. I was expecting something more original and complex like what they usually deliver, but in turn I got music that was more simplistic and trendy. Overall this album was underwhelming, especially compared to It their past projects "Sugar Symphony" and "The Two of Us" which it also did not share many similarities with.
There is a strong influence of R&B and urban style that we have not really seen from Chloe and Halle in the past. The incorporations of hip hop features and urban flavor made the project feel like a forced attempt at assimilation into the mainstream. On this project they just don’t sound completely like themselves, the artistry does not feel like them. I fear that someone has too much control over their artistic direction because this album feels almost absent of their usual breathtaking originality. However even if this is not the case, I'm still hearing a lot of Beyoncé and a lot less Chloe and Halle. On some songs they sound like they are trying to imitate Beyoncé's style and I don't like it at all. I want Chloe and Halle to keep me on my toes and bring me something fresh, something I would not usually hear.
I hope this is not a complete change of direction, I fell in love with Chloe and Halle’s music because of how different and creative it was. I loved that there was nothing else that sounded like it. I still want more songs like "Red Lights", "Thunder", “Poppy Flower” and “Up All Night”. In their song “Simple” from their last project “The Two of Us”, the sisters declared “I’m not gonna dumb down my mind for you!” and paradoxically this album feels very dumbed down from their usual caliber of artistic brilliance. There are a few standout songs on this album and it has good replay value, but overall this project was not up to their usual standard.
With this just being the beginning for Chloe and Halle, I hope they remain true to themselves despite the adversity it may bring and I hope they are equipped with the mindset that it is better to lose a deal than to lose any amount of your artistic freedom if that be the case. And truly understand the priceless value of their uniqueness. With that said, I am on the edge of my seat to see what they come with next.