At 19 and 18, respectively, Chloe and Halle Bailey are doing more than most superstar musicians working today — and they’re doing it better. After making an appearance on Beyonce’s “Lemonade” (2016) visual album and opening for the pop legend on the European leg of her “Formation” world tour, the Atlanta natives landed roles playing twins on Freeform’s “Grown-ish” (2018), for which they also wrote, recorded and produced the theme song. Oh, and they made a song for Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle In Time” (2018). With credits this flashy, it’s hard to believe the sister act didn’t have a studio album out until now.
Released March 23, Chloe x Halle’s debut “The Kids Are Alright” is a triumphant, joyful declaration of youth and strength, wrapped up in gorgeous harmonies and infectious beats. In 18 tracks that cover stadium pop, indie R&B and everything in between, Chloe x Halle display a versatility uncommon for artists with such a unique sound. Yet their experimentation with style and genre comes at no detriment to the outstanding vocals and technical mastery on each track. The duo has no interest in lurking in the shadows of big names, and this album is proof that those big names should be worried.
“The Kids Are Alright” has several short interludes and “Cliffs Notes” songs, but they rarely feel superfluous. On “Hello Friend – Intro,” the album’s opener, the a cappella conversation between sisters pays homage to “Pray You Catch Me,” the first song on Beyonce’s “Lemonade” (2016). After honoring their mentor, however, Chloe x Halle waste no time separating themselves from the crowd and establishing their own sound, launching into lead single and title track “The Kids Are Alright.” With angelic harmonies, big drums and choir-like chanting, the song would feel at home in a Hollywood film score yet teasing lyrics like “If I’m in the mood I’ll get as ratchet as I wanna / Turn around and show you I could bless you with some culture” keep it far away from blandness and convention.
Both “Grown (From Grown-ish)” and “Warrior (from A Wrinkle In Time)” appear on the album, which are sure to bring in young fans who already know the girls from these productions. Despite the commercial accessibility and seeming one-note cheerfulness of these tracks, they both fit seamlessly into the album’s larger narrative of empowerment and confidence, particularly for young, marginalized women. “Grown” is the stronger of the two tracks, with a sticky, vervy hook that uplifts without being treacly sweet.
Although Chloe x Halle don’t rely heavily on supporting artists, their songs that do feature collaborators are some of the most sophisticated and mature on the album. “Hi Lo,” which boasts a verse from GoldLink, is the certified banger of the group. It’s moody, even angry at times, but comes out in favor of being defiantly yourself, critics be damned. “FaLaLa – Interlude” and “Fake,” which features Kari Faux, follow in this vein of danceable defiance with hip-hop beats and more of the sisters’ adept harmonies. Rapper Joey Bada$$ makes an appearance on “Happy Without Me,” a poppy, bittersweet R&B tune that could (and hopefully will) work its way onto the radio this summer.
The mellower of the album’s tracks, including the romantic, sweeping “Cool People” and piano ballad “Fall,” continue to showcase the vocal range and songwriting talents of both Chloe and Halle. “Blue likes to drop sometimes, all at once / But I don’t mind, no I don’t mind / ‘Cause luck is on my side / I’m looking at where the man upstairs might live, fall on tonight,” they croon on “Fall.” Both “Fall” and “Drop,” the last two songs on the album, are direct from the pair’s EP “Sugar Symphony” (2016), but they barely show signs of age. Although the production is less busy on these tracks, the pair’s unique sound is just as present.
Despite its long track list, the album still clocks in under an hour, as no song is much longer than three and a half minutes. With “The Kids Are Alright,” Chloe x Halle offer up the very best their young minds and voices have to offer in beautiful snippets, creating intriguing possibilities for development and expansion—but that’s not to say the album is unfinished. It’s brave, experimental and varied, but it’s also an intimidatingly sophisticated piece of work. At a time when the voices of young people — young black women in particular — have more power than ever, Chloe x Halle might just be some of the defining artists of their generation.