The forests of woodvale. The Las Vegas strip. Mars. Florida. The bedroom. The sounds and stories to come from this oppressive year have been some of the most imaginative and forward thinking. In a physically stifled year, creativity and imagination ran rampant. Below is a list of just a few of the countless gems to come from the music of this year.
Another year, another chaotic and unpredictable string of nominees to read across the screens of music fans, lovers, and critics as they hear the nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards. Pleasant surprises and shocking oversights were to be expected, but the biggest surprise this year is The Weeknd’s complete shut out. Receiving 0 nominations in a year when the artist is at what many consider his peak, After Hours‘ failure to be recognized is baffling. The first smash album to come from the pandemic, After Hours is the cinematic escape from reality that listeners could latch on and relate to. Where it didn’t literally relate to the year at play, it thematically weaved together concepts like isolation, grief, and loneliness in an extremely profound way. It’s just one of many shockers to come from one of the most baffling lists in Grammy history yet.
Take a look a look at the snubs, surprises, picks and predictions for this year’s ceremony:
There’s a moment in the middle of Chloe x Halle’s stunning sophomore effort, Ungodly Hour, when their evolved personas really take shape. “When you don’t have to think about it, love me at the ungodly hour,” the duo coos on the title track.
Its this newfound confidence, self-assuredness and effortless cool that echoes throughout the immaculate 13-track collection. The duo has evolved as artists, women and performers – and this development shines as brightly as the chrome angel wings on the album’s artwork.
Drawing inspiration from modern and 80s Pop, throwback R&B, Hip Hop and elements of Blues, Chloe x Halle are able to refine the strongest sounds of their debut The Kids Are Alright and double down on what sets them apart from peers in their genre.
The album is instantly gripping with “Intro” and “Forgive Me,” establishing the two as strong, unapologetic, and independent. The openers immediately set the tone for a complete evolution.
The self-actualization continues on “Baby Girl,” a tropically influenced mid tempo bop. More, the track is an internal pep talk to keep pushing and turning dreams into realities.
This narrative bleeds into the album’s second single, their most accessible track to date in “Do It.” Light, groovy, and lots of fun, “Do It” could be the breakout that shoots the duo to superstardom.
One of the strongest elements to the record is its cheeky attitude. It’s abundantly clear Chloe x Halle are having fun on several of these tracks. On “Tipsy,” the sisters playfully threaten their lovers with a fatal ultimatum. “If you love your little life, don’t fuck up,” they command.
On “Busy Boy,” the singers kiss off immature boys and their wandering, noncommittal attitudes. Both tracks lean heavily in the pop space, a perfect reflection of the lyrical tone of the songs.
“Ungodly Hour” is a well kept secret and pleasant surprise. Chloe x Halle enlist the help of Disclosure for production on the track, a well placed declaration of their worth.
Ironically, one of the weaker moments on Ungodly Hour comes in the some of the biggest collaborations. Mike WILL Made-It and Swae Lee visit to deliver “Catch Up,” the album’s decent but forgettable lead single. Its the rare moment on the record that feels overly pandering to an audience more than happy to sit back and hear the exclusive talents of the songstresses.
Arriving at “Overwhelmed,” one of the many stripped down vocal gymnastic interludes the women have made their signature, Chloe x Halle take the opportunity to be vulnerable. Maintaining the bounce of rest of the tracks, “Lonely” dives deeper with lyrics that are so intimate it feels as if Chloe x Halle are in the room with the listeners, comforting them with words of affirmation.
They turn the attention inward on the final moments of the album. “Don’t Make It Harder On Me” relates the complexity of being in a relationship when someone else grabs one’s attention. The song may have benefitted from a quieter production with the vocals taking up more of the spotlight, but it remains a gripping and vocally impressive inclusion to the track list.
“Wonder What She Thinks of Me” succeeds where “Harder on Me” falters. Halle’s vocals are astonishing, only further supplemented by the emotion delivered by Chloe. Their complementary sounds have never blended better than on this track.
What’s most brilliant about the record and the multi-talented Chloe x Halle is just that – their talent. Bringing together innovative production (“Tipsy”), unparalleled vocals (“Don’t Make it Harder On Me”) and nuanced songwriting (“Lonely”), the duo are unmatched in focus and consistency.
Ending with “ROYL,” Chloe x Halle remind the listener they are still the playful girls of The Kids Are Alright. Only now, they have scars and mistakes, and they are better for them.
“Watch out world, I’m grown now,” Chloe x Halle asserted on their debut. With Ungodly Hour, they prove it.