Chloe x Halle
Are Our April
In many ways, Chloe and Halle Bailey are too much. They are seemingly too talented for a pair whose combined age barely qualifies them to run for president. Their story is almost too fairy tale-esque; they were discovered by Beyoncé via a YouTube video, and subsequently signed as the first non-Beyoncé acts on her Parkwood Entertainment label. And, perhaps the most immediate thing I noticed about them, they are much too sweet.
It's the kind of sweetness that makes you want to die. There's Halle skipping off the set to go to school and yelling back at Chloe, "Bye sis!" Or seeing their father fold himself into the narrow back seat of a two-door Mini Cooper before Chloe drives the whole family away. It's a sweetness that the cynical among us might suggest is forced or carefully crafted. It's a sweetness reminiscent of a certain brand of child star, bred and trained to be precocious and overly polite, particularly toward adults. But it doesn't take long to see their sweetness for what it truly is: earnest excitement, genuine gratitude, and honest to goodness joy.
Though they play twins Sky and Jazz Forster on Freeform's Grown-ish, and a quick glance might lead you to believe that's the case, Chloe and Halle—known professionally as Chloe x Halle—are not, in fact, twins. At 19, Chloe is the older of the Bailey sisters; she's a bit more gregarious with a steady spirit and a grounded laugh. Eighteen-year-old Halle is doe-eyed, prone to some moments of youthful distraction, and in possession of an effervescent voice, like someone just opened a can of lemon-lime soda. They share long, wavy, loc'd hair, a love for bold lipsticks, and that deep behind-the-skin glow achievable only by celebrities and teenagers.
Chloe and Halle feel almost impossibly in sync with one another and somehow endlessly loving and patient, though they do have their so-called "tizzies," according to Halle, but they're usually short-lived. "They last, like, how long? Like, five minutes," Halle explains "And then one of us says sorry, and it's fine the next day."
Tizzies here and there seem inevitable even for the most loving of sisters when you consider how little time they spend apart. "When we are apart on the rare occasions, we feel like we're missing our other half and we feel empty. So, it's so funny, even though we're not twins, I really, really feel like we're twins," Chloe says.
Still, it's obvious they're used to having to distinguish themselves as individuals, being careful when I speak to them over the phone to identify who is speaking by starting sentences with: "Chloe speaking," or, "This is Halle." Though, having worked with them on Grown-ish, where I'm a writer, I, of course, know their voices. However, it's a reminder that, within the giddiness and teenage proclivities—Chloe and I frequently got into extremely involved conversations about lipstick on set—these are two professionals.
There's a story I know they've told a thousand times, but I ask them to recount it again—their "discovery" story. The girls grew up in Atlanta with their parents Doug and Courtney Bailey and younger brother Branson. They uploaded their first YouTube video in March of 2008, a grainy recording of the pair in gold party dresses, their matching loc'd hair not yet long, performing a cover of Chrisette Michele's "Love Is You." Over the next few years, they continued recording and uploading covers—many of them Beyoncé songs—steadily building a following. In 2003, a young Chloe appeared in the film The Fighting Temptations playing the child version of Beyoncé's character. But that wouldn't be the end of their connection to Beyoncé.
Three days before Christmas 2013, they uploaded a cover of "Pretty Hurts" off of the singer's self-titled album. The video, which now boasts over 14 million views, shows Chloe and Halle fresh-faced in front of a wooden dresser giving a stirring performance that highlights Chloe's soaring vocals and Halle's clean tone. With countless covers of Beyoncé's songs available on YouTube, one has to wonder what in particular made this one stand out to her? Beyoncé marked a shift and expansion in the artist's own artistic boundaries and perhaps she was drawn to Chloe and Halle at that moment in time because they represented, not just fresh talent, but talent with a point of view and a clear desire for a specific artistic lane—similar to the new lane Beyoncé was bulldozing for herself.
After it caught her eye, Parkwood Entertainment reached out to Chloe and Halle, asking if they could post it to Beyoncé's socials—and if the pair was signed to a label. "So number one, we were freaking out, like screaming, jumping on the couches, all of that," Chloe says. "And then, the second thing we said was, 'Why do they need to know if we're signed to post it?' We were, like, thinking about that, trying to read into everything." They were right to read into it. A few days later, Parkwood called and asked to sign the girls to the label.
Now, Chloe and Halle operate within the Parkwood universe, which is just another name for Beyoncé's universe—sharing her stylists, video editors, creative directors, publicists. It makes sense, of course, and might not be notable at any other label where in-house professionals play double duty, but here it seems to mean something slightly more. It seems to say something about Beyoncé's willingness not just to share, but to truly raise Chloe and Halle as artists under the vision she's built.
It's a kind of creative development and artistic freedom that Beyoncé and other female artists often have to fight for, but is now granted to Chloe and Halle from the beginning of their career. In many ways it models the traditional development process of musicians, honing, polishing, and waiting until the time is right—a model rarely seen in the industry anymore. The result is not just two young women who know how to walk a red carpet and navigate interviews, but also who have a confidence in the art they're creating. "[Beyoncé] said to us, 'Let the world catch up to you, because what you're doing is outstanding, and it's needed in the world right now,'" Halle says.
When I last speak with them, Chloe and Halle are en route to Austin for a SXSW performance, their already busy schedule having exploded with the release of their new album, The Kids Are Alright, imminent. This project marks their first studio release after their EP, Sugar Sympathy, and a 2017 mixtape, The Two of Us, and was recorded over the course of three years, mostly in their family home. "The majority of it we wrote and produced by ourselves in our living room, on our floor, just chillin'," Halle says, all of that made easier by the studio setup they have at their home. "We have our desk and my keyboard and Halle's guitars and our Telefunken mic," Chloe explains. They say their parents and younger brother have been gracious and flexible with the imposing setup. "[If] mom wants to turn on the TV in the living room and she'll see us recording, she'll then go in her room and watch TV. And our little brother, his bedroom is right by our studio, so we're always telling him, 'Branson, please be quiet.' And he's been gracious, and he silences himself and his video games," Chloe laughs.
While the girls write and produce most of their music themselves, with Chloe on the keyboard and Halle on the guitar, The Kids Are Alright also includes features from Goldlink, Joey Bada$$, and Kari Faux. Chloe says they wrote their first song when she was 10 years old and Halle eight, and that she began creating beats "five or six years ago. But it took me about two years to actually get good at it." The girls wrote every single day during the process of recording the album and, coupled with the convenience of their living room studio, were left with 400 songs to choose from when assembling The Kids Are Alright.
Even before learning about the 400 songs, it was clear to me that Chloe and Halle posses an incredible songwriting muscle they've built and nurtured over time. It's a muscle I saw in action during the production of Grown-ish. Originally the plan was to use their single "The Kids Are Alright" as the show's theme song. When their label wouldn't clear the song for use, the girls came up with a solution. "We were like, 'You know what? We can just write another one,'" says Halle. "So we literally just researched all of our favorite theme songs, like the Drake & Josh theme song, the Proud Family theme song, the Friends theme song." They ended up sitting down and writing the song in 30 minutes and recording it over the course of a weekend.
They did something similar with "Warrior," an original track recorded for Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time. DuVernay reached out to the girls about writing a song, and that muscle went back to work. "We watched the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time, the word that stood out to us was 'warrior.' And we kind of just wrote a love letter to ourselves as young girls and what we want to be, and it came out to be 'Warrior.'" says Halle. On some level, DuVernay must have been able to predict their ability to relate to the song and came to them in part because they so closely resemble the film's main character, a young black girl named Meg. "Also, I loved the idea of their gorgeous vocals being embedded within our cinematic image for all time," DuVernay says. "To capture the voices and the lyrics and the musicianship of these two dynamic sisters at this moment in their careers was a real honor."
Ideas of empowerment and self-assurance come up often with Chloe and Halle—in their music, of course, but also in their personal energy. "For me, I think we just want to let other girls know that your feelings are valid and, as a human being, you're powerful and valid and beautiful," Halle says. Their sonic tendencies mirror that desire with lots of soaring verses and layered vocals. "We love heavy beats and big drums and a bunch of harmonies. And it's kind of anthemic in a way, very big sounding," Chloe says. "And fun," she adds.
Chloe attributes some of her positivity to being a big fan of self-help books since she was given a copy of The Secret during a recording session. "I remember just being so in awe of everything I was reading in that book. And that's, like, when my mindset kind of changed," she says. Both point to their faith and meditation as foundational for them, and often reveal a sort of greater wonder of the world around them. "Whenever I get overwhelmed, I always remember, I would think to myself, You know, Halle, this is such a great big universe and I'm literally just a speck in this universe. And none of these problems really matter."
The sisters seem to instinctively tie their growth as women and as artists together, seeing one as a result of the other. "A lot of this album was experimentation, and, as we're growing into young women, we're also growing into musicians, and we kind of found ourselves through the music," Chloe says. With Halle set to graduate from high school this spring, they'll be entering a new phase of their lives, though they don't yet seem totally clear on what that all might entail. On the music side, Chloe wants to learn to play the drums: "I think something so strong and powerful is seeing a woman play drums." Halle would like to reintroduce herself to the cello, which she played in elementary school.
It's a testament to their own beliefs and the support their family has built for them that they've been able to maintain and develop such hopeful mindsets as they've existed under the public eye. Naturally, they made waves when they were initially signed to Parkwood and have spent the past three years appearing on red carpets, performing at the White House, and opening for Beyoncé on the European leg of her Formation tour. It's a curious a trajectory, one we see more and more with artists like Cardi B, wherein a star's popularity explodes before an official debut project is released. In some ways, it can predict success, but it can also set the stage for disappointment. Chloe and Halle admit they're nervous. "It's a very vulnerable situation when you're basically having the world listen to your diary entries," Halle says.
For a moment I'm surprised how much her use of the word "vulnerable" affects me. Vulnerability is something so rarely afforded to black girls—let alone openly admitted by us—in a world that attempts to burden us with stereotypes and pain almost from birth. I consider how fortunate young women like Chloe and Halle are to live and be creating art in a time where the vulnerable black girl, the awkward black girl, the carefree black girl, the weird black girl is finally given room simply to be. In this way, they represent so much of what I want for black girls and all young girls of color in the future.
It's a space where they're allowed to fully be who they are: sweet, vegan, natural-haired black girls who unironically admit their fandom for Love After Lockup. They are allowed to occupy a creative space unboxed and unburdened by assumptions of the type of music they should be making and, instead, their sound is allowed to dance across genres—as are they as artists and people. Chloe and Halle are allowed to be happy and optimistic, and allowed to fail, if necessary. They are free to explore womanhood on their own terms in a world that frequently ages black girls before their time. Perhaps more importantly, they are allowed to be an inspiration to other young women who also want that for themselves. We should collectively hope for—and work toward—a world that allows space and support for them all.
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