Chlöe – ‘In Pieces’ review: wild R&B innovation let down by missteps

There are often flashes of brilliance in these songs, but they do little to brighten the ambience around this solo debut album

Over the past half decade, Chloe Bailey (known anonymously as Chloe), along with her sister as Chloe x Halle, has been rocking R&B with a handful of edgy and intimate releases. Their second album ‘Ungodly Hour’, released at the height of the pandemic, was an unexpected triumph: it was accessible but strange, with cosmic pop and R&B sounds that reflected the duo’s futuristic vision, and thus Surrounded by diversity. You’d think the genres were indexed by a giant game show wheel. With a hit single in ‘Do It,’ the record earned the siblings their first Grammy nomination; Later this year, Halle will play Ariel in Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid remake.

The freeflowing approach of ‘Ungodly Hour’ can be considered a model guide for Chloe’s interest in experimenting with structure, and her debut solo album ‘In Pieces’ attempts to follow suit. However, over the past two years, Chloe has drip-fed material in a prolonged rollout that has raised questions about the way she – and her label – is choosing to mark herself as a solo artist. . Pre-release singles ‘Have Mercy’ and ‘Treat Me’ showed how malleable her voice could be, but were largely seen by fans as repeat radio hits, which did her a disservice. It’s telling, that neither made the cut here.

Still, at times “In Pieces” still stands as a fractured version of the songwriter and producer’s genius. Take ‘How Does It Feel’, a team-up with Chris Brown that effortlessly treads water with a limp and smooth, straightforward rhythm. Sonali, this is infuriating, but it is Chloe’s association with an artist who has a very public history of violence towards women that is a great cause for concern. Chloe’s agency in the decision remains unclear — she hasn’t officially addressed the track’s controversy since its February release — but it appears to be one of the younger artists working with Brown to garner attention ahead of a major release. Addresses a broad, troubling issue. In the past year alone, a wealth of rappers, including Chloe’s partners Normani and Ella Mai, as well as Jack Harlow and Lil Baby, have arranged guest features with Brown, albeit with continued backlash. However, a recent sold-out UK tour shows that the public is equally complacent in giving Brown a platform.

This misfire is a real shame, as Chloe’s voice and production choices are nowhere near as strong, focused, and adaptable. “Body Do” is a bulletproof bop that begins with a spoken word motif that hints at the awkwardness in her music beneath the satisfying gloss. ‘I Don’t Mind’ blends flamenco guitars with flamboyant club beats, while the Missy Elliott-featuring ‘Told Ya’ hammers away at empowering, undeniably catchy refrains that stay in your mind. It’s in these moments, where Chloe stands on her own merit, that you find yourself rooting for her once again – she allows her arrangement to reflect the enthusiasm of the song; Serene in his lust and untouchable in his confidence.

‘Pray It Away’ is the album’s total – but brilliant – outlier, on which Chloe flirts with a crime of passion, similar to SZA’s recent hit ‘Kill Bill’. “God knows my heart, I’m wildin’,” she sings, describing how she can only hurt it badly after loving way too hard. As a gospel singer swoops in behind her, it becomes clear that this is the level of pop melodrama that Chloe has wanted to share with the world for so long. It’s disappointing, that it has taken years of inconsistent messaging to get here.


  • Release date: March 31
  • Record label: Columbia

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