Photo from Spotify
For over seven years, the singer/songwriter duo Chloe x Halle, composed of twins Chloe and Halle Bailey, has made waves through unique compositions of experimental contemporary R&B. This year, Chloe Bailey experienced the tumultuousness of adulthood and chose to release solo music that shows her personal journey during Chloe x Halle’s music hiatus. As a solo artist, Chloe Bailey adopted the pseudonym “Chlöe” and released her debut album, “In Pieces,” where she strives to showcase her honed vocal and production skills.
Released on March 21, “In Pieces” focuses on the themes of turbulent relationships, heartbreak, and finding self-confidence as Chlöe steps into the realm of adulthood and makes her individual mark in the music world. The album boldly presents itself as a passionate journey during which Chlöe showcases her current emotions and struggles. “In Pieces” does not sugarcoat any of her introspection, although it leads to the album’s core themes feeling erratic and its lyrics feeling juvenile.
The opening track, “Someone’s Calling (Chlöe),” sets a vibrant tone for the album, adopting a New Orleans flair through its use of the trumpet and violin, along with an angelic choir, to create a unique introduction that entices listeners. However, after this opener, listeners are met with the intense R&B ballad “Pray It Away,” where Chlöe attempts to seek peace instead of getting revenge against her toxic partner. Despite the harsh contrast in sound, her strong vocals and production on the song allows the audience to slowly accept the theme change.
Although “Pray It Away” resembles the end of a harmful relationship journey, “In Pieces” quickly rips listeners away from this mentality and throws them into a random chapter of Chlöe’s relationship with the next track, “Body Do.” In this sultry and upbeat pop-influenced track, Chlöe details how she continues to gain satisfaction alongside her partner, without forgetting that he is not to be trusted.
Yet again, Chlöe pushes the listener to a completely different chapter of her life with the R&B-focused track “I Don’t Mind,” where she describes how her ex-partner is still in love with her as they continue to have physical relations. However, she narrates that she prefers simple physical relations over returning to a proper relationship with him due to the emotional pain that he has caused her. This is only the beginning of the album’s constant shift in mood and storytelling order, one of the album’s biggest issues as a listening experience.
Despite every song being meticulously produced and containing vigorous vocals from Chlöe, these constant theme changes refuse to let the listener grow connected to the album with any track. This problem is worsened by Chlöe’s lyrics, which at times feel rudimentary and repetitive. She often fails to get the importance of her message across before the end of most tracks, which typically last no longer than three minutes.
Chlöe’s lyrics are deeply honest, yet sometimes become so personal that the song becomes too involved without clarification of the problems that she is facing. As a result, the listener fails to gain any connection with the topics being discussed. Because of this, most listeners will spend most of their time with “In Pieces” simply lending an ear to Chloe’s relationship woes, while continuing the attempt to find a track they gravitate towards before it’s soon replaced with a brand-new sound during the album’s 37-minute runtime.
This does not mean, however, that “In Pieces” is an unenjoyable listening experience, as the album contains multiple earworm choruses through tracks like “Feel Me Cry” where Chlöe describes how she hopes to reach a higher stage of emotional expression with her partner, as well as the energetic rap collaboration “Told Ya” with Missy Elliott that explores Chlöe’s confidence after an ended relationship and as a solo artist. Chlöe is also not afraid to delve deeper into what she wants to express with her music, as seen in songs such as “Make It Look Easy” where she confesses how she struggles with her insecurities and strives for perfection within her music and personal life.
One of the album’s interlude tracks, “Fallin 4 U,” where Chlöe mixes her vocals with a recording of a woman who refuses to depend on a man, indicates her desire to find love without being viewed as someone who needs to be in a relationship to feel complete. Despite the rollercoaster that “In Pieces” exemplifies, it is not an album that you will rush to turn off. Instead, it may be an album that you wish had better execution due to its combination of amazing vocals and clean-yet-experimental production.
“In Pieces” ends with the title track, in which Chlöe provides the album’s finale through a piano ballad that describes her pure love for a person and desire to be with them even in her most vulnerable times. This closing track is a strange contrast from the previous song “Heart On My Sleeve,” which focuses on Chlöe’s distress over being an open book for someone who did not deserve her love and honesty. The closing track also suffers from generic writing, but as Chlöe states in the track, “I know it’s complicated, but you don’t have to say a single word.” This song showcases the best of Chlöe’s vocals as she provides a euphonious and memorable album conclusion.
As “In Pieces” comes to an end, it leaves its mark as a combination of creative visions scattered through tracks that are unfortunately never cohesive or impactful enough to help the album reach its full potential. Although Chlöe provides a few memorable songs throughout the album, the overall message that “In Pieces” attempts to showcase feels inconsistent and underdeveloped.
I give “In Pieces” 2.5 out of five crabs!
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