By Leah Greenblatt
June 12, 2020 at 02:51 PM EDT
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When the queen cosigns, the people tend to listen. In the five years since Beyoncé first plucked then-adolescent sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey from the hype cloud of the internet and brought them to her Parkwood imprint, the duo have served as her opening act on two tours, earned a high-profile pair of Grammy nods (including Best New Artist) for their 2018 debut, and sung at the Super Bowl.

It's the kind of pop-star ex machina most aspiring young artists can only dream of — though fame by association, it turns out, is no sure thing; most of the siblings' singles have so far failed to crack the Hot 100. Ungodly Hour seems unlikely to change that, but it's undeniably pretty: stacked with the kind of clean harmonies and gently syncopated R&B that doesn't so much demand ear space as sidle up to it, unassumingly.

"Forgive Me" comes on with a crisp stutter-step and a sly requiem for a less-than-honest lover; the spun-sugar "Tipsy" bends and sways, drunk on mad romance; slow-rolling YOLO anthem "Rest of Your Life" rides a heady dance-floor gospel high. The gently syncopated lead single, "Do It," with its feathery beats and breezy ladies'-night exhortations ("I'm just with the crew/We ain't here looking for boo") could be a late-'90s Brandy bop, minus its tossed-off reference to Uber.

If Chloe x Halle's output has always felt a little frictionless, serene to the point of safety, Ungodly — the first album to find both Baileys officially of age — makes moves to change that, tiptoeing into more overtly grown-woman territory with its handful of carefully calibrated F-bombs and talk of groupies and infidelity, angels and demons.

But it makes sense, too, that they might steer away from more explicitly laying out the contents of their inner worlds, considering their still tender age and the colder realities of the business; another kind of notoriety undoubtedly already awaits Halle when she stars in Disney's live-action Little Mermaid reboot, slated for release next year. Until then, the sisters can claim a softer spotlight, moving to their own sweet melody. B+

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