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There are many strange choices made across this album, some of which make sense to me and some of which do not. But I want to start with what I feel is a big one for me. Chlöe’s voice.

Chlöe has an amazing voice. And whilst I don’t think it’s necessary for this to be flexed on each and every single song, I do find it strange that Chlöe herself and so many of the writers and producers she worked with across this album didn’t craft songs in a way which leave space for her to just SING. As formulaic as it was, Mariah would always have a moment reserved at the end of her songs where she would do her whistle note. And the final run of the chorus would always be where she would belt her shit out. There’s no such space for Chlöe on her songs. I think it is important for Chlöe to highlight her voice, in order to help differentiate her from so many of the other girls putting out music right now. Especially given that the sound of Chlöe’s songs are so dime a dozen. Chlöe also adopts this talk-singing approach across a lot of her songs, which again, all the pop and R&B girls are doing right now. There should be far more conversation around how good a singer Chlöe is, and unfortunately, because of her approach to singing on this album, there isn’t. And it doesn’t even have to be about big notes and belts all of the time. It could be a question of showing range. For example; when Chlöe performed a cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” she hit a notes so low that even the ghost Barry White pulled up and said ‘BITCH!?’. But so few people were talking about it, because they were caught up in how Chlöe was giving a P-Valley performance the whole time. But that’s a whole other discussion.

Chlöe’s voice is too damn good for it not to be better showcased across more of these songs. Sure, Beyoncé and her great-ass voice is talk-singing and rapping across most of Renaissance. But even she gave herself pockets on certain songs to remind people that she can actually sing and managed to find a good balance. In Pieces is Chlöe’s debut album. It’s the first impression that some may have of her. So to not lead more with how good and dexterous her voice is!? It’s kinda criminal.

One of the problems with these young pop girls who come out these days is that there is no real focus or objective that is set for them when it comes to their music. With Mariah Carey, the focus was always on her octave range and being able to sing in a whistle register. With Whitney Houston it was her virtuosity. With Janet Jackson it was her vocal layering. With Toni Braxton it was being a contralto and how low she could go whilst still maintaining great control. With Brandy it was her tone and her vocal arrangements. With Beyoncé, it was the frequency and command of her melisma. Even Halle has managed to find that thing, which is leaning into the brightness of her voice and the stylised ways in which she pronounces and expresses certain words and moments in songs. A singer with a good voice always needs to have something that helps define them aside from just having a good voice. But with Chlöe, there’s no sense of this. And I think if Chlöe were able to define what this thing is or should be, it would better help her find her sound, and also allow other writers and producers to bear this in mind when creating songs for her. Too many acts these days want to be everything and do everything, and end up being known for nothing. Chlöe is too damn talented and has too good a voice to go out like that. So I really hope that for her next album she finds what that thing is and locks onto it.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Chlöe’s In Pieces. Featuring Chlöe sporting long red dreads and posing in a red latex gown.
Chlöe – In Pieces | Parkwood / Columbia Records

The sound of In Pieces as a whole is quite bland. A common thing I find across this album is that songs don’t really go anywhere musically. Even when Chlöe is singing about navigating heartbreak and she ends the song in a different place from whence she started, the music doesn’t reflect the same sense of journey. “Looze U” is one example. There should have been some form of build towards the end of the song. Some synths, some pads, some strings. Something soft and constant to underlie the music as Chlöe resides with her feelings and the choice she’s made to stay in a relationship that she knows is some trash. But we just get the same lil’ plucky-plucky guitar with no variation in the music whatsoever. Then there’s “Pray It Away”, a song with a gospel undertone. Chlöe sings about how she’s going to take it to church, but she never actually does. There’s no build to a crescendo in this song, when it really needed one. Chlöe shoulda put on that “Treat Me” wig and gone Sister Mary Clarence on us. But, nope.

Short songs which don’t really go anywhere shouldn’t have been a surprise, given that “Have Mercy”, “Treat Me” and “Surprise” all did the same thing; in addition to the only single which made the cut, “How Does It Feel”. This song could have been something really good, but it feels so undercooked, which is a consistent theme throughout the album. It also features Chris Brown, but I ain’t getting into that. As a single, “How Does It Feel” didn’t do much for me. But it does even less on the album because of “Feel Me Cry”, which is like a reprise of “How Does It Feel”. Melding the two songs together would have gone some way towards making one song which felt whole and provided a needed switch up and shift in feel and tone.

Too many songwriters and producers nowadays have either lost, never even knew or are choosing to not uphold the art of writing and producing a song with a full structure. Middle eights, bridges, modulations, key changes; these are going extinct in mainstream pop. Producers used to be responsible for really helping guide artists and find their sound. But now it’s a case of producers just wanting placements for promo and bragging rights. And whilst Chlöe is on this train of current sounds that ‘the kids’ like, there’s no sustenance in any of it. I think a more classic approach with Chlöe would have served her better. Give her songs with really simple verse, chorus verse middle eight chorus outro structures where she is SINGING, without throwing the word fuck and n***a around as though she has a quota to hit. Of course not every song has to feature bridges, modulations, etc. But there still needs to be a sense of completeness with a song. And so few of the songs on In Pieces feel truly complete.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Chloe’s In Pieces. Featuring Chlöe sporting long red dreads and wearing black latex gloves and a black dress, made up of latex strips which are laced together.
Chlöe – In Pieces | Parkwood / Columbia Records

There are also pairings of talent on this album which are badly utilised. Missy Elliott features on the song “Told Ya” and the song is a mess. Missy isn’t great when it comes to features these days. To this day I wonder why on Earth she was put on Ariana Grande’s “Borderline”. But Missy should have been brought on board as a writer and producer. Missy’s resumé is stacked with ‘Fuck that n***a’ and ‘This pussy is amazing’ songs which In Pieces is full of. So why not run Missy a cheque to give Chlöe something along the lines of 702’s “Where My Girls At?”, Whitney Houston’s “In My Business”, Lil’ Mo’s “Five Minutes”, Destiny’s Child’s “Get On the Bus”, “Aaliayh’s “If Your Girl Only Knew”, Monica’s “So Gone”, Fantasia’s “Free Yourself”? The list goes on. Then there’s Future, who makes sense on an album about no good men, but he doesn’t bring anything to the song “Cheatback”. And as for “How Does It Feel”; did it really NEED Chris Brown? Why not Bryson Tiller? Luke James? Shit. Bring Usher back! This would have been a great call-back to his song “Throwback” being sampled and also acted as a response to it lyrically. It also would have been great timing, given that Usher would go on to go viral for his Tiny Desk a couple of months later and was already getting great press over his love of roller skating and his stint in Vegas.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Chlöe’s In Pieces. Featuring Chlöe sporting long red dreads and posing in a red latex gown.
Chlöe – In Pieces | Parkwood / Columbia Records

In Pieces feels like an album affected by a bunch of different things. Chlöe wanting to be true to the musically nerdy girl who loves Imogen Heap, loves to produce music from scratch and is super quirky. But also being a person of the times who likes a lot of what is on pop radio at the moment. Whilst also being hyper aware that she has to make this super commercial product because she is signed to Colbumia records and is part of Parkwood, the home of Beyoncé. And the thing is, all of these things can co-exist, but they fail here because Chlöe is being pulled in so many different directions across this album, and I can feel it in the end result. In Pieces never seems sure of the type of album that it wants to be. So I’m left with no real sense of how Chlöe herself wants to be seen. And add to this that four of her singles didn’t make the album and it’s even more confusing as to what Chlöe and the folk at Columbia Records wanted people to get out of this album and ultimately for Chlöe to be seen as aside from the girl who can throw ass. And for the record, I have NO issue with Chlöe throwing ass. But if you’re going to throw ass to your songs, make sure they are some really good songs.

One thing I do think more acts should be given when they are starting out is grace. This is Chlöe’s first solo album. She is still young. And she is also signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, which comes with all amounts of pressure and comparisons. Some acts develop a sense of self very early on and are able to come out of the gate with a classic. But this shouldn’t be the expectation for everybody. With that said, I do think that acts need to at least try to put out an album which gives a clear picture of who they are, without the need for anything else other than the music, and as though they may not ever get another chance to put out anything else. With In Pieces, you don’t get a full sense of who Chlöe is and you only get flecks of how talented she is. This picture only becomes clear if you follow her on social media and see videos of her making beats in the studio, watch her live performances, listen to Chloe x Halle albums, watch the old YouTube videos of her and Halle performing covers and check out her interviews. Everything separate from the music should be optional, not mandatory to get a sense of who an act is. And in this age of social media, it’s unfortunately not the case any more. And Chlöe, for better or worse, is a product of this, having been signed with her sister as a result of YouTube videos and having her lead single trend the way it did because of how it took on a life of its own on TikTok.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Chlöe’s In Pieces. Featuring Chlöe sporting long red dreads and posing in a red latex gown.
Chlöe – In Pieces | Parkwood / Columbia Records

There is a lot which goes on behind the scenes of making an album that we don’t get to see. JoJo has been very transparent about the hell she went through trying to get a third album out when she was signed to Blackground Records. Tinashe has shared similar experiences of when she was signed to RCA. Both recorded a shit tonne of music, just for it to never see the light of day. So there may be some really great material which Chlöe recorded, which for some reason nobody felt was right for release. But I can only go on what is presented to me. And In Pieces isn’t that good and isn’t fully reflective of Chlöe’s talents as a songwriter, a producer or a singer. I think perhaps a better approach for Chlöe may have been to have released EPs and themed each one. Between the singles and how In Pieces turned out, it feels like several projects all thrown together anyway. Going the EP route would have alleviated the pressures of THE ALBUM for everybody involved. It also would have given Chlöe and her team more time to figure things out as they assess what was put out, what worked and what didn’t – so they can then funnel all of this into an album which allows Chlöe to truly shine. The timing and the way in which In Pieces was put out never made sense to me. And I feel it was too early for Chlöe to release a solo album. We shoulda gotten at least one more Chloe x Halle album. But, that’s a whole other discussion.

In Pieces is a very fitting title for this album. There are pieces of good ideas. Pieces of good songs. Pieces of great vocal performances. Pieces of cool song concepts and ideas. But nothing about it feels whole. And the potential of Chlöe’s talents and what she is capable of do not shine enough through the cracks in this album.

▪ Body Do 🔥
▪ I Don’t Mind
▪ Worried
▪ Make It Look Easy
▪ Looze U
▪ In Pieces 🏆

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Album Review: Chlöe – In Pieces