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Halle has finally done it y’all. With The Little Mermaid finally behind her and her sister Chloe already out here in the world doing her solo thing – she has released her solo song, “Angel”.
Halle’s debut song being an ethereal version of Dead Mike’s “I’m Black, Y’all” certainly wasn’t on my bingo card. But it makes sense. Not just because she is signed to Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment, but through her own lived experiences, both privately and very publicly. Halle has to deal with horrid attacks and discourse since the day her casting as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid was announced back in 2019, right up until the film was released 3 years later. With those looking at the box office performance citing Ariel being Black as one of the reasons the film underperformed in China.
I’m not surprised. But still… Lawd.
At a time when so many of Halle’s peers (her sister Chloe included) are releasing two and a half minute songs which say a lot of nothing, and writers and producers seem to have done away with bridges and middle-eights, it sure is nice to have Halle come along with a three minute and forty second song which has a bridge section and is saying something. And yet, “Angel” still feels like it’s missing something.
“Angel” is an R&B song, but it has elements of gospel, opera and baroque too, which gives it this very classic, familiar and almost cinematic-like vibe. “Angel” doesn’t sound like a regular song for radio. It sounds like something which could be played during a ballet show. Or be sung by a choir accompanied by nothing but a pianist or organist. Or play during the scene of a movie. And the breadth of contexts in which “Angel” could sit also parallels the message of the song beautifully. That a young Black girl can do anything, be anything and take up space wherever she chooses to. There is always a place for the Black girl. And with Halle being a young Blackgirl who got discovered with her sister by Beyoncé via singing covers on YouTube, to releasing music, starring as a co-lead in a TV show, to performing at award shows such as the Grammys, to becoming a pop star on a whole new scale in 2020 and starring as a Disney princess in their beloved The Little Mermaid – Halle is proof of what she sings in her own songs, which makes the message even more poignant.
Whilst “Angel” delivers in its message and audacity, I do feel it falls just a little short in scope when it comes to some of the production and arrangement choices. The song as a whole doesn’t really build nor pay off the moment that the song itself sets up. I really needed the final run of the chorus to be huge. For a full choir to accompany it. For there to be strings. For Halle to give me ad-libs. For the song to feel like it’s soaring toward heaven. But unfortunately, this moment never comes. Hopefully when and if Halle performs “Angel” live, we’ll get an arrangement which does these things. But as it is, when the song ended, it felt like it just whimpered out, rather than standing gloriously in the climax it had delivered.
|Halle – Angel | Parkwood / Columbia|
Somewhat of a revelation for some over the past year is just how good a singer Halle is. And this came even before “Part of Your World”. The taste we got was when she sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” for the 50 year anniversary of the Disney World resort back in 2021. The Chloe x Halle fans always knew Halle could sing. But I don’t think they (we) were prepared for what Halle delivered on them Disney songs. Halle has always had a really pretty voice, but the technicalities of it and the power of it often felt downplayed or muted on Chloe x Halle songs, between the style of their music and her being paired with Chloe; who many probably feel has the more dominant voice, because of it being more malleable, pop friendly and her tone which causes her to really sit in songs differently to Halle. But even in the wake of The Little Mermaid and how much range she showed on each of Ariel’s songs, “Angel” shows that Halle has a lot more to her voice still, and that she also has a voice which can be malleable and pop friendly too. Halle plays a lot with her voice on “Angel”. As much as I like hearing Chloe and Halle together, it’s really nice to hear Halle on her own, because you really get to hear what she’s capable of. On “Angel” she falls into registers and into cadences that you aren’t used to hearing on Chloe x Halle songs, because these are moments usually reserved for Chloe. So it’s really cool to hear Halle after 5 years give something different, which makes me even more eager to hear her album, because she could truly do anything and go in any direction with her sound and her voice.
“Angel” is a really nice song, but I feel the timing of it may hurt it. On one hand the slower tempo and vibe of it may help cut through all of the club records which run rampant during the summer. But it could just as easily get lost and cast aside because it’s such an un-summery song. I think releasing “Angel” in September or October would have made more sense, as we head into winter and the campaign for The Color Purple starts to kick off. Or, for it to be a single in January whilst The Color Purple is still in theatres and Halle is still in the spotlight as a result of it. But this is all on the assumption that the WGA and SAG-AFRA strikes end within the next couple of months. And it’s highly plausible that Halle’s team said ‘Girl, it’s looking like The Color Purple might get bumped. So. let’s just release the song now.’
It’s tough to say how well “Angel” will do commercially. But just looking at the quality of the song, even with my small gripes, I think it’s a great representation of Halle, without pinning her down in any specific kind of way. I wasn’t sure what kind of song she would release as her debut single. But as soon as I heard “Angel”, I said ‘Of course’. Anybody who has followed Chloe x Halle since the beginning will not be surprised by Halle releasing a song like this; which speaks to not only the consistency of Halle’s style, but the fact that she has a definable style at all. Some artists go years before they truly find it. Chloe is out here still trying to find hers.
|Halle – Angel | Parkwood / Columbia|
Whilst I am not swept off my feet by “Angel”, it has created greater intrigue that I already had for hearing what more Halle delivers. And I think this intrigue will be enough to carry this song for those who perhaps aren’t completely in love with it. Because it’s clear between “Angel” and her songs for The Little Mermaid, that Halle has a talent and is capable of something truly special.