These Beyoncé Teen Protégés Are Going To Run The World
“Baby, I get sick of you.”
So begins “Drop,” the lead single from Atlanta-born sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey, aka Chloe x Halle. The sisters Bailey may be sick of something, but I am not sick of “Drop.” Since its release on April 5th, the song has been with me everywhere—ironic, considering the lyrics reference a tune getting stuck in one’s head. It’s heady, otherworldly music, something that seems to have been sent from a planet simultaneously bolder and more tenderhearted than our own. I am obsessed with it to a point where I told a very angry cab driver today that the Bailey sisters would change his life (“good harmonies,” he said). But “Drop” is just the tip of the iceberg. Chloe and Halle, at just 17 and 16 years old, are prodigiously, ludicrously talented. Just listen.
Beyond an unending supply of good reviews, the Baileys, now based in Los Angeles, have some very big supporters in their corner. They’ve performed at the White House; Michelle Obama featured them on her charity single, “This Is For My Girls”; and Sasha and Malia are reportedly fans. But beyond the first family, Chloe and Halle are protégés of the closest thing America has to royalty: Beyoncé. The Queen B signed the girls to her label, Parkwood Entertainment, and has served as an involved mentor, supervising their musical and artistic development. Chloe and Halle are part of some of the most moving images in Bey’s visual masterpiece, Lemonade, alongside other young black women like Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya, all shot together on a southern estate that looks like a magical fantasy born of Toni Morrison.
“[Beyoncé is] normal, just like us. It’s really just like talking to your favorite aunt or something.”
Beyoncé found Chloe and Halle after their cover of her 2013 track “Pretty Hurts” went viral. While the Baileys have been performing since they were little kids, their YouTube covers, which they began filming in 2008, are where things really took off. My personal favorite is their version of Yo Gotti’s “Down In The DM,” in which Chloe and Halle dance and goof off for the camera, clearly having a total blast. But as impressive as the covers are, their original work is something special.
Chloe x Halle’s EP, Sugar Symphony, released on April 29th, is infectious, a blend of everything from R&B to synth pop. Their clear voices soar over joyful beats, with hooks that just beg for sing-alongs. Sugar is sweet, yes, but it feels nourishing, like if somehow a delicious cake were made of vegetables. It also gives the sisters, who are credited with almost all of the EP’s writing and production, the chance to show off their respective strengths.
Both Chloe and Halle are so kind and sunny, with personalities as engaging as their music. And they look a great deal alike; the video for “Drop,” shows their dreadlocked hair braided together, creating some kind of gorgeous two-headed musical alien. But they are still different: Chloe’s voice is deeper, while Halle’s seems to float; Chloe plays piano and makes irresistible beats, while Halle shreds on guitar (both are self-taught). And yet they coalesce beautifully, both instrumentally and in life; when I stupidly asked if they ever fight, the girls responded with polite, dismissive giggles.
Chloe and Halle called me from their home on a “beautiful day,” to talk about their music, Beyoncé, and the adorable White House dogs.
When did you start playing music?
Chloe: Ever since we were little, we always loved being in front of the camera and entertaining—it was really in our blood. We started singing together professionally, really, when we were like seven and five. So it started really, really early. And from then we grew [and] just learned to love it even more than we already did.
Are your siblings or parents musical as well?
Halle: It’s so funny because actually our parents are not that musical at all, but at a very young age they played really great music around the house. I think that’s where we get our influences from and our sound from. So it’s all from them, but it’s so funny that they’re not actually into singing and stuff.
What kind of music would they play?
Halle: Well, for me, I really, really love jazz. I fell in love with jazz at a young age—like five years old. I ran into a Billie Holiday CD and it was pink and I was just instantly drawn to it. So, for me, jazz is a huge influence. My mom and dad would play Jill Scott around the house, Robin Thicke, and he’s really, really played into how we sound today.
Chloe: And [we have] more current influences right now. We really, really love Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs, Kendrick Lamar, tUnE-yArds—they’re so incredible. Right now we’re really into this band called The Internet, they’re awesome too.
How great is [Internet singer] Syd tha Kyd? The coolest!
Chloe: I know! So we just listen to anything that inspires us and gets our blood going. We love music. Period. Any type. Any genre.
“Drop” is amazing. What is the concept behind it?
Chloe: We wrote this song about two years ago, and the idea just kind of formed right in front of our eyes. We started it by playing with the 808, and then Halle came up with some guitar chords over it. The concept is really just about a song you can’t get out of your head. We wanted to personify the song as maybe a love interest or something like that.
Can you tell me about the video? I love the scene where your hair is braided together.
Chloe: We had such an incredible director, Andy Hines, and our creative director, Kwasi [Fordjour]. With them combined and with our ideas, we just really formed something incredible, and we put a vision board together and mood boarded [everything]. It just came together so cool. Our hairstylist tied our hair together, and it was just really fun. It kind of just happened freely. We had no idea that scene was going to be the lead in the video.
“It’s like we were Siamese twins. We had to walk using the same foot.”
Was it hard to get your hair untied? Were you guys stuck together?
Halle: Yes, it was so hard and so funny. We were sitting down and when we had our hair tied together, we had to get up, and walk, and move. It’s like we were Siamese twins. We had to walk using the same foot.
Could you tell me a little about your musicianship?
Chloe: Well, I play piano and I have been [playing] for about three or four years now. From there, I just kind of expanded into producing. I’ve just been enjoying a lot and I get to play with my sounds and all of that stuff. It’s been expanding my knowledge on the music theory and all the chords and everything, so it’s been really, really great.
Halle: I started guitar about four years ago as well, around the same time. We really started digging into our instruments. For us, we just love to go on YouTube and figure out how to play our favorite songs. So, we would watch YouTube tutorials of our favorite songs. We’re basically self-taught on our instruments. We’re aiming to grow and learn.
What is it like to work with Beyoncé?
Chloe: It has been so much fun. Beyoncé, number one, is so very talented, but beyond that, she’s just a really great person who allows us to express our art the way we want to. And we’re really grateful for that, and we’re just really happy.
So there’s a lot of artistic freedom with your deal?
Chloe: Most definitely. She wants us to have our own voice. She wants us to be true to who we are and of course she [gives] her input, but the final decision is always ours and what we want to do. Most of the time, we’re always on the same page.
When you first met her, were you starstruck?
Halle: Well, being around her is really great, but we’ve gotten used to it now. I figure after about the second time we got used to [thinking], like, “Okay! This is really Beyoncé!” It’s just great. She’s a really wonderful person. She’s normal, just like us. It’s really just like talking to your favorite aunt or something. She’s just a great person inside and out.
Speaking of powerful women, you guys have also performed with Michelle Obama. What was it like to work with the First Lady?
Chloe: That was such a surreal moment. The very first time we met her, we were at SXSW. We performed her song to raise awareness for her Let Girls Learn initiative. Even that was with about five or six other women like Zendaya, Kelly Rowland, Kelly Clarkson, and so many more. It was really fun creating that.
So, Michelle Obama invited us to her panel to perform that song. That was when we first met her and, oh my goodness, she is a goddess inside and out. So that was crazy. She invited us to the White House Easter Egg Roll, and we performed the same set we did at SXSW. Both times we met her she was just so kind and warm and seeing her cheering us on in the audience—it really made the performance that much more special. So she’s incredible. We’re going to miss her.
I’m going to miss her too. Did you guys get to meet Bo Obama [the dog]?
Halle: Yes! We did actually. That was so much fun. We actually met Bo and Sunny. They were walking around on the lawn and they’re just so cute.
In the past year or so that you guys have done all these amazing things, how have your lives changed? Has it been really crazy, or sort of business as usual?
Chloe: Everything around us is the same. Our morals are the same. The way we work is the same. The only [difference] is that we get to express our art on a bigger platform and [to] a bigger audience. Our supporters have grown and we’re so grateful for that. We just can’t wait to go even further on this journey.
Is it ever hard to work with a sibling, or do you guys just get each other?
Halle: It’s never hard, because with my sister, we’re best friends. It’s the best match ever. I’m so happy that I get to do this with her because I feel like it would be hard if I was just here with some random person. [Laughs] So, I’m really happy that it’s my sister, and I really think that’s why our songs end up the way that they do, because of our connection together.
All photographs shot exclusively for Milk by Cara Stricker
Styling by Mecca Cox
Special thanks to Milk LA
Stay tuned to Milk for more on these magical girls.