Chloe And Halle Bailey Are More Than 'Alright'

May 6, 2018
Originally published on May 7, 2018 1:02 pm

It's a cliché, but it's true: Adults are always complaining about the next generation. Chloe and Halle Bailey have something to say about that.

The 18- and 19-year-old sisters have been singing together since they were little. In 2013, they caught Queen Bey's attention after they uploaded their YouTube cover of Beyoncé's "Pretty Hurts." Now the sisters are signed to Beyoncé's label, Parkwood Entertainment.

As Chloe x Halle, they released their debut album The Kids Are Alright in March. They also star in the Freeform show Grown-ish — for which they wrote the theme song, "Grown" — as college-aged sisters Jazlyn and Skyler, and were approached by Ava DuVernay to contribute "Warrior" for the A Wrinkle in Time soundtrack.

On top of the world before they even complete two decades around the sun, Chloe and Halle spoke to NPR's Michel Martin about growing up singing and being role models for young black women.

Interview Highlights

On writing The Kids Are Alright's title track

Halle Bailey: We were in our living room. My sister started playing these amazing chords and we sat with those melodies for a few days until the lyrics came to us. It was basically the message that we wanted to portray to the kids of today, to remind us all that no matter what is happening right now in the world, we're gonna be alright. Because for the youth, especially, it feels like there's the weight of the world on our shoulders right now; are we going to be okay with the future and what's to come?

On singing together for the first time as kids

Chloe Bailey: I was 7 and my sister was 5. We were singing "Summertime" at our talent show at Spelman College summer camp, and we actually won the talent show! When we saw our names under first place, I still remember seeing it in my mind. I remember being like, "Wow, people actually like us singing together. We could really do this."

On singing YouTube covers and being discovered by Beyoncé

Halle: We always sang around Atlanta and did these shows and club appearances — these little girls in these sundresses [laughs]. And some people would tell us, "Oh, maybe you [should] also do YouTube covers?" We never took that too seriously because we heard of the rare stories where people would get discovered off of YouTube, and we were like, "Oh yeah, sure, OK"; we never thought that one day it would actually be us. And when we first posted our cover to "Best Thing I Never Had" by Beyoncé, we were just singing for fun.

Chloe: I remember we taped it and we asked mom and dad if we could post it. Next thing you know, all of these views came in and we were like, "Wow, what's going on? How is this happening?" And we just kind of kept that going. And then the Queen Bey came knocking.

On starring in Grown-ish and speaking up for young black women

Chloe: We have a laser focus on our dreams right now, and so we're not really worried about the validation from men or young boys. I think that's something that is really special, when you can love yourself. I was just grateful that we were given these roles, Jazlyn and Skyler, to portray what a lot of young black women go through all over the world. Sometimes it even expands from dating: with career jobs, and sometimes based on how your name is pronounced or the way your hair looks and what's acceptable in today's society.

Halle: It always amazes us when young black girls and all of these people come up to us and say, "That episode of Grown-ish really spoke to me. I felt like I was you guys. I've been through that when I'm in college and I don't see the majority who looks like me and I'm really not getting hit on or talked to and I see all of my friends getting all of this play." It is really inspiring when we hear that because that's so cool that we could be portraying this and doing our jobs and realizing that, hey, as long as I'm confident, I'm going to be great, no matter what.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's a cliche, but it's true - adults are always complaining about the next generation. Well, our next guests have something to say about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) The kids are all right. We all, we all right. Yeah, the kids are all right.

MARTIN: And they are definitely all right with Chloe and Halle Bailey. The sisters, who are just 18 and 19 years old and who've been singing together since they were little, got the attention of a certain Queen B - yes, Beyonce herself - after they posted a video singing a cover of her song "Pretty Hurts." That was in 2013. Now, the sisters are signed to Beyonce label. They recently released their debut album, "The Kids Are Alright."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) Working ain't no 9 to 5. California that's a vibe. We down to ride. You know, you know that's the life. We want to have some fun. It's some love for everyone. Pass it around when you get done. That's the move. Yeah, that's the one. We all, we all right.

MARTIN: Chloe and Halle also star in the TV show "Grown-ish," for which they were the theme song. And if that's not enough, they also wrote the song "Warrior" for the Disney movie "A Wrinkle In Time." And Chloe and Halle join us now from our studios in Culver City, Calif.

Welcome. Congratulations on everything. Thank you so much for joining us.

CHLOE BAILEY: Hi.

HALLE BAILEY: Thank you.

C. BAILEY: Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: So who's who? I can't - tell me who's who.

H. BAILEY: Yes. Well, this one is Halle.

MARTIN: OK.

C. BAILEY: And I'm Chloe.

MARTIN: OK. Well, let's start with the title track, "The Kids Are Alright." Tell us about the song. How did it come to you?

H. BAILEY: You know, we were in our living room - me, my sister and our friend, Diana Gordon (ph). And my sister started playing these amazing chords, and we sat with those melodies for a few days until the lyrics came to us. It was basically the message that we wanted to portray to the kids of today to remind us all that no matter what is happening right now in the world, we're going to be all right, you know because for the youth, especially, it feels like there's the weight of the world on our shoulders right now. And like, are we going to be OK with the future and what's to come?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) The kids are all right. Yeah, the kids are all right.

MARTIN: As I understand it, you've been singing since you were little girls - like, you were 5 and 7. And so how did it start? Chloe, did you always know that you could sing?

C. BAILEY: The very first time we actually sang together in person was when I was 7 and my sister was 5, and we were singing "Summertime" at our talent show at Spelman College summer camp. And we actually won the talent show. And when we saw our names under the first place, I still remember seeing it in my mind. I remember being like, wow, people actually like us singing together. We could really do this. And it just kind of traveled from there. We always sang around Atlanta and did these shows and club appearances - these little girls in these sundresses (laughter). And some people would tell us, oh, maybe you also do YouTube covers - you know, start that. And we never took that too seriously because we heard of the rare stories where people would get discovered off of YouTube, and we were like, oh, yeah, sure, OK. But we never thought that one day it would actually be us. And when we first posted our cover to "Best Thing I Never Had" by Beyonce, we were just singing for fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHLOE X HALLE'S COVER OF BEYONCE'S "BEST THING I NEVER HAD"

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) There was a time I thought that you did everything right. No lies...

C. BAILEY: And I remember we taped it and we asked mom and dad if we could post it. And they were like sure. Next thing you know, all of these views came in, and we were like, wow, what's going on? Wow, how is this happening? And we just kind of kept that going. And then the Queen B came knocking.

H. BAILEY: (Laughter).

MARTIN: That's kind of amazing. OK, so I have to play "Warrior" now...

H. BAILEY: Yes.

MARTIN: ...From "A Wrinkle In Time" just - because I have to. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WARRIOR")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) Oh, my darling, I am getting closer. Hold on tight. And I know it hasn't been so easy. I'm fighting for my life. I could be a warrior.

MARTIN: Sorry. I just have to let it wash over me for another minute - sorry. Was this an assignment? Did this come to you? Did you offer it to them? How did this come about? Who wants to tell me this story.

H. BAILEY: This is Halle.

MARTIN: Halle, OK.

H. BAILEY: Yes. This was a beautiful thing that came to us from the wonderful Miss Ava, the director of this movie. It was so much fun for us to just dig in, watch the trailer for the movie and think about what we wanted to say and what we wanted to say to many young girls who were going to be watching this movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WARRIOR")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) Almost there. Overcome my fear. I'll save the light in our lives.

H. BAILEY: Having that empowering power message to young girls was something that was so important because we felt that it would help us boost our confidence and then boost their confidence because, especially being young black girls, you have to realize that you're beautiful and that you're strong in every single way. So that was definitely a message that we wanted to get through.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WARRIOR")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) I could be a warrior. Yes, I am a warrior.

MARTIN: It seems like you've had a marvelous experience so far. But one of the things I wanted to talk about in "Grown-ish" is that "Grown-ish" really digs into some real pain points for a lot of young women, particularly young women of color. And I want to play a clip of - there's an episode in particular I want to mention. It's about dating. On the show, you play twins, Jazz and Sky. You play college track stars, but you also have a really painful conversation that I know that a lot of - I know that a lot of other young women have shared because this is an experience that they've had. And I'll just play it, and we can talk about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GROWN-ISH")

C. BAILEY: (As Jazz Forster) Everybody's always checking for the girl who looks black, but no one wants the girl who actually is.

H. BAILEY: (As Sky Forster) Which is why everyone's suddenly getting lip injections.

C. BAILEY: (As Jazz Forster) And wearing cornrows and rocking Timbs.

H. BAILEY: (As Sky Forster) Yeah, but do you know why it's like this? Have you ever asked one of these guys?

C. BAILEY: (As Jazz Forster) No. The fact that we would even have to ask is crazy - makes it seem like we're the problem.

MARTIN: Ladies, I have to ask, has that been your experience?

C. BAILEY: Thankfully, it hasn't. We have laser-focus on our dreams right now, and so we're not really worried about the validation from men or young boys. And I think that's something that, you know, is really special when you can love yourself. And you know, I was just grateful that we were given these roles - Jazz and Skylar - to portray what a lot of young black women go through.

MARTIN: Did you - have you heard from a lot of people about this episode - or the series in general?

H. BAILEY: You know, it always amazes us when young black girls and all of these people come up to us and say, you know, that episode of "Grown-ish" really spoke to me. I felt like I was you guys. You know, I've been through that when I'm in college, and I don't see the majority who looks like me, and I'm really not getting hit on or anything or talked to you. And I see all of my friends getting all of this play, and it really makes me feel some type of way. It is really inspiring when we hear that because we're like, oh, that's so cool that we could be portraying this in doing our jobs and realizing that, hey, no matter what, as long as I'm confident, I'm going to be great, no matter what.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GROWN")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) Watch out, world. I'm grown now. It's about to go down.

MARTIN: That is Chloe and Halle. Their album, "The Kids Are Alright," is out now. And they were kind enough to talk to us from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Thanks so much for talking with us.

C. BAILEY: Thank you for your time.

H. BAILEY: Thank you.

C. BAILEY: Have a beautiful day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GROWN")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) I can't sleep. I'm wide awake. I've been up since yesterday. Scared 'cause I know it ain't a game. Like, who am I going to be today?

MARTIN: For Sunday, that is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. You can follow us on Twitter @npratc or follow me @NPRMichel. Thank you for listening. We hope you have a great night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GROWN")

CHLOE X HALLE: (Singing) Watch out, world. I'm grown now. It's about to go down. My heartbeat is so loud. Momma, look, I'm grown now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.