Grown-ish is an awesome television show set against the backdrop of a fictitious California University. We get to follow the life of Zoey Johnson (everybody’s fave, Yara Shahidi) after she graduated from high school (and Black-ish) as she learns to navigate life and love as an almost adult. The show addresses everything from social media fails in love, campus protests and even attempting to find love as a black woman in America. The writing is smart, the characters are entertaining, and ultimately, it’s hilarious.
What makes it also so interesting is that the central character and the show’s focal point, Shahidi’s Zoey, is probably the LEAST interesting person on the show. The cast of characters is a ragtag (even if somewhat unlikely) grouping of students who first bond in the campus’s midnight marketing class, taught by Charlie Telphy (Deon Cole).
Two characters who shine are Jazlyn and Skylar Forster, both track stars from Inglewood, Calif., on scholarship at Cal U, played by singer-songwriters Chloe x Halle, respectively, who are signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment management company. They are also responsible for Grown-ish’s theme song, “Grown,” which is also featured on their newest album, The Kids Are Alright.
The album was released on March 23, and I’ve been listening to it ever since. Now, I was a fan of their music when I was introduced to it back in 2016, though I admittedly wondered about their commercial prospects. Their EP, Sugar Symphony, contains a song called “Red Light” that I kept on repeat for the better part of three months. I still love it. The vocal arrangement is dope, and I enjoy their layered vocals. I liked their music, but I’m not sure I was invested. That all changed with Grown-ish.
I have no idea how true their characters are to who they are in real life. But they play the hell out of Jaz and Sky. They are quick-witted and real, take no prisoners and hold no cut cards. Like most of the characters on the show, they’re oddly more personally developed as humans than Zoey, so they show up to give her some of that keep-it-realness she so desperately needs, as do characters Nomi and Luca. They make me laugh and think about how my kids will be when they get to college. Their presence on the show, and my enjoyment of it, have turned Chloe and Halle into family.
Which is why, as soon as I saw that they had a new album, I had to go check it out immediately. It might as well have been my little brother dropping a new album. I view them as the little homies who are trying to make it in life, so I have to support them.
Their presence on the show also changed the way I listen to their music. When you don’t know much about an artist, you don’t have any context—you either like it or you don’t. When you know the person, or feel that you do, you listen to it more compassionately and find greater highs and much higher lows, if they exist at all (unless the music is trash, which also exists in abundance in many of our families).
The Kids Are Alright follows in their vein of beautiful dual harmony and smart songwriting. I also didn’t realize until recently that Chloe produces the vast majority of their music, which—ZOMG!—can I enjoy a project any more? I’m not sure I can.
The title track, “The Kids Are Alright,” sounds like it could have been given to Beyoncé and would have fit just fine on the positive end of Lemonade, after she decided that her lemonade was sweet in the summertime, or as another song dedicated to Blue. I’d be surprised if Bey didn’t help Chloe x Halle with the vocal arrangement on that song.
There are gems on the album through and through, like “Hi Lo,” “Fake” and “Babybird.” And that’s the beauty: Even if they weren’t great songs, I’d probably like them anyway because Grown-ish. That’s good marketing.
Their being on Grown-ish has created an entire lane where I feel like I know them well enough (and like them well enough) to want to support their endeavors. I want them to win.
Well played, Chloe x Halle.