Dozens of eager employees entered the space to hear the singer perform, crowding around the desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen in Washington, D.C. It was so blistering that a fan became lightheaded and passed out.
After the EMTs tended to the young lady and ensured she was OK, Bailey approached her, hugged her and shared a few words before they posed for a photo together. Not to be left out of the photo-taking moment, the medical professionals also made sure to get a picture in with the star. The 25-year-old graciously took even more photos with just about everyone after the recording ended, keeping with a theme Bailey takes to heart: appreciating those who appreciate you.
“It’s important to be honest and transparent about our vulnerabilities and what we’re going through, and a lot of times I’ve been broken down, and the cracks will be left,” Bailey said to the couple dozen NPR employees in the newsroom. “But that doesn’t make me imperfect. That doesn’t take away any beauty that I have deep inside. And it’s important to surround ourselves with the ones who will appreciate us in all of that glory.”
The “Have Mercy” singer has trended on social media over the years, as seemingly everything she does is subject to intense scrutiny — from posting a topless photo on Instagram to singing a sultry cover of Minnie Riperton’s classic “Lovin’ You.” The specific criticism is that she is too sexy — that she’s purposely oversexualizing herself — in performances and on social media. The public scrutiny reached a critical mass around the release of her debut album, “In Pieces,” and her performance in the Prime Video series “Swarm,” in which she had a steamy sex scene with Damson Idris. More recently, Funky Dineva, a 40-year-old gossip blogger, apologized after an unprompted attack on Bailey’s looks.
Much of that unsolicited commentary is regrettably par the course as a high-profile Black woman embracing her sexuality on social media. Bailey is not immune to the haters but is more focused on reaching her goals.
“I definitely see the criticism,” Bailey told HuffPost. “I feel it sometimes, and half the time, the criticism is self-inflicted. We can be our own biggest critics, but I just have to learn to get outside of my head because that could stop me from reaching my next goal and being able to achieve the thing that I’ve been praying for.”
She continued, “Yes, people can talk stuff, but sometimes I’ll be saying things just as bad to myself. So as long as I get out of that and I know that what I’m doing is bigger than me, then I’ll be able to thrive in every way.”
Chlöe performs on stage in concert at House Of Blues on April 25, 2023, in Houston, Texas.
Bailey is not new to NPR’s Tiny Desk live concert series. Chlöe x Halle, the R&B duo she created with her sister, Halle Bailey, performed a Tiny Desk concert in 2020 when the series switched to a “home” performance due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the older Bailey sister’s latest Tiny Desk effort is an opportunity for her to showcase her talents as a solo artist, where she performed some of her singles like “Surprise” and a few tracks from “In Pieces.”
“Tiny Desk is a great reminder that you need talent to be on this platform,” said Ashley Pointer, production assistant at NPR Music. “Hopefully, with this performance, people will focus more on the music, arrangement and performance.”
Regarding the microscope over the “Treat Me” singer’s appearance in recent years as she’s come into womanhood, Pointer added, “I don’t know why she gets so much flak. It just goes back to being a proud Black woman on the internet.”
The actor, who has been in the public eye since she was 13 from doing covers of songs with her sister, just celebrated her 25th trip around the sun — seeing the cake that NPR employees brought out to celebrate her birthday after the performance served as a reminder that Bailey is just getting started in charting her own course in her journey as a young woman and a solo artist.
“If I’m being honest, I’m still finding my footing in pursuing my solo music career. I think that’s the exciting thing about life,” she said. “You become someone and evolve into something even greater each day.”
She added: “So as long as it feels good, as long as I’m having fun, and my love of the art definitely shines through, then that’s all I really need, and I’ll figure my way through that.”