By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
Kali Uchis might’ve just made one of the most risky career moves of the past few years…and my inner Hispanic is living for it.
In the fields of pop and R&B, the Colombian queen is a force to be reckoned with, boasting some of both genres’ most essential voices and loyal fanbases with a sense of charisma and sexiness that oozes through her music. Despite her Colombian roots, however, Uchis has mostly provided fans with lyrics in the English language: her hit 2018 album Isolation barely contained any Spanish lyrics outside of one entirely-Spanish track.
In spite of all the critical and commercial acclaim she has received in English, Uchis has taken a hard turn into going full Spanish in her lyrics, a reflection of her own childhood and the music she has grown with, according to her social media. In 2020, this change was hinted at with the enjoyably messy and homemade To Feel Alive EP. Now, Uchis has gone all in on her roots for her latest album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)…a record that continues the typical musical appeal of Kali’s music while also succeeding as a wonderful insight into the Colombian songstress’s growth as a lover, a person and an artist.
On a purely sonic level, Sin Miedo is a head on collision between Kali’s previous R&B ballads, traditional Spanish pop and folk, and even some hip-hop. Despite heavy-hitting rap bangers like the femme-fatal anthem “¡Aqui yo Mando!” brushing shoulders with Reggaeton grinders like “La Luz (Fín)” and dreamy pop cuts like “aguardiente y limon,” the album maintains a dreamlike quality that is perfect for the intimacy Kali presents on the lyrical front, while still providing highlights. “Vaya Con Dios,” beyond being a dramatic monologue for Kali’s damaged character, is incredibly interesting: strings, guitar licks, synth patches and dusty drums mix in a confusingly epic way, presenting Kali as an anti-hero in the battlefield for love: as her voice rises amongst the strings, you feel as though you can ascend to heaven or descend to hell in a heartbeat. “Que Te Pedi” features lush Hispanic horn passages that sell the heartbroken performance and lyrics Kali reveals: it’s the wailing of the heart converted into the language of Latin music.
But not to worry. As one can expect from Kali, Sin Miedo has so much more than just heartbreak. It is uplifting at times, downtrodden at others. It is both sexy and ugly, mixing in such as way that perfectly reflects the title’s translation: Without Fear (of Love and Other Demons).
After a brief, ethereal psychedelic introduction, Sin Miedo kicks off with less of an explosion and more of a tense slowdance. “Fue Mejor” is a gorgeous mix of the typical synthetic sounds and steady drums Kali uses, but her vocals here are spotlit, singing with a sense of confidence and vulnerability that hits as hard as the vocal harmonies and PARTYNEXTDOOR feature. It sets the record up for what its core themes are: self-confidence, the elusiveness of permanent relationships, and the temporary pleasures (and pain) one can find in a temporary fling. “Aguardiente y Limón,” by contrast, is less dramatic and more playful. The watery splashes of keys and sweet vibes here perfectly match the numerous mentions Kali makes to drinking and fruits, using them as a bridge to reveal the sweetness she offers to those she desires. Despite aguardiente being a notoriously strong Colombian liquor, the song makes a drink with Kali sound like a temporary visit to heaven…
But it won’t be easy to hang with the Colombian queen and her crew, with the hip-hop crossover “¡Aqui Yo Mando!.” Lyrically, this is a femdom anthem, with Kali and Rico Nasty showing the control they have over the men they meet. Whether it be their money, their sexuality, or even their mere presence, the duo completely sell their power. Their performances are fiery, the beat is a minimalist banger with hints of Spanish trap laced throughout, and the result makes for one of Nasty’s best guest features and Kali’s best singles yet. “Vaya Con Dios” is the natural hangover after a hard night of flexing, with Kali reflecting on her own desires in an internal monologue that covers her own passions and worries. As a transitory moment in the record’s narrative, it works wonderfully alongside “Que Te Pedi” as a heartbroken bridge to further development (especially with some truly wonderful instrumentals).
“Quiero Sentirme Bien” seems to be an Isolation throwback instrumentally, with sleepy drums and playful bursts of synths bouncing across the mix as Kali sings about what she wants most: to feel good. Although the lyrics here seem a bit redundant and basic (especially with the use of metaphor and deeper introspection on other tracks), the sound of the whole track is undeniable. The following “Telepatía,” however, accentuates the surface-level aspects of the previous tracks to their natural extremes, making for a wonderful track. This song is long distance passion: with Kali wishing for telepathy with her partner, the dreamlike nature of the instrumental truly paints their distance as both incredibly close and incredibly far away. This song is the embrace you feel from a lover in your dream, only to wake up alone…
The back-end of Sin Miedo leans more heavily on the Spanish pop sounds of today, with some interesting results all around. “De Nadie” is an excellent character moment for Kali, addressing her turbulent relationship with love in a way that somehow strengthens her ethos rather than weakens it. “Me dicen bipolar” she croons throughout, making for a catchy refrain (she gives listeners tons of catchy hooks throughout the album)…the beat switch at the end is truly icing on the cake. “No Eres Tu (Soy Yo),” unfortunately, stalls the records final momentum with a beat and vocal performance that lack the polish or oomf of the rest of the album. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s very much a step down from the lyricism, songwriting, and instrumental aspects of the album’s previous songs. Thankfully, “Te Pongo Mal (Prendelo)” is nice pickmeup from this slight slip up…sure, the beat isn’t exactly creative (drawing from the Spanish Pop 101 textbook), but the groove is perfect for the sexual charisma Kali and Jowell & Randy bring to the song; after much of the introspection of the album’s writing, it’s nice to have a simple pop smash. Dear God, get Bad Bunny on this remix, and this will be a summertime anthem throughout South Florida…assuming things get better.
“La Luz (Fín),” is another Reggaeton-tinged banger, but it wraps up the album’s journey from heartbreak to bright horizons in a great way: it’s the celebratory night after a week full of stress. Jhay Cortez’s contributions to the song’s fits snugly with Kali’s themes of toxicty and enjoying the present romance at hand, and the Kali’s performance is perfect in its hedonistic and sensual nature. “Ángel Sin Cielo,” is an equal parts sad and positive ending for Kali’s journey through personal rediscovery. Even though she acknowledges that there are hard times to face ahead, she knows that deep down, she is beautiful and worth it, looking forward to experience the one life she has…
I loved the hell out of Sin Miedo. While I can acknowledge my Cuban bias in towards a bilingual record like this, I can wholeheartedly say this was anither great project from the Colombian queen. Sure, there were a few misfires here and there and Kali’s vocals haven’t changed much since her debut, but the quality is there. Her charisma, ability to craft songs that tie together into a potently cohesive story, and ear for great beats is what makes her succeed. I can’t wait to blast this album all day long when I’m back in Miami.
Tracks to Save: “Fue Mejor,” “Aguardiente y Limon,” “Aqui Yo Mando!,” “Vaya Con Dios,” “Quiero Sentirme Bien,” “Telepatia,” “De Nadie,” “Te Pongo Mal,” “La Luz”
Tracks to Skip: “No Eres Tu”
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