The Spanish-language album features a resurrected Kali, more grown up, and unapologetic. The Colombian-American dips into her Latinx roots. She gives us everything from reggaetón, to bolero covers, cementing herself as an artist that is unbound by genres.
The album retains some of the classic Kali Uchisms like her dream pop aesthetic and jazz elements. She’s the Kali her early fans fell in love with in her EP, Por Vida, but more grown up. An empowered “boss bitch” like Rico Nasty raps in “Aquí Yo Mando.”
“Yo tomo las decisiones, yo escojo las posiciones. Puedes tener los cojones, pero yo los pantalones,” sings Kali Uchis in the same song.
She wears the pants, a phrase a Latinx audience understands well. To wear the pants in the relationship is to be in control. Kali revises an archaic, and often sexist, Latinx saying. She has agency. She’s the one in control.
A common message found throughout the album. In “te pongo mal(prendelo)” ft Randy Nota Loca & Jowell, the reggaetón smasher, Kali sings in a faster paced rhythm than the rest of the song: “A mí me dicen la jefa, o dicen muñeca, deliciosa,” rendering comparisons to Ivy Queen for its feminist lyrics in what has traditionally been a genre dominated by male artists. “Pero yo nunca necesitaba a ti, necesitabas de mí.”
Her other reggaetón song, “la luz (Fín)” ft. Jhay Cortez, was applauded for its bisexual representation by fans. Even though the lyrics at face value read like an interaction between a straight couple with words like “papi,” the music video is anything but. In it, Kali rides around in a lowrider with Softest Hard, Kali’s friend and a DJ, who plays her lover. Kali crouches down next to her and licks her cheek. Later in the video they roll around in bed, making out and grinding.
A sexually reawakened Kali walks into her skin. Gone is the heart torn Kali from the past. In her debut album, Isolation, Kali compared her lover to a “Killer” for breaking her heart; “And if you loved me, you’d never do this. Our future’s battered and bloody. You’re so fucking ruthless.”
For new-Kali, moving on is painless. “No, amor, no me duele perderterte.” It doesn’t hurt to lose you, Kali sings in “Fue Mejor” ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR. A sentiment repeated in PARTYNEXTDOOR’s verse “Sometimes, you feel you’re better off without me.”
In this post-love landscape Kali’s exes burn like pictures she discards into a fire. She’s more assured of herself. It’s clear, she trusts her creative vision. She’s not trying to prove herself anymore. She’s embraced her inability to fit into a traditional pop mold.
Perhaps, one of the most sentimental parts of the album are her two bolero covers. A harkening back to her Latinx influences, but with a Kali spin. The first song of the album is “La Luna Enamorada,” a renamed cover of the 1960s song “La Luna en tu Mirada” by Los Zafiros.
Her modern take includes a spoken dialogue by Kali that introduces the song. “Y tú qué pensaste? ¿Que yo me iba a echar a morir? La venganza es dulce, ¿sabes?”
“What did you think that I was going to die? Revenge is sweet, you know? Very sweet,” says Kali before belting the song in a lower pitch than she usually sings in. The intro revamps the song for a modern audience. The personified moon is stripped of its romantic male gaze and reintroduced as feminized vengeance.
The song was also used in a video trailer for the album. On her Instagram, Kali Uchi’s said the video was an homage to Iris Chacón, who was known as “La Bomba de Puerto Rico,” and has been iconized as a pioneer of unashamed sexuality. In the video, Kali sits on a motorcycle, clad in a red curly wig, a nod to Chacón’s hairstyle.
She also covers “Que te Pedi” by La Lupe, another icon by her own right. In her shortened version of the original, Kali laments a love that couldn’t be. Despite the short lapses of sentimentality in the album, Kali largely presents a woman who is moving on with her life. “I won’t ever go back to where I used to be,” she sings in “quiero sentirme bien.” She is literally healing, “we’re healing right.”
The same song starts with “Angel, labios de miel.” An image that she carries throughout the album, from the cover of the album, to lyrics. The word “miel” is also repeated throughout, fittingly there is something like angelic honey about listening to Kali. This song makes you want to dance alone and forget your problems with a glass of good wine in your hand.
A trombone provides a sort of soothsaying pace to fall back on Kali’s heavenly vocals. There’s a nostalgic return to her soothing, hypnotic, melodies. Her enchanting quality. She takes us to another world that unfurls in shades of baby blue and lilac. “Quiero vivir en paz en las montañas.”
But she’s a newly realized Kali. She’s not looking back. She’s not afraid to try new things. In “telepatia” the pitch is lowered in the outro, a distorted deep voice sings “all these voices in the background of my brain.” Something done throughout the album in other songs like in “de nadie, where “Me dicen bipolar,” is also lowered. Kali returns to a theme she’s sang about before. In “Loner” from Por Vida, she sang about “mind games, manipulation.” But here, she reclaims a phrase that is often used to minimize women and stigmatize people who have bipolar disorder as undecisive.
“Yo sé cómo soy, va. I know that I got issues, that’s the truth. And if you get offended, that’s on you.’
It’s not her job to comfort anyone. She is who she is. Take it or leave it.
A motto that breaths though the album. She’s not afraid to try new things, even if she might lose people along the way. Something she hinted at might happen because of the Spanish lyrics. But if charts prove anything, is that her audience accepted her, and has maybe even grown. The album made the #1 on the Latin Album Chart and also the top ten of all US albums.
By María Esquinca