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Kali Uchis steps out of her comfort zone with her second Latin album ORQUÍDEAS

By: Staff Writer Alice Zhao  

Colombian-American singer-songwriter Karly-Marina Loaiza, better known as Kali Uchis, demonstrates her versatility across musical genres with her fourth studio album ORQUÍDEAS, released on January 12. As her second Spanish-language album, which is named after Colombia’s national flower, the cattleya trianae orchid, Uchis aims to defy the expectations set for her as a Latina musician. While ORQUÍDEAS includes themes and sounds reminiscent of her previous releases, Uchis embraces new Latin genres in what is a self-described start to a new era.

Though Uchis has been releasing music since 2012, she gained popularity around 2017, especially with her debut 2018 album Isolation, because of her distinct sound — a dreamy blend of R&B, soul, and pop sounds influenced by music in the second half of the 20th century. Her career was further bolstered with the release of the single “telepatía” in her 2020 Spanish-language album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ and her collaborations with other artists, such as in her single “After the Storm (feat. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins).” Both of these singles gained popularity on social media apps such as TikTok and eventually peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs and at Top 20 on Billboard Hot R&B Songs

Features on ORQUÍDEAS, which include stars such as KAROL G and Peso Pluma, are just as popular. Uchis’ smooth voice blends seamlessly with all of her collaborators, such as in “Igual Que Un Ángel (with Peso Pluma),” Uchis’ melody combines with Pluma’s scratchy voice to create an angelic tune as they sing “Todos quieren plata, otros quieren fama / Un amor superficial” (“Everyone wants money, others want fame / A superficial love”). Her vocals provide a sharp contrast to El Alfa’s fast dembow verse in “Muñekita (with El Alfa & JT)” and echo KAROL G’s sultry tone in “Labios Mordidos (with KAROL G),” even though though the quick and upbeat tempo of the former could not be more different than the alluring, sensual R&B beat of the latter. 

The diverse features on the album allow Uchis to branch out from the crooning, R&B-inspired pop songs that have previously defined her style of music and explore all of the themes she seeks to convey. ORQUÍDEAS begins with a familiar sound: Uchis’ singing about an infatuated lover over a face-paced kick drum beat. However, as the album progresses, she seamlessly transitions from different genres and topics, singing about a loving romantic relationship in the DR-inspired song “Dame Beso // Muévete” one second and exploring themes of love, desire, and self-expression through “Muñekita (with El Alfa & JT)” the next.  The variety of Latin pop genres featured in the album allow for Uchis to expand on the ideas she wants to convey, best shown in her single “Te Mata,” which is about the aftermath of a toxic relationship. While it was inspired by the Cuban musical genre of Bolero, usually involving romantic lyrics, the song itself is about healing after an abusive relationship, subverting the expectations associated with Bolero songs and adding an extra layer of complexity to the song. 

ORQUÍDEAS ultimately centers around Uchis’ relationship with everything that the orchid represents — love, beauty, fertility, and passion. The album features a diverse cast of Latin collaborators, causing Uchis to step out of her comfort zone with confidence and grace, culminating in a listening experience that is both sensual and reflective. Kali Uchis truly blooms in her sophomore Latin album, which is not one to be missed.

Grade: A- (9.2/10)

Vocals: A- (9.2/10)

Features: A (9.4/10)

Production: A- (9/10)

Graphics by: Pitchfork, Los Angeles Times & Spotify

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