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Kali Uchis
Orquideas Verónica A. Bastardo , January 11th, 2024 09:12

Romance and sensuality run through the diverse sounds of a versatile Latin female artist, finds Verónica A. Bastardo

Kali Uchis isn’t just the singer behind the 2021 TikTok trend ‘Telepatía’, neither just the voluptuous body seen on her album covers. Behind her sensual looks and unique visual artistry, there’s a multi-talented musician who now comes with a diverse full-length album, highlighting lost gems from the vast world of Latin music beyond reggaeton.

Orquideas are the national flower of Colombia, Uchis’s native country, and also the name of her latest record, an album which embodies the ultimate Latino-Spanglish sound. This is becoming a genre of its own, defined by the code-switching in the lyrics, but also by the unique musical experience that comes from the cultural mix of being born in a Latin American country and developing part your life in the US. Artists like Cuco or The Marias fit this subgenre, too. However, Uchis is the most popular and the catchiest artist of the Spanglish world.

It’s all in her way of playing with US pop and Latin-pop trends, while her creative approach, focused on imaginary experiences explored through her light and airy voice, is a big part of the key to her success and the source of what keeps her music always feeling refreshing. Tracks like ‘Cómo así’ and ‘Me pongo loca’ embody that. She’s still not beating the chillhop mami allegations yet, though – not after listening to ‘Young Rich and In Love’. So her distinct 2018 style isn’t lost at all. The dreamy synths, the soft vocal harmonies and the unhurried compositions are still there in several tracks on this record. Thanks to that, Orquideas is the perfect tracklist to introduce any newcomers into a more niche latin sound.

Most of the lyrics are cheesy romance, heartbreak and sensual overdose, but it’s the way she goes from a US TikTok-friendly composition, like the feature with Peso Pluma ‘Igual que un ángel’, to a flavoured merengue in the best style of Wilfrido Vargas’ ‘El baile del perrito’ (as in her last track, ‘Dame un beso/Muévete’), or to a gorgeous bolero driven by an apparent full orchestra and raw vocal interpretation, that makes you think, “well, this really is just a great album to listen to.” (By the way, shout out to ‘Te mata’. It’s just too perfect of a modern bolero, with the heavy bongo beats, glimmering piano and the gûiro working together just to directly go “1, 2, 3”, extremely close with your dance partner – or simply to cry off a tough heartbreak).

Of course, if you look more into it, there are sub-themes to be found here of female empowerment and sexual liberation through taking ownership of the narrative. Getting to sing with key female artists, like JT from hip-hop duo City Girl (‘Muñekita’ might be my favourite song on the album) or global superstar Karol G (‘Labios mordidos’) only serve to reassert it. But what Uchis has done here is to mix her Latin roots and her desire to explore niche Latin American genres with her dreamy chillhop trademark to come up with a perfectly delivered and diverse range of musical proposals. It’s this achievement that shows her as an all-rounded musician.