No one could accuse Kali Uchis of wasting time. The tour to promote her third album, Red Moon on Venus, ended a matter of weeks ago – with a performance at Camp Flog Gnaw, the festival curated by her sometime collaborator Tyler, the Creator – and yet here is its follow-up. She announced its arrival – or rather she announced a “new era” for her music – back in July, a mere four months after Red Moon in Venus came out.
Perhaps, in the current music industry, it has become common for artists to constantly release new albums and refer to them as “eras”. This may be due to the abundance of distractions and new music, making it necessary to keep up in order to maintain an audience. Another factor could be the artist’s personal history. Orquídeas is Uchis’ second album primarily in Spanish, as she grew up between America and Colombia. Her first album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), was released in 2020 and faced backlash from her record label. Despite their warnings to stick to the style of her popular song “After the Storm”, which has an R&B sound, Uchis chose to include cumbia and bolero influences. According to Uchis, her label did not support or promote the album, resulting in it not charting.
However, this was before her song “Telepatía” gained popularity as the background music for a lip-sync challenge on TikTok. It also became the first song by a Latina artist to reach over 1 billion streams on Spotify. It seems that now Uchis feels empowered to do as she pleases without any outside interference. The quick release of her new album “Orquídeas” – recorded alongside “Red Moon in Venus” – may come with a hint of triumph, as if to say “How do you like that?”
Perhaps Uchis simply wanted to release Orquídeas quickly because she believes it is an exceptional album, and in this aspect, she is correct. The album incorporates traditional Latin-American musical styles such as bolero in the closing track “Dame Beso / Muevete” and dembow in “Muñekita”. The single “Labios Mordidos” cleverly incorporates a reggaeton beat with a wiry synth riff reminiscent of Dr Dre’s early 00s productions, as well as bursts of the iconic 70s Stalag riddim from reggae. At times, the Latin influence may seem minimal, as seen in “Tu Corazón es Mío”, a beautiful but straightforward soul ballad with a touch of Philadelphia International’s lush sound. If you listen closely, you may catch the scrape of a drumstick on a guiro somewhere in the mix, but that is the extent of it. The album’s signature style is established in the opening track “¿Cómo Así?”, which begins with a soft and ethereal sound similar to a track from the mostly downtempo album Red Moon in Venus. However, a fast-paced dancefloor beat unexpectedly bursts in, propelling the track forward.
Orquídeas specializes in a highly enticing sound, incorporating Uchis’s signature dreamy tones with rhythms geared towards the club scene. These include house music’s four-to-the-floor beats, mid-tempo disco in “Igual Que un Ángel,” the offbeat stutter of reggaeton, and a trap-inspired drum machine snap in the 80s synth-soul ballad “Perdiste.” This approach proves to be successful. However, one could argue that Red Moon in Venus prioritized creating a mood over individual songs, resulting in a pleasant but somewhat repetitive listening experience. With this album, the dreamy mood remains but with added variety and a sense of urgency thanks to the beats.
She continues to display her talent for writing powerful and cold-hearted lyrics: “You lost me, how sad … oh, that must hurt,” begins Perdido. ¿Cómo Así? and Diosa both revolve around dominating men (“Make ’em beg for it,” suggests the former, while the latter boasts “I’m a total goddess … with me he’s submissive”). This theme is revisited in Helado, where Uchis demands both ice cream and a foot rub from her (male) partner and refers to him as “my little princess”. Labios Mordidos offers a passionate tribute to lesbianism, with a focus on a “Tarantino movie doll”. Surprisingly, No Hay Ley, Parte 2 mentions 90s Belgian pop-house group Technotronic as the perfect soundtrack for smoking a joint after sex: cleverly, the lyrics rhyme their name with a line that translates to “my abdomen is iconic”.
It’s a combination of dreaminess and fuzziness, yet still manages to be sharp, clever, and easy to dance to. It has a diverse range of sounds, but they all come together cohesively and are consistently enjoyable. This album showcases Kali Uchis as an artist who is fully confident in her artistic vision and knows exactly how to execute it.
Alexis spent this week listening to music.
Sheer Mag – Moonstruck
The Philadelphia band’s latest album, released after a five-year gap, skillfully blends together elements of punk, 70s soul, and catchy pop.