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Album Review: Kali Uchis -‘Isolation’

A gem that can not be put in a box.

Audrey Arellano

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Kali Uchis is in a league of her own.

The debut album from the Columbian-American singer, Isolation, is an authentic 15-track collection that plays with multiple genres from R&B, funk, soul, and Reggaeton.

This project is very different from her 2015 EP, Por Vida, which had an innocent and playful vibe. Uchis’ growth as a woman and as an artist are clearly in evidence on this album. The title exhibits solitude and self-realization while a coming-of-age theme runs through the album, with songs about heartbreak, power, and feminism.

The bossa nova track,“Body Language”, produced by Thundercat, starts the album off with a psychedelic tone that lures the listener into a 46-minute-long eargasm. This tone is also heard on tracks such as “Gotta Get Up” and the first single putout from the album, “Tyrant” featuring Jorja Smith.

Landing at No. 16 on Billboard’s Best Albums of 2018 list, the album is raw, in the sense that it does not conform to ordinary musical standards. Uchis’ versatility shines through with the various abstract instrumentals that occasionally switch up halfway through a track. The music is a lot like Uchis herself: she produces, while breaking boundaries with no regard for the rules. 

After dropping out of high school at the age of 17, Uchis found herself living in her Subaru Forester, the words “if you loved me, you wouldn’t put me through it” spilled from the pen onto the page of her notebook. Years later, these would become part of the lyrics to the soulful heartbreak-ballad, “Killer.” Much like two of her main influences — Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse — her butter-smooth vocals ripple through you, making you feel her pain on tracks like this one and “Flight 22.”

There is a perfect balance between unfeigned and sanguine tracks with funky bass lines that instantly change the mood. For instance, “Just a Stranger” featuring Steve Lacy from the The Internet and “Your Teeth In My Neck.”

The most notable song from this album is, by far, “Dead To Me.” This track is best played at an extremely loud volume, while driving around with your windows down, and singing at the top of your lungs. Trust me on this one.

If you have ever had someone in your life that just won’t leave you alone, this will be your new anthem. The song screams liberation and “big dick energy” with striking lyrics such as, “You think you got problems with me but baby I don’t even think about you/ You’re mad at everything I do/But, what are you up to? I haven’t a clue.”

The third single off of the album, “After the Storm,” features veteran-funk legend, Bootsy Collins, and Tyler, The Creator. The song is about being your own hero and finding your inner strength to overcome even the toughest obstacles in life. If I had to describe the track in one word, it would be perseverance, as Uchis sings “The sun will come out, nothing good ever comes easy. I know times are rough, but winners don’t quit, so don’t you give up.” She reassures the listener that things will look up and that you can’t stay down forever.

Uchis has come a long way from covering oldies in her hometown of Pereira, Colombia and posting them on YouTube. She’s wrapping up her first sold out tour and having her album named as one of Billboard’s best debut albums of 2018.

Uchis took a leap of faith with this innovative album, and has proven that she is a gem that can not be put in a box.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Audrey is a Journalism and Creative Writing graduate from Southern California. Her passion for writing began when she was gifted her first journal on her eighth birthday. She has written for both her community college and university newspaper. Her first love is music. On her free time she likes to go crate digging at record shops, browse art galleries, travel, read, and go to the beach.

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