Two years after her critically acclaimed first studio album “Isolation,” Kali Uchis has returned with another genre exploring work, “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞” translated into “Without Fear (of Love and Other Demons).” Performed primarily in Spanish, “Sin Miedo” sees Uchis venture away from the pop-R&B sound of “Isolation” to embrace her Latino heritage through the sounds of reggaeton and Latin jazz.
“¿Y tú que pensaste? ¿Que yo me iba echar a morir? La venganza es dulce, ¿sabes?” (“What did you think? That I was going to roll over and die? Don’t you know, revenge is sweet”)
Those lyrics alongside a soulful guitar open set the tone for the rest of an unapologetically Latino album. Upon first listening to the opening track I was taken back by just how Colombian Uchis spoke, reminding me of the mannerisms in conversations with my cousins. Besides from dialect, Kali Uchis continued to pull upon her Colombian-Latino roots as well as reminding me of mine throughout the record. The song “//Aguardiente y limón %ᵕ‿‿ᵕ%” honors the Colombian national drink while “que te pedi//” is a beautiful cover of a La Lupe song that even my grandfather would enjoy. Uchis’s powerful vocals on this track bleed through as if crying on stage in a Cuban nightclub for a lover that she has long lost.
Latin American music stretches beyond conventional definitions and Kali Uchis is talented and skillful in guiding the listener through both genres and periods. The tracklist serves a wonderful road map for non-Latino audiences, ranging from the previously mentioned covered bolero track “que te pedi//” to the more known reggaeton style of “te pongo mal(prendelo)” all the while through, lined with Uchis’s own brand of bedroom pop and dream r&b. “Quiero sentirme bien” might be the closest sounding to her previous album but even then it demonstrates a beautiful maturing of an artist into a self-confident powerhouse. Her lyricism straddles English and Spanish, playfully recreating how bilingual children will talk with their parents.
With each track inspired by songs from her childhood, Kali Uchis has created a welcoming sign for her Latin fans. Instead of ignoring her Spanish listeners as previous Latin artists have done in the past, Uchis digs deep to proudly display her heritage and acknowledge that her music pulls influences from up and down the globe. However, this has meant that some English-speaking listeners have rejected her work, too uncomfortable to experiment with something different. Uchis has already addressed this negativism in a tweet back from October 1st. “Today i drop another song in Spanish which I know means another day of disappointment for my English speaking fans who do not wish to make the attempt to listen to music in languages they can’t understand.”
A Colombian immigrant myself, this album has been a validation of my American experience. It would have been easy for Uchis to have prioritized her American and English-speaking audience and yet she refused, overcoming the challenge of releasing music in a different language to possibly hostile reception. Latinos might have a nostalgic attachment to Sin Miedo but Uchis’s new album was created for absolutely everyone. I implore everyone, despite your culture to please go and listen to the sounds that Kali and I grew up to.