Album Review: Kali Uchis – Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞

[Interscope; 2020]

When it was announced that Kali Uchis’ new album would be almost entirely in Spanish, it’s likely that a large number of her fans felt disappointed. Kali’s sparkling hooks and clever lyrics were ever-present on her critically acclaimed 2018 full length album Isolation, and it was perhaps reasonable to expect that those non-Hispanophones out there wouldn’t be able appreciate them in the same way this time around. After last year’s inessential stand-alone reggaeton single “Solita”, it has seemed clear that the Colombian singer songwriter shone more when she was writing conventional, nevertheless eclectic pop/R&B instead of singing over hard-hitting TKN-style beats. The three singles released before Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ seemed to back this up, especially as they leaned more into Hispanic-influenced styles, but were not up to the quality of the choicest cuts from Isolation.

Fortunately, after listening through new album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞, it becomes apparent that the album is very different to expectations. It’s still very much Kali Uchis doing what she does best. This album is a celebration of her roots, both musically and lyrically. What’s most evident about it though is that, musically, there is really no reason that Isolation-loving fans should have trouble listening to this.

The majority of the album’s synth-laden production is dreamy and atmospheric, as Kali opts for a Clairo-esque bedroom pop vibe. The song writing still excels, notably on “telepatía”, where she effortly slips between Spanish and English on the woozy, memorable hook. Other highlights include “que te pedí//”, which almost sounds as though it belongs on an old James Bond film, while simultaneously paying some homage to her roots with hints of Colombian jazz or bossa nova. The vocal performance, something which she arguably struggled on in her previous album, also shines on this song. “quiero sentirme bien” is a head-swaying slow jam; the bopping beat trudges along while Kali follows languidly, wistfully wondering what it would be like to live in the mountains without the fame. 

Unusually, it’s in the singles and features where Sin Miedo is at its weakest. It seems Kali is trying to do something along the lines of long-time friend Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy, where the soulful and calming atmosphere is interrupted by a few hard-hitting bangers and features. In Tyler’s case, the tracks are expertly produced, with guests employed to their full impact, while on Sin Miedo the tracks with guests feel as though they are without purpose, and interrupt the overall flow. PARTYNEXTDOOR’s feature on “fue major” feels incredibly half-baked, while the upcoming Rico Nasty, who appears on the lead single “¡aquí yo mando!”, sounds unconvincing alongside Kali on a reggaeton beat. “la luz(Fín)” is better, as Kali just feels more confident on a more down tempo classic R&B beat where she steams it up alongside Puerto Rican singer Jhay Cortez.

The main takeaway from Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ is that Kali can still write great material while singing in a completely different language – if that was ever in doubt. It isn’t as impactful as Isolation, but there are plenty of moments on this record where Kali shows great potential that she may yet make that truly fantastic Spanglish R&B album.