You are greeted first by ethereal, reverberating echoes, a soft chorus, and light percussion. Then, the opening lines, spoken: “¿Y tú qué pensaste? ¿Que yo me iba echar a morir?” (lit. transl. “And what did you think? That I was going to throw myself down to die?”). With these telenovela-worthy remarks, the picture for the second studio album by Kali Uchis is then painted: dramatic, dynamic, and exquisitely Hispanic.
What follows after the intro of Sin Miedo (al Amor y Otros Demonios), ‘la luna enamorada’, is a musical narration of a woman who is personally, romantically, and spiritually self-assured – eponymously, she is without fear.
What immediately stands out about Sin Miedo is the way in which Uchis balances a wide variety of genres. It is astonishing that the thirteen tracks manage to showcase characteristics of reggaeton, downbeat R&B, vallenato, latin soul and pop (sometimes even within a single track), while remaining uniform in their delivery. The mix of genres is, surprisingly, never jarring nor disorienting.
Features by Rico Nasty, PartyNextDoor, and Jhay Cortez almost consistently compliment Uchis’ sultry vocals. The features function as a means by which to pick up otherwise unrushed momentum, although the most critical of lens’ would deem the songs ‘no eres tu (soy yo)’ and ‘te pongo mal (prendelo)’, in which Jowell & Randy feature, to be too similar to differentiate upon an initial listen. Either way, the track order and seamless transitions serve to perfectly pace the album, as well as allow Uchis to break away from the typical ‘slow burn’ style similar to her EP Por Vida or the pop masterclass that her debut album Isolation was.
Leading single ‘aquí yo mando’ persists shockingly in that it makes reggaeton exciting again whilst also fitting well within the alternative musical environment Uchis has constructed for herself. ‘telepatía’ and supporting single ‘aguardiente y limón’ can also be ranked highly when it comes to their admittedly catchy chorus and potent percussion.
Two definitive album highlights that had not been released prior, however, are ‘vaya con dios’ and ‘angel sin cielo’, as they demonstrate Uchis’ versatility in a way which had not yet been showcased. The song ‘vaya con dios’, for example, throws the listener into an orchestral pop arena deserving of a latino James Bond film, while ‘ángel sin cielo’, the outro, hits a soft spot for latinx listeners who appreciate the apparent homage to Shakira through the guitar accompaniment and unique voice intonations. The latter was filmed by the singer in her room, and displays her ability to impress without the embellishment of excessive post-production modifications.
A review of Sin Miedo would not be complete without commenting on the short cover of ‘que te pedí’ that is also featured. This song, originally from La Lupe, a bolero singer from Cuba, epitomises the album as a whole. La Lupe was banned from Puerto Rico after tearing her clothes off on a TV performance in 1962, a time when women were by default to be covered up, only to be shown in fragments on-demand.
Uchis makes the song her own, using it to bring the listener back to the fact that at its core, the album is about fully and confidently navigating a raw romantic passion; purely without fear, disregarding any illusory limits imposed.
Image: Lexie Alley via Sly Vinyl