Kali Uchis has only ever wanted one thing: devotion. Her sultry voice is as hypnotic as the Sirens in Greek mythology and her persona has the airs of a ruthless mob boss, but she sings about wanting something true. She’s over one night stands and wants nothing to do with a Romeo & Juliet-esque tragic romance. She wants a love she can wrap her arms around without ever needing obsession, anger or sexual tension to reinforce it. If she feels a connection in her body and soul, she’ll lay with you in a bed of roses until the end of time. Whether it’s during the honeymoon phase, through a lengthy courtship or in a La La Land-like bitter epilogue, Uchis’s love spreads throughout the cosmos.
After displaying untouchable swagger on her debut and flexing international versatility on her sophomore effort, Uchis’s heart takes center stage on Red Moon in Venus. Her third album is 43 minutes of silky smooth lessons of love spoken from moments of deep connection, longing and hopeful desire, all sung from whatever astral plane that guides the Colombian American singer. If the warm color palette on the cover or the Red Moon mentioned in the title don’t make the romantic mood of the album clear, the songs are splashed with luscious keyboards, faded drums and Uchis’s velvet vocals reaching galaxies in the forefront while being elevated by heavenly backup harmonies.
The sonic richness of Uchis’s voice is undeniable on “I Wish you Roses,” “All Mine,” “Moral Conscience” and “Blue” as she lets each line unfurl like a flower in bloom. Lead single “Roses” sounds like a classic James Bond theme with its slow burn drum and bass rhythm and Uchis backing the song with vocals that circle around her ethereal presence. It’s as if she just pulled the trigger on you with a bullet covered in her own red lipstick as a last goodbye. “All Mine” is another atmospheric flex with background vocals that let each of Uchis’s brags about being irreplaceable in the eyes of her love stretch to the sky. Uchis is an expert at following whatever beat she’s working with, as her vocals bounce and skip along to the lo-fi drums on “Moral Conscience” before screeching to high heaven at the end of the first verse. When she dims the lights and turns into a lonesome lounge singer on “Blue,” she turns a desperate breakup song into the album’s true peak. The mixing and layering of her hurt vocals backed by a faded saxophone sound so gorgeous and expansive, you’d think they’re coming from the aurora borealis itself.
Uchis has proven to be a solid musical chameleon so far, jumping from neo-soul to reggaeton to R&B throughout her albums. Red Moon in Venus has a lot of sonic consistency throughout its 15 tracks, many of the songs being slow-burn soul with spacey production peppered in. There are some diversions: “Fantasy” has a nice dancehall groove to it and the guest feature from Don Toliver (Uchis’s real-life boyfriend) sets the mood at the track’s start, but someone more experienced with the groove (Wizkid, for instance) could click with Uchis better than Toliver, who sounds lost and overpowered on the track. “Endlessly” has an instrumental closer to classic Michael Jackson or early 80s R&B, while “Hasta Cuando” is the most current (and least fitting) of the album tracks, with the same doubled-up drums and harshened vibe as a proven hit from The Weeknd or Post Malone. The album actually ends on a surprisingly chipper note with “Happy Now” and its disco drums lush string section that feels more like an interlude than something to drop the curtains on.
If anything, “I Wish you Roses” would be the better album closer for its faded music and lyrics of a farewell feeling. The sentiment of the title is Uchis wishing a lover well (“I wish you roses while you can still smell ‘em”) during and even after the romance ends (“But if you and my heart should someday drift apart/I’ll make surе to give you these blеssings because they’re all I’ve got”). Uchis knows she has the best view on love, as “Worth the Wait” lays out her very specific life goals (“Quit tellin’ me you wanna put a baby in me/If your affection for me’s truly only skin-deep/I don’t wanna end up just another broken family”). It’s not that Uchis avoids the raunchier sides of romance, whether it’s on the island getaway of “Fantasy” (“Diamonds on my wrist, that’s my love language (Uh-huh)/And kisses down my back, starting from my neck”) or the groovy air of “Como Te Quiero Yo” (“But lately, I just wanna make love/I don’t wanna fight, can we make up?”). But romantic devotion is the most prominent theme on Red Moon in Venus and Uchis knows how to explore every form of that love. “Endlessly” speaks for itself (“It’s never one night, it’s never no games/Got the type sex you’ll put on repe-eat”) while “Happy Now” celebrates the slow burn of a courtship (“Our spark turned to flames/Don’t gotta listen to a word they say/It was nevеr their business anyway/Let’s you and mе start over today”).
Like all great singers, Uchis thrives when she sings about heartache and loneliness. The three-song block of “Moral Conscience,” “Not Too Late” and “Blue” bring the house down as Uchis does the stages of grief out of order, from anger (“Conscience”) to bargaining (“Not Too Late”) to despair (“Blue”). “Moral Conscience” balances allure with desperation as Uchis bets on the spirits and stars in the sky to get revenge on an ex (“I hope you know when karma comes ’round/Knockin’ down on your door/She’s comin’ to collect ’cause karma won’t forget”). “Not Too Late” may only be an interlude, but it still has the magic of Uchis turning desperation into charisma (“No, I’m not your type, you can be honest/But it’s not too late to admit you love me”). Again, the gem in the tracklist is the simmering “Blue” with Uchis playing the loneliest girl at the party challenging her own romantic devotion (“How do you get cold so fast?/’Cause there ain’t much to make me ever walk away, yeah/Guess I love you way too hard”).
Whether it celebrates luscious warmth or cold desire, Red Moon in Venus shows love in numerous shades and Uchis is an expert in all of them. While missing the fun style shifts of her stellar debut Isolation, Uchis’s third album still has an enveloping sonic richness from her expansive vocal work and the wavy music backing it. Already proven to have oodles of charisma, Uchis now shows more dimensions as an artist by turning emotional vulnerability into some kind of galactic superpower. She says one more album is on the way this year, so lord knows how much farther her romantic embrace can stretch on a record.
Featured Image Courtesy of Geffen Records