The Long Wait for “Isolation:” Kali Uchis Album Review
by Coraima Camacho
Six years after her mixtape “Drunken Babble,” and three years after her EP “Por Vida,” Colombian-American singer, songwriter, video director, and record producer Karly-Marina Loaiza, better known as Kali Uchis, released her debut album, “Isolation.”
Uchis became involved with music at a young age, playing the saxophone and piano. However, it was not until high school that she was introduced to music production and video editing. The 23-year-old Virginian first gained recognition in 2015 when her EP was labeled “genre-defying” for the eclectic range of sounds it contained: doo-wop, reggae, 2000s R&B, and jazz. The jazz influence stemming from the love of her idols Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Despite being relatively new to the music scene, Uchis has already had her fair share of success. Not only was she the opening act for Lana Del Rey’s “L.A. to the Moon Tour,” but she has received multiple award nominations. She was recently nominated for “Record of the Year” at the 2017 Latin Grammys, and also garnered a nomination for “Best R&B Performance” along with Daniel Caesar, at the 2018 Grammys for “Get You.” “Isolation” is no exception as it demonstrates her handle on R&B, reggaetón, and funk, earning her a prominent position in the world of pop-soul.
“Isolation” features collaborations with Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Bootsy Collins, and Tyler, The Creator. However, she is no stranger to collaboration with the greats; prior to “Isolation,” Uchis collaborated with Snoop Dogg on the song “On Edge” for his 2014 mixtape, “That’s My Work,” and Miguel on his 2017 album “War & Leisure.” Similarly, “Por Vida” counted with production from Diplo, Kaytranada, and Tyler, The Creator.
Not only have fans gone crazy over the album but various celebrities such as Kehlani and Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui have praised not only Uchis’ lyrical abilities but “storytelling acumen” as well. One such track is “Miami” featuring Puerto Rican rapper BIA, narrating about immigrant hustle and the American dream, as in one of the song’s standout lyrics: “Why would I be Kim, I could be Kanye/In the land of opportunity and palm trees.”
The album opens with “Body Language (intro),” setting a psychedelic tone with an island-esque vibe which resembles Brazilian-jazz, as Uchis sings about physical intimacy and entices the listen to “Just come closer, closer, closer…” In many ways “Body Language” resembles “Sycamore Tree,” the introduction of her EP, however, the latter is more an acapella and less sensual than “Body Language.” When asked about the vibe of the track, she responded: “I like being able to open a project with a mysterious, flowy, dainty moment… It’s a tease before you start diving into all these different sounds.”
Released in 2017, the album’s leading single, “Tyrant,” featuring British R&B singer Jorja Smith, is a smooth production featuring a catchy chorus that is sure to be stuck in listeners’ heads for days with potential to become a summer anthem.
The fourth track, “Flight 22,” was recorded at the Daptone House of Soul in Brooklyn with producer and engineer Wayne Gordon, and has her channeling her inner Amy Winehouse, whom she describes as an “impactful icon in music” for newcomers.
Uchis remains true to her roots throughout “Isolation,” occasionally integrating spanish tracks on the album, yet her only fully spanish song on the album is “Nuestro Planeta,” featuring colombian reggaetón singer, Reykon. Produced by the same producers as the reggaetón hit “Chantaje” by colombian singers Maluma and Shakira, “Nuestro Planeta” has Uchis and Reykon singing about a lost love. The track is a soft, careful hinting at reggaetón without being too rooted in the genre.
Overall, “Isolation” keeps the listener on its toes with each track representing a small piece of a bigger puzzle that showcases the diverse aspects of Kali Uchis as a songwriter, and her boldness when it comes to dabbling in different genres. If Uchis aimed to make a statement with “Isolation,” her goal was accomplished. She is a force to be reckoned with.