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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

Reviews | Kali Uchis | Isolation

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Tyler The Creator, Bootsy Collins, Jorja Smith and BIA are among the supporting cast on Kali Uchis’s rich debut

It’s easy to classify Kali Uchis as a Columbian Lana Del Rey, or a West Coast Amy Winehouse. This is the Kali Uchis we fell in love with in her music video for ‘Loner’ two years ago: lips puckered, highlighter sparkling, and bubblegum American drive-in station, a purple silk-sheeted motel room. The luxury is fascinating, and the various feather-tipped sparkly disguises mixed in with her mysterious lyrics and smokey vocal delivery.


In her escapism-drenched debut, Isolation, Karly-Marina Loaiza continues to revel in her lost-girl alter ego Kali Uchis. She sings about herself in the third person on ‘Just a Stranger’, a danceable standout in which bassist and vocalist Steve Lacy sings the hook - “She don’t want love, she wants my hundred dollar bills.” A self-described “hurricane”, Uchis’ wistful vocals float over the driving bass almost threateningly: her delivery is sugary-sweet, but an intimidating confidence and propensity to manipulate rides along with it. She’ll hypnotise you into giving her your money, your attention and your love, then break your heart at the snap of her fingers. One can imagine her writing this track, along with ‘Miami’, ‘Your Teeth in My Neck’, and ‘Dead to me’, while applying false eyelashes and lining her lips in front of a vintage lightbulb-bordered vanity mirror.


Though Uchis’ signature swagger is sustained throughout, she unveils another layer to this character in the rest of this album: one fraught with heartbreak, seclusion and self-doubt. Lead single ‘Tyrant’ touches romantic distrust, while ‘Gotta Get Up’ describes being too depressed to get out of bed. The lyrics of ‘In My Dreams’ come across like self-talk she doesn’t quite believe, as she describes a world without insecurities or drug-rattled family problems. Her swooning vocals are highlighted on horn-heavy, ‘Back To Black’-reminiscent track ‘Feel Like a Fool’, as she swoons about losing a lover to another woman. It’s followed by the even slower, sadder closing track, ‘Killer’. Funk basslines, disco guitar and snappy percussion leaven the heartache across the album.


Kali told Fader magazine that she felt “more in tune” with herself in the creation of this album, and the melancholic lyrics clearly contain moments of honesty. They also feel romantic, in the sense of a troubled celebrity or a Shakespearean tragedy. With features like BIA, Jorja Smith, Reykon, Tyler The Creator and Bootsy Collins, Uchis’ debut is clearly meant to make a big impact, and her romantic-tragic persona complements it beautifully.


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