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Isolation Solidifies Kali Uchis’ Compelling Pop Star Status

Illustration by Grace Schafer-Perry

It all sounds the same. “When I was a kid…” said any parent who grew up in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s when asked about pop music nowadays. While this is neither a true statement, nor an accurate one, it’s understandable how ears that heard The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix could be unimpressed by the music of artists like Lil Pump or Drake. Mainstream music has no doubt come to a standstill as far as creation of revolutionary material goes, as the revolutionaries today typically sit in the wings while mainstream artists make millions off of lyrics they don’t write, sung or rapped over sampled beats and music they often times don’t create. So when an album drops made by a relatively mainstream artist that has a different sound to it, it’s exciting. That’s exactly what Colombian-American singer, Karly-Marina Loaiza, better known by her stage name Kali Uchis, has done with the release of her first studio album, Isolation. The album oozes with dreamy creativity, and just when you think she might have lost you, it brings you back to reality with incredibly blunt depth and underlying yet present tones of sadness and regret.

With each listen, it’s hard not to be amazed at the amount of topics this album dwells upon in fifteen tracks, and how seamlessly and effortlessly it’s done, with each track offering its unique contribution to the album. Uchis starts off with opening track, “Body Language,” a light and airy track that introduces us to Isolation. The opening song seems to be an introduction into her personal “isolation,” as she sings in her second verse “Now I’m packing all my bags, and I am leaving it behind/ There’s no tracking where I’m going, there’s no me for them to find.” What she is leaving behind and who “them” refers to is a complete mystery, but more than anything the verse seems an invitation for the listener to join Uchis on her trek through isolation.

After body language, the next track “Miami” ft. BIA, has an eerie and distant sound to it, as Uchis tells a story from earlier in her life. The song is deep and nostalgic, and we see the first of many references to her Latin American heritage as she sings, “Bienvenidos a Miami” in the opening verse. “Just a Stranger” ft. Steve Lacy, is one of the best songs of the album. This is the first time we really get to hear Uchis’ tremendous vocal range, as she sings another dreamy yet refreshing song, about peacefully getting lost while in love,  “You’re Teeth in My Neck” pulls you in with its catchy bass, lyrics, and crisp chorus.

Then the album hits a bit of a lull. While “In my Dreams” ft. The Gorillaz is catchy, it’s a little sappy and generic with lyrics like “He’s my dream boy/We bought a house in the clouds, so we can only look down/It’s the dream world” and while the following three tracks are good, they all blend together, and seem to repeat sounds from earlier in the album. The final three tracks however firmly solidify this as one of the top pop albums of 2018 so far. The most popular track of the album, “After the Storm” blends the intriguing feature combination of Bootsy Collins and Tyler, the Creator, with a surprisingly inspiring and upbeat tone compared to the rest of the album. The closing track, “Killer” continues the blunt lyrical emotional feeling that Uchis seems to pick up in the final two tracks, but falls back into the more dreamy sounding vocals from earlier in the album again referencing dreamers, and taking us to a different world.

A beautifully crafted album that lives in nostalgia and remorse, Isolation cements Uchis as one of the top artists in music today, and gives listeners a unique and unexpected experience.