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Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

Kali Uchis Blooms on Latin-Influenced Album, Orquídeas

Cropped cover of Kali Uchis’ latest album, Orquídeas,
which was released this January as the fourth album
in her discography (Credit: Geffen Records)
Cropped cover of Kali Uchis’ latest album, Orquídeas, which was released this January as the fourth album in her discography (Credit: Geffen Records)

“We have more species of orchid than anywhere on Earth,” says Kali Uchis on the Colombian national flower, their romantic symbolism inspiring her latest album, Orquídeas. Think of petals swooping outward to reveal a fleshy inside, exposed floral organs and an allure that beckons and winks — Uchis’ sound and Colombian orchids mirror each other. She’s known for her dim-the-lights, smoky R&B, her latest release soaked in the sensual, with dew-droplet hooks and blushing lyricism.


Yet Orquídeas isn’t an R&B project alone. It’s her second Spanish-language album, with echoes from reggaeton in its bassline as she sings in a latin-pop soundscape. On Uchis’ Instagram teaser, she shared a video with an old TV screen, four language options displayed: English, Portuguese, Español, and Français. Choosing Spanish, the word Orquídeas flashed in a floral background.


It’s like a warm sleepover, the way “¿Cómo Así?” (“How come?”) begins the album, a laughter’s curl in the listener’s left ear. Her dance influence bubbling over like a soft drink, the track’s opening line: “I make ‘em beg for it,” placing Uchis as the centerpiece for romantic attention. Uchis sings in a breathy higher register with catchy verses, cascading down in the chorus, a siren as she lands, “you’ll never wanna leave.”


“¿Cómo así? Es así,” (“How come? It’s like that”) the hook repeats. Uchis presents Spanish in all its rhythm, with paralleled word endings and stresses on the penultimate syllable. Seamless switches between each line, the dance track glows its hyper-pigmented orquídeas with the sweep of each beat, ending on a hyperpop breakdown at the outro.


Nosediving into aquatic production in “Me Pongo Loca” (“I Get Crazy”), Uchis swims to the soprano range on the second track. We see her slipping between languages in lines like “pero tampoco soy hecha de hielo / yeah, I get a little bit / I get a little crazy” (“but I’m not made of ice either”). Uchis is as fluent as her R&B is fluid. Her music is born from the diaspora, music with an inherently bilingual lexicon.


And though Uchis is relatively popular in both the Spanish-speaking world and the West — namely, through global hits like “telepatía” (“telepathy”) and “Moonlight” — it’s usually only one or two songs from each of her albums that receive commercial success. On Orquídeas, it’s “Igual Que Un Ángel” (“Just Like An Angel”), charting at No. 9 on the Billboard Global 200. A sky-high falsetto opener, Uchis’ lyrics intersect religious imagery with human beauty.


She sings, “la favorita de Dios / and it shows / sent from Heaven down to Earth” (“God’s favorite”), painting a portrait for a celestial woman. The figure she’s describing seems unreal, unfettered even when her heart seems on the verge of extinction. Orquídeas is interjected with not a character, but an ideal — what a lover should be, how Uchis should love.


Religion appears once more in “Diosa” (“Goddess”), which, again, characterizes Uchis as the observed, her lover as the observer. Her floaty, coying vocals are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, with each Spanish noun in a feminine ending, “la reina, la diva, la diosa” (“the queen, the diva, the goddess”). Using the article “la,” she constructs herself in 3rd person, like the gaze of a lover reflecting her own confidence.


The chorus packs reggaeton punches following the airy, angelic lyrics at the start. Her voice is shot through with each beat, movement reverberating through the track. As the song ends, its production expands with her lower-pitched vocals, repeating, “la diosa total” (“the total goddess”).

UK Soul/R&B singer Amy Winehouse is
known for her expressive, jazzy contralto vocals.
(Credit: Chris Christoforou / Redferns).

Returning to her Latin roots, Uchis embraces her chest voice the Cuban-influenced interlude “Te Mata” (“It Kills You”), strings layering over her singing. Bolero, the style of song she adopts, dramatizes her joy, all while she basks in revenge — it’s a letter addressed to an ex after she’s with a new lover. The vintage latin beats swoon as the song reaches a peak, Uchis cries: “Por fin estoy feliz, mis días ya no son gris.” (“I’m finally happy, my days are no longer gray”).


Continuing with slowly-swaying, 60’s-70’s nostalgia, “Tu Corazón Es Mío…” (“Your Heart Is Mine…”) opens with soul piano chords, then transforms into a sultry son cubano with echoes of latin jazz. One of the more romantic pieces on the album, Uchis’ vocals are washed over by the twinkling piano, she levitates into the splashing production. The song feels weightless, like the wings of a butterfly, the feeling of being in love.


She sings, “always for ya, mi corazón es tuyo” (“my heart is yours”), again switching between English and Spanish mid-phrase. Nothing about it seems contrived — Uchis is effortless in her songwriting.


“With this vast scope of fresh energy, I wish to redefine the way we look at Latinas in music,” she said in an interview. Latin-pop influence submerged in an R&B sound, Orquídeas bursts with Uchis’ own Colombian heritage, brassy Spanish lyrics mixed with English.


In a sharp turn, the pink atmosphere in the previous tracks is punctured by the plucky beats of reggaeton in “Muñekita” (“Little Doll”), her flow tuned to the fast-paced song. She sings in old-school raunch lyrics, “Tu angelita es lo que necesitas” (“Your little angel is what you need”). The dual feminine endings produce an internal rhyme in this lyric (“angelita,” “necesitas”), referencing the in-track themes of womanhood as independence.


The final song of the album is “Dame Beso // Muévete” (“Give Me A Kiss // Move It”), echoing Dominican-born 90’s merengue as it opens with a left-to-right-ear blaring trumpet. Midway through the song, she transitions to rural folk, swung with accordions as the track reaches a coda. The horns pick up the pace and Uchis sings back, concluding the album on a note of upbeat, nostalgic music from the heart of Latin America.


Like the orchid, Kali Uchis still has her roots, whether that’s the R&B that shaped her style today or 90’s dance-folk conceived from the Dominican Republic. With four albums in her discography, she began as a visionary, and there’s only more room for her to evolve. As a female Colombian-American producer, it’s hard for her to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry, yet time and time again, she’s redefined her culture and her artistry.


On Orquídeas, Kali Uchis is in full bloom: in her R&B background, in her latin influence, she’s created a body of work filled with transformation. It’s all her styles bred into one purpled flower. It’s Uchis in fruition, Uchis as the centerpiece, her blooming orchid, stretched towards a Colombian sun.


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