To combat the blues of sheltering in place and to uplift her fans during the coronavirus pandemic, Colombian-American R&B singer Kali Uchis released her latest EP, To Feel Alive, a small project she had been working on for a couple of days. With collaborations on popular tracks such as Daniel Caesar’s “Get You” and hits of her own such as “Tirano” (titled “Tyrant” in English), Uchis has long been a sweetheart of the R&B scene. Uchis’ signature style features ’60s-inspired vocals with bold, imaginative lyrics and dreamy melodies. On To Feel Alive, Uchis explores concepts of self-love and reinvention while simultaneously playing around with her musical approach and revisiting older tracks.
“Honey Baby(SPOILED!)” has a sugary sweetness to it, as Uchis sings about the wonders of being indulged and pampered in a relationship. Her vocals echo those of Kate Bush as Uchis wavers around her high soprano range. The track is unique in comparison to Uchis’ previous works — Por Vida and Isolation — in that it utilizes synth elements much more prominently in its melody, which resembles a music box. A trap-style bass grounds the song and creates a dichotomy with the innocent undertones. The song is based on an earlier track Uchis composed in 2013 titled “Honey Baby,” and when comparing the two songs, Uchis’ growth as an artist is evident.
“Angel,” meanwhile, is hypnotic, with an e-girl vibe and a relaxed hip-hop tone. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics such as, “You’re just like a drug, can I be your Pablo Escobar?” and a daydream-esque atmosphere characterize the track. Like “Honey Baby(SPOILED!),” the track is a remake of an older unreleased track, “Pablo Escobar.” The lyrics innovatively connect being high with experiencing religious euphoria, drawing parallels with lyrics such as, “I’m your little angel, baby boy, we’re going biblical.”
“I Want War (BUT I NEED PEACE)” is the standout track of the EP, with a wonderful Latin-inspired rhythm and hints of maracas in the background. As the song progresses into the chorus, the rhythm becomes more prominent. Dramatic, thoughtful piano notes complement the melody and add depth to the song. The lyrics of the song echo Uchis’ strong sense of independence and confidence as she croons, “Time too precious and my patience thin/ My mind and my soul is the weapon.”
To Feel Alive’s title track brings the EP to a satisfying climax, celebrating the burning of bridges in toxic relationships and the importance of self-appreciation with vocals reminiscent of Kylie Minogue. The strumming of cello pizzicato initiates the song, creating a cinematic atmosphere for the piece. The main theme of the song is prioritizing oneself in a relationship and doing what’s best for one’s mental health despite what others think. Uchis illustrates her conviction and assertiveness as she sings, “I loved you well just for you to turn to an enemy/ I love the smell of you burnin’ your last bridge with me.” The song represents Uchis’ acceptance of ending things for her own sake and killing a relationship in order to feel alive again.
Uchis has proven her creativity and dedication to her music through To Feel Alive. Her willingness to reinvent herself and build her music into something spectacular demonstrates how authentic of an artist Uchis truly is, and the new heights that she will reach in her next album will be one for the stars.