Kali Uchis released her third studio album, “Red Moon in Venus,” on March 3. Kali Uchis’ third studio album is” a collection of musings upon the many manifestations of love over a dreamy soundscape that mixes elements of R&B, soul and alternative pop.
The album’s title borrows from the language of astrologers, effectively summarizing the project’s thesis by linking a “blood moon” or total lunar eclipse — which Uchis commented that astrologers believe can “send your emotions into a spin” — to Venus, the planet of love. The 15 tracks on “Red Moon in Venus” examine love from every angle, from self-love to the various ways in which love is, or was, exchanged between human beings.
The lush opener “in My Garden…” begins with the sounds of crickets chirping. Uchis enters with the music, speaking as if leaving a voicemail: “Hello / Can you hear me?” she asks. “I just wanted to tell you, in case you forgot / I love you.” Her voice floats away, leaving behind the sound of birds chirping and bells ringing. The sounds of nature are refreshingly warm, and Uchis’ voice feels oddly familiar. She has both spoken love into the album and breathed life into the garden that she has spent hours upon hours cultivating. This straightforward confession foreshadows the gravity of the rest of the album.
“Red Moon in Venus” begins at the end, as “I Wish you Roses” establishes the nuance with which Uchis treats love; she wishes an ex-lover well while simultaneously reveling in her own self-assurance. Though the love between Uchis and this person may have ended, Uchis’ love for herself has not. She maintains a confident lack of resentment that is not typically found in pop breakup songs through lyrics like, “While I’m here, I’m someone to honor / When I’m gone, I’m someone to mourn.” As the song ends, she chants, either as a manifestation, a prophecy or a simple statement of fact “You’re gonna want me back / You’re gonna want me bad.”
The album’s other songs about ending relationships take on a similar stance, as the turbulent “Deserve Me” acts as a self-empowerment anthem in spite of a lover who was undeserving, and “Moral Conscience” sees Uchis letting karma take care of those who have wronged her. “Happy Now” summarizes this philosophy: choosing to be “happy now” by releasing things that may end bitterly. The relaxed, confident “Hasta Cuando” delivers one of the album’s harshest takedowns: “Your girl talks sh*t about me just to feel better / About the fact that you’re still obsessed with me years later / At the end of the day, she’d eat my p*ssy if I let her / At the end of the day, she’d trade lives with me if God let her.”
This self-assuredness carries into the beginning of relationships as well. On “Worth the Wait,” Uchis uplifts abstinence, or, in her words attached to the Spotify stream, “valuing your body and being exclusive about those you share it with. Not being ‘easy’ and making someone work for their space in your life & for your intimacy.” She is joined by Omar Apollo, as the two describe wanting to wait until they are fully in love with a person before having sex with them. In the second verse, Uchis declares, “Quit telling me you wanna put a baby in me / If your affection for me’s truly only skin-deep / I don’t wanna end up just another broken family.” Uchis’ sharp verses and Apollo’s wispy chorus work in perfect harmony, creating a full, well-rounded sound.
The album also tackles the less than blissful, yet natural, parts of relationships: “All Mine” feels strikingly human. Uchis takes on a possessiveness rooted in exclusivity, naming a petty jealousy of hers that resents her lover’s phone as it takes away from the time that they spend together. Visions of corny couple Instagram stories materialize in the lyrics, a sort of vindictiveness to it. She fights some invisible opponent, stating, “Don’t gotta fight for what is mine / You couldn’t keep him even if I gave him to you / It’s just pathetic at this point / If you think my baby’ll leave me for you.”
“Blue,” a song about lovers fighting, has a sort of exhaustion to it. The melody feels more muted and limited than anything else in the album; calm yet restless in its sadness. Similarly, “Como Te Quiero Yo” is languid, opening with warm washes of sound that allow Uchis’ voice to take the forefront. The title means “How I Love You,” acknowledging that what is important about a relationship is what the two people involved think about it. In the tense post-chorus, Uchis sings over soaring strings as an electric guitar cuts in and seems to collapse under the weight of her words, “I don’t wanna fight, can we make up?”
Yet its moments of joy, with songs like “Endlessly” and “Moonlight,” fully embrace the bliss that romance brings. On “Fantasy,” Uchis is joined by rapper and boyfriend Don Toliver in what truly feels like a duet. The song alternates between Toliver’s drawn-out declarations about wanting to dance and Uchis’ smooth, rhythmic verses, in which each line ends with a memorable contour that adds character to the song.
“Love Between…” is perhaps the album’s most unapologetic profession of pure love. Uchis takes the hook from The Temprees’ 1972 song “Love Between a Boy and a Girl,” but changes its lyrics from “a boy and a girl” to “two human beings,” making the sentiment gender-neutral. This line, which serves as the song’s chorus, sounds like crawling forward slowly in a lovestruck haze. This stands in contrast with the relatively quick verses, in which Uchis rambles on about love: “If you take away my air, how am I supposed to breathe? / Tell me, why would we be here if this ain’t meant to be?”
“Red Moon in Venus” feels like drifting down the dreamlike river of Uchis’ soundscape, examining the multiple facets of love. This album allows each song to take on its own unique flavor, sound or angle, but ties them together with a single thread: love.
Teresa Pham is an Arts & Entertainment Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.