“Most people don’t know how to love/ That’s why they’re empty,” Kali Uchis muses on “Worth the Wait,” a gently unfurling slow jam from her third album, Red Moon in Venus. Over 15 tracks, the Colombian American pop star reveals that her own knowledge of love is overflowing, with songs that examine and revel in the emotion in all its forms. Judging by Red Moon’s candid lyrics, her own take on love is wide-eyed, yet not completely naive; it’s savvy, yet not corroded by past misfortune. Instead, Uchis regards it the same way that she approaches making music — with curiosity and an open heart, ready to be delighted.
Uchis blends styles and genres so deftly that placing a box around her music feels antithetical to its ethos. She’s clearly a student of R&B from the past few decades; “Love Between …” is a bedroom-pop update of the glimmering 1970s bedroom cut “Endlessly,” which was co-produced by Pop&B mastermind Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, has a vocal melody and synth flourishes that recall his most indelible works, like “The Boy Is Mine” and “If You Had My Love,” but the textures are just fuzzed-out enough and the vocals tough enough to transform it into a decidedly 2023 cut. Elsewhere, “Fantasy,” a duet with Uchis’ IRL boyfriend Don Toliver, simmers forcefully, with the two principals reveling in the tension that holds it back from boiling into a full-on club jam.
Red Moon in Venus isn’t all sunshine and roses. “Hasta Cuando” is a purposeful over-it declaration that reminds the listener how self-love is crucial to the human experience, its carefree vibe echoing declarations like “Paint me as the villain if it makes you feel better.” “Moral Conscience,” meanwhile, is a slow-burning conjuring of karma, Uchis’ voice curling around the rueful lyrics at first, then rocketing into the uppermost reaches of its range when Uchis realizes that putting her anger into words is impossible.
But Uchis uses lower moments to further explore the boundaries of her artistry. “I Wish You Roses” is a swirling reminder that the titular flowers aren’t without their thorns, with Uchis’ upper register turning into a refuge from her brooding; “Blue,” which reflects on the small frictions that led to a relationship’s implosion, is gently plush, with Uchis channeling the lump-in-throat performances of Sade Adu as she describes her longing in detail.
Uchis’ 360-degree view of love and versatile voice make Red Moon in Venus a wholly satisfying examination of emotionalism in its many forms — romantic, carnal, self-preserving. Its suspended-in-air feel gives it the sense of the divine that Uchis talked about when its release was announced. The album’s full-spectrum approach to songcraft reflects the way love can cause people to open up not just their hearts, but also the way they look at the world.