Latin

Latin Artist on the Rise: Kali Uchis Ignored Advice Not to Sing in Spanish, and is Now Ascending the Charts

Kali Uchis
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Kali Uchis

Kali Uchis is hardly a newcomer, but Sin Miedo (Del Amor y Otros Demonios), her latest album which dropped in November and is home to the quickly ascending track "Telepatía," has taken her to uncharted territory.

Scoring her first-ever No. 1 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums (chart dated March 6), the 13-track set is also her first-ever Spanish record and her first leader on any Billboard albums chart. Like most of her songs on her 2018 album Isolation and her 2015 debut EP Por Mi Vida, on Sin Miedo, the Colombian-American gets intimate with her lyrics, singing about love, lust, heartbreak and the daily struggles of life.

"I've always used music to express myself," the 26-year-old tells Billboard via phone call from Pereira, Colombia where she's shooting "Telepatía's" forthcoming music video. "So I never force anything that's not there."

The track on the new album – which oscillates between R&B, perreo, reggaeton and synth-pop – that struck a chord with her devoted fan base is "Telepatía," a dreamy, bilingual pop track produced by Tainy about feeling lonely and wishing she could make love telepathically.

"I felt like the world needed some healing energy," explains Uchis, who has collaborated with artists such as Juanes, Jorja Smith and Tyler, the Creator. "After we ended up in this pandemic, the lyrics became more relevant. I try to stay grounded and make music from a clear, level-headed place and contribute something positive to the world."

"Telepatía" was not an overnight success when the album was released last fall. Its popularity has been steadily rising over the past month, thanks to TikTok videos featuring Uchis' song in the background, or English-language artists such as Sabrina Carpenter singing the song. That viral growth has propelled it to No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart, and a current peak of No. 39 on the Hot 100 -- her first entry as a lead act, and her highest career ranking.

"It makes me very excited to see how it’s connecting with people because the energy that I was transmitting was about love and good energy, it’s beautiful that this is happening with this track in particular," Uchis adds. "I realized that it was more than a viral song, but a song that was pushing me to charts that I had never charted on before. I was like, 'Oh wow, this is real, people are actually listening to the song for what it is. People were sending me messages saying that "Telepatía" gives them serotonin and makes them feel happy.' At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do [with my music]."

The chart success of both Sin Miedo and "Telepatía" has also reassured Uchis that singing in Spanish could also catapult her to chart success. "This is a dream come true, because I’ve been making music for a while, and a lot of people told me that an album in Spanish would be like moving backwards in my career," she says. "But I ignored them, and it’s beautiful that my Spanish album is actually resonating with people."

Learn more about this week’s Latin Artist on the Rise below:

Name: Karly-Marina Loaiza

Age: 26

Major Accomplishment: "I would say my greatest accomplishment is that I've been able to keep my intentions pure. It’s easy to get caught up in this industry and forget why you’re doing this in the first place and instead start caring about designers and the support from celebrities and all these things that really don’t matter. What matters to me is seeing how much I’ve able to touch real-life people on the streets. That means more to me than who is sending me clothes or which celebrity is posting my song."

Recommended Song: "When I recorded ['Telepatía'], it just felt very natural. It reminded me of my song 'After the Storm,' which is probably the most successful song out of my last album, and well it all happened so fast -- we recorded it and it all came together very organically. That’s always how the best songs happen. That’s how I like to make songs, just very raw, natural and not forced. Music and art should be free, fun. And one should always know the intention you’re putting into the song."

What's Next: "I’ve been working on my third studio album but have no official release date yet. I’m also working on a collaboration that my fans have been waiting for, which is a collaboration with SZA. And in general, I’m working on a few projects. You’re the first to know that I’ve working on my first denim collection, Colombian denim, I’ve been wanting to do it forever. Our denim is known for lifting your booty and I’ve always wanted to do my own line. I’m going to shoot the samples out here and I’m launching soon."  

A version of this article originally appeared in the March 13, 2021 issue of Billboard.