Kali Uchis had a quiet, but mighty 2019. We got Kali vocals on the Free Nationals’ “Time,” solo single “Solita,” and KAYTRANADA’s “10%” featured Kali Uchis in a particularly confident bag. Across her major 2019 releases, Kali held our attention and increased our hunger for the follow-up to 2018’s Isolation.
Of course, COVID-19 has gummed up the release works. While we wait for the official sophomore effort, Kali makes her return with the four-track EP, TO FEEL ALIVE. Described by Kali herself as a “couple days” effort during the quarantine, TO FEEL ALIVE might not be her sophomore record, but it is home to a formidable sleeper hit.
The titular song “TO FEEL ALIVE” stands out from the rest of the four tracks, sounding closest to a Kali Uchis album cut. “I just wanna feel something,” Kali bemoans with her golden vocal. Immediately, we sink into the swirling singing, and Kali Uchis’ tales of love turned sour. Lovers-turned-enemies populate “TO FEEL ALIVE,” along with burned bridges and sardonic humor. Kali Uchis holds nothing back as her voice trembles when she sings about the damning concept of enough.
The success of “TO FEEL ALIVE” lies in the way Kali Uchis paints herself as a misfit rebel. She’s never been the safe choice, never been one to follow the pack. “They won’t ever love me / I’m not the perfect, pretty girl up on the magazine / With no opinions,” she admonishes. But “TO FEEL ALIVE” is far from forlorn. Kali Uchis sounds secure in herself, even as she admits to missing her family and dips into the theme of loss and displacement. The gentle patter of the “I just wanna feel something” refrain returns, and we are soaked in self-discovery.
The way Kali ends both the song and EP proper with a breathless “Alive… ” has us reeling. Can’t we all relate to the desperate pleas Kali puts forth on this song? Can’t we all recall nights spent staring at the walls, wondering when things will all make sense? In these uncertain times, all that’s left to do is live. Kali gets it, she sings it, and as we live her words, I find myself thankful for this fan-centric release. The album will come when it’s time, but for now, we can all circle around TO FEEL ALIVE and feel something as Kali Uchis intended.