Arts and Entertainment

Red Moon in Venus: A Celestial Analysis of Passion

Kali Uchis returns to music to create her most thematically focused album yet—a love letter to love itself—on Red Moon in Venus.

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By Rhea Malhotra

Right around Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles, Kali Uchis was seen handing out hundreds of roses to droves of adoring fans (whom she lovingly calls the “Kuchis”). Though this grand display was just a promotional pop-up, it alluded to the themes of enamor and devotion present on her new album—Red Moon in Venus—which was released on March 3. The line of Kuchis snaked down multiple streets just to receive a flower from her outstretched hand. After spending years honing her craft, her devoted following is well-deserved.

As a high-schooler, Karly-Marina Loazia—also known as Kali Uchis—was kicked out of her home by her parents for skipping classes. She began living independently and making music in her car. She soon burst onto the music scene with her mixtape Drunken Babble (2012), an audacious R&B and doo-wop inspired tracklist, which would spark future collaborations with industry giants like Tyler, the Creator and Diplo. In the following years, Uchis released a series of projects that received critical acclaim, with her biggest viral hit, the psychedelic and sensual “telepatía,” charting globally on streaming services. On her third LP, Red Moon in Venus, Uchis reinvents herself, rising from layers of sea foam like Aphrodite and embodying the divine feminine.

A red moon signifies bad omens and the apocalypse, and Venus is the Roman goddess of love; Uchis is able to embrace the opposition of these subjects by blending them together in a masterful concoction of R&B and neo-soul. The album begins with Uchis professing her love to both the listener and her lover on “in My Garden…,” a lush introduction to the project that precedes the LP’s lead single, the cushiony bassline-led “I Wish you Roses.” In an interview with Pitchfork, Uchis described the song as a release from old lovers without animosity, making the track ominous in its placement—it is the first full track on the album, yet it marks the end of a relationship. The chorus “Never thought I would be without you / I wish you love, I wish you well / I wish you roses while you can still smell them” foreshadows the album’s darker undertones of romantic rejection. The song finds Uchis basking in the afterglow of being the “bigger person,” when in reality she is in denial about the love she lost.

Uchis guides the listener through pulsing beds of synths as she boasts through spoken word at the end of “Hasta Cuando,” singing, “At the end of the day, she'd trade lives with me if God let her,” but her high femme facade is shattered in the LP’s latter half. The removal of her assertive tone reveals Uchis’s inability to let go of love, even when her lover rejects her at every turn. In the interlude “Not Too Late,” Uchis is unable to accept this rejection, singing, “No I’m not your type, you can be honest / But it’s not too late to admit that you love me.” The song dissolves in whirring synths reminiscent of the bedroom pop aesthetic of Isolation (2018) before transitioning to “Blue,” a track marking Uchis’s admission of defeat. She addresses the pain that her relationship has caused her, asserting, “I’m not broken yet / But sometimes it sure feels like it.”

Despite the album’s numerous lyrical highlights, Uchis’s pen falters at times. The fourth track, “Love Between…,” features an interpolation of The Temprees’ “Love Can… Be So Wonderful.” Though Uchis’s decision to be gender inclusive is impactful, the vague and corny lyrics “Love between two human beings / Can be so wonderful” read like a pandering hallmark gift card.

Despite these minor shortcomings, the LP is Uchis’s best vocal performance yet, most notably on the track “Moral Conscience,” where she is able to reach up into her whistle register and emulate Mariah Carey. Alongside the high notes, her voice also provides a sultry and expressive cadence that glues tracks together and makes them uniquely hers, like on the sensual “Moonlight.”

Though Red Moon in Venus lacks the genre-bending versatility of her previous projects, it finds a thematic focal point, unlike its predecessors. Uchis is as lovesick and lustful as she is desperate and grieving, yet, despite the pain that permeates the album, Uchis’s recovery from heartbreak emphasizes that loss is a part of love. The cyclical nature of love also explains why the album begins on a farewell note; Uchis wants the listener to understand that the ephemeral nature of both desire and grief should be appreciated.