Welcome to Under the Covers, your weekly dose of genre-bending with your favorite WBRU artists & songs! From the genuinely good to the seriously strange, we’ve got you covered. This week, we look at Kali Uchis’s cover of Bjork’s “Venus as a Boy.”
On Under the Covers, we often pull back the sheets to reveal strange bedfellows—artists who hardly seem like part of the same universe, who you would never expect to cover each other’s music. At first glance, Björk and Kali Uchis fit into this category. On one hand, an Icelandic, avant-garde, experimental pop icon known for her unusual voice. On the other, a Columbian-American burgeoning R&B/neo-soul star. What do they have in common? As it turns out, plenty.
Riding the high of her 2018 debut album, Isolation, skyrocketing media attention, and a string of collaborations with high-profile musicians, Kali Uchis sang Björk’s “Venus as a Boy” for triple j Radio. Both Björk and Kali started their music careers young: Björk recorded an album at age eleven, and Uchis wrote songs throughout her teens and released a mixtape by twenty. With both, even their early music pulls its weight. The two women skip effortlessly across genres, combine experimentation with pop appeal, and fully embrace their own unique voices.
And, maybe not surprisingly, Kali Uchis’ voice picks up the oddball phrasing and frothy lightness of Björk’s singing in “Venus as a Boy” with almost uncanny accuracy. Her cover version of the song is jazzier and groovier, with an emphasized bassline and a seductive smoothness. It’s Björk’s vision with Kali’s style poured over it. As she sways along in front of the mic, she connects so well with the music that it seems she could have written it.
In 1993, Björk was standing in the same place as Uchis is now: a debut solo album behind her, the world in front of her. But Bjork didn’t seem new, or young, or uncertain, and neither does Uchis. She’s larger than life and is already an explosive creative force. Like Björk, Kali seems to sing believing in herself and the beauty she sings about. It is time we believe along with her.