Singer/songwriter Tori Kelly sure is a talent to write home about: three years ago she gave YouTube a run for its money when she caught viewers’ attention with her cover of Frank Ocean’s Thinkin Bout You. With the video reaching over 22 million views, Kelly is now followed by over a million subscribers. Previously a bedroom songwriter and producer and most recently playing countless sold out shows across the US (she also supported Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith), Tori is now ready to start the next chapter of her journey. Her debut album Unbreakable Smile is upon us, and with executive production by Max Martin (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift) along with artist collaborations including Ed Sheeran and LL Cool J, we’re in for a treat.
Short and sweet introductory song Where I Belong gives listeners an insight into who Tori Kelly the person is: a girl with a guitar who is subject to the pressures of life. Unbreakable Smile reveals the sweetheart singing before us: Kelly’s vocals are luscious, addictive and enviable. Lead single Nobody Love retains your attention with its effervescent drum beat and gripping horns section. It’s been a little while since we’ve heard boppy pop music with some substance. Daye Jack raps as a guest on the pop/soul/RnB infused Expensive, while the hook and bridge seemingly enter Jessie J territory with its immense power and vocal capabilities. Current single Should’ve Been Us follows a similar RnB route with a killer pop chorus.
Now for something a little more stripped back: First Heartbreak is laden with acoustics and finger clicks. Even the subtle beat keeps the going smooth and Kelly’s emotional vocals and lyrics are right on key. The acoustic break continues with I Was Made For Loving You, a commendable duet with Ed Sheeran: the two talents mesh into one unstoppable force.
The beats return with some classy strings. City Dove became an instant album favourite with its subtle verses and explosive choruses. Tori showcases the higher end of her impressive vocal range with Talk, giving the album something a little different by proving that power isn’t everything. A live version of Funny is included on the album, a nice little acoustic number showcasing Kelly’s wondrous vocal acrobatics and diversities, whereas Art Of Letting You Go brings back the atmospheric pop sound to keep you reeled. Tori delves deeper into the world of pop/RnB: California Lovers has an addictive beat and features rapper LL Cool J. It’s definitely got everything it takes to make you feel good. Falling Slow is delivered with drama. The vocal wall accompanied by piano led intro transitions into a beat savvy RnB ballad. It’s easily one of the highlights on the record. Tori seems to be having some fun with the vocals on final track Anyway: its harmonies being one of the most fun to follow. It’s a great way to end Unbreakable Smile.
Whether you’ve always been a Tori Kelly fan or you’re only just jumping on board the band wagon, her debut album Unbreakable Smile further establishes the talent we’ve come to love and appreciate thus far. Whether you follow her covers closer than her originals or vice versa, you will not and can not simply find a reason not to enjoy this album; it’s wonderful, heartfelt, solid, catchy…everything we could have expected. From the tunes down to the production and writing, Tori Kelly has struck gold with Unbreakable Smile, and it will only spark the fire for what is yet to come from her talent in the future.