If you haven’t discovered Tori Kelly yet then it’s time you become acquainted. With the release of her highly anticipated debut album “Unbreakable Smile” she delivers pop tracks with heartfelt lyrics, underlying meanings and hooks that will become trapped in your head. Opening with the acoustic lyrical foreword “Where I Belong” she perfectly introduces her vocal ability and what you can expect from this release. “I’m just a girl and her guitar trying to give you my whole heart. If there’s anybody out there listening to me all I have is a story and a dream”. She follows that brief welcoming with the infectious title track “Unbreakable Smile” that serves as a massive “fuck you” to the music industry with executives trying to tell her to change her style and look to get more popular but she’s stood her ground and kept It real. But beware the “La da da da dee’s” will get cemented in your brain very quickly. “Nobody Love” continues with the big pop anthem sound with a RNB influenced track that is dedicated to anyone that has fallen in and out of love. ‘I should be more cynical and tell myself it’s not okay to feel this good when I’m with you. I try my best to fight it, say I hate you but I always stay”. She brings a strong horn instrumentation and with “Expensive” she steps that up to the next level and rivals Ariana Grande’s “Problem” with strong vocals and a slick production. “I feel expensive enough, no your money don’t buy love”. Her lyrics give an inspirational independent outlook on life and relationships and with these songs it pushes people to stand up for what you believe in and how you deserve to be treated. “Should’ve Been Us” is the emotional pop track that anyone can to relate to. “It should’ve been us, shoulda been a fire, shoulda been the perfect storm. It should’ve been us, coulda been the real thing, now we’ll never know for sure”. It’s just been announced as the next single and with its strong hook, vocals and pure emotion it will no doubt become an instant hit on mainstream radio.
But this is where the album starts going downhill with lackluster songs that sound worn and bring no new emotions, musical ideas or magic moments. Songs that fall into this category are “City Dove”, Art Of Letting Go”, “Falling Slow”, “Anyway”, and “First Heartbreak”. She also goes super cheesy pop on the cringing “California Lovers” featuring LL Cool J which is almost an instant rip of “California Girls”.
One of the most highly anticipated songs on the album was the ED Sheeran collaboration “I Was Made For Loving You” and it doesn’t disappoint. This song sounds like it came directly off his album “X” and it’s the perfect acoustic moment that allows their two unique vocals to collide in a beautiful moment. “I was made for loving you even though we may be hopeless hearts just passing through”. My favourite song on the record is the social commentary “Talk” that looks at people saying things but not actually meaning them. The production is very different to anything else on the album and is led by a simple drum beat that gives a theatrical sound where I can imagine her walking around the city singing this song to herself. “Funny” was also another instant favourite of mine that captivates you with her pure acoustic vocals and guitar.
Tori Kelly is an incredibly talented lyrist, vocalist and musician and this debut album perfectly showcases that. There are a handful of songs that will need the skip button but the majority of the album is pop brilliance with some of the best songs I’ve heard all year. Simon Cowell once told her she didn’t have what it takes to become a star. Let’s just say he will be really embarrassed at himself when he hears this record.