Jun 23

Review: Tori Kelly – “Unbreakable Smile”

Review: Tori Kelly – “Unbreakable Smile”

The day is finally here. Tori Kelly’s debut album “Unbreakable Smile” is officially released for all to hear. We’ve been following Tori Kelly for as long as we can remember so this is definitely something worth celebrating.

A decades worth of work went into this album, as Tori has reiterated several times. From the revealing of tracks on the album via Pinterest to enduring snippets of songs on Instagram + hearing a few selected tracks in shaky fan videos from the tour for the last few weeks, what an exciting (and L O N G) wait it has been.

Now that it’s here, we finally get the chance to review the entire album for you track by track, bonus tracks included (let’s be real, we wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to review the work of our one time Artist of The Week).

Unbreakable Smile
Artist: Tori Kelly
Genre: Pop
Release: June 23, 2015
Label: Capitol Records
Purchase: iTunesAmazon
★ ★ ★ ★

Unbreakable Smile is the debut album by Youtube singer turned pop sensation Tori Kelly. This album can be classified as her third officially released body of work, taking into account her first two EPs, “Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly“& “Foreword.”

The album comes preceded by lead single “Nobody Love” produced by Grammy award winner, Max Martin and released on February 8, 2015.

Up next was “Should’ve Been Us,” which was sent to Top 40 mainstream radio as the second single from the album on June 2, 2015. “Should’ve Been Us” has since been added + played several times by different Top 40 radio stations.

THE
REVIEW

Where I Belong

The very first song on any album is very telling of how the rest of the album will play out and “Where I Belong” is no different. Straight off the bat, Kelly sings: “I’m just a girl with her guitar”. She goes on to sing about who she is, where she’s from – reminding us that she’s just a regular girl with a dream, who sometimes let’s the pressure get to her. A good start to the album, “Where I Belong” reeks of authenticity.

Unbreakable Smile

The title track to the album which also happens to be the most important. Much like the intro track, “Unbreakable Smile” is Kelly’s way of once again letting the listener know what she’s all about. For emphasis: Tori Kelly is all about making music that serves a purpose, music that changes lives. Very often, artists are forced to change who they are for the sole purpose of becoming successful. Tori Kelly is simply not about that life. As she sings, “…baby who knows maybe I can sell out shows without taking off my clothes / God made me sexy I don’t care if only I know.” In other words, what you see is what you get. So, “Unbreakable Smile” is essentially a big middle finger to the music industry and how it typically turns people into anything less than human. With honest lyrics and a catchy chorus that literally consists of “La Dee Da Dee-ee’s”, “Unbreakable Smile” is what we like to call an unintended hit record. Oh and did we mention she raps in it? Well, she does and her rhymes and flow are pretty amazing, considering how off guard it catches you every single time you listen to the song. Such a treat.

Nobody Love

The lead single for this record and it’s very fitting for that title — clearly why this was chosen. All Max Martin songs have single potential and always do great, this song is no different. Believe it or not, this song was actually a huge risk for Tori. It isn’t exactly like anything else she’s released in the past as it sounds very similar to all of Max Martins other songs, (i.e. Problem by Ariana Grande) — extremely upbeat and radio-friendly. It definitely threw a lot of long time fans off when it was initially released. Nonetheless, somewhere down the line, the 2:25 mark to be exact, Kelly sings a really high note that most definitely leaves a lasting impression. In one sentence, “Nobody Love” is an infectious track that will leave you dancing uncontrollably as you attempt to belt out that aforementioned note and fail miserably at it.

Expensive (Feat. Daye Jack)

By far one of the best songs on the record. Let it be known, if this song isn’t the album’s next single, we’d be starting a change.org petition. Think of this as a modern day version of J Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” or as Tori says it,“Money don’t buy love.”. In addition to the song itself being breathtaking, the production of this Daye Jack-assisted track is something else. Speaking of Daye Jack, we’re incredibly proud of him as just like Tori, he was once featured as our Artist Of The Week. On “Expensive,” Jack lends over some slick rhymes, rendering the already sick song, sicker. As a matter of fact, “Expensive” is so good that somewhere down the line, we picture it being used during a dance montage in a massive movie.

Should’ve Been Us

More like, should’ve been the first single. You know what makes this such a good song? How relatable it is. Let’s be real, who hasn’t been through that type of relationship that never became official. The lyrics are a lot more than the ‘Us’ vs. ‘Love’ theme you would assume it to be. Paired with the instrumentals, it just becomes a happy marriage of sounds.

First Heartbreak

The best ballad on the entire album. Tori Kelly’s ability to make a song out of everything we’re feeling is probably our favorite thing about her. These days, that is such a very rare trait for an artist to have. “First Heartbreak,” Unbreakable Smile‘s most sincere song, is one of the very first songs we fell in love with upon first listen. It isn’t very far off from the other songs on the album, production wise, but it sure is intriguingly special. As the opening line states, you never really hear Tori Kelly “singin’ about love songs,” as such, it is hard to know what to expect. That said, Tori did a good job distancing herself from her comfort zone with this particular song. Simply put, she nailed it.

I Was Made For Loving You (Feat. Ed Sheeran)

When we heard Tori Kelly was finally releasing her debut album, “I Was Made For Loving You” was exactly the type of song we were expecting from the 22-year songbird — A song that left us feeling extremely good about ourselves for whatever reason. As long time fans, we can attest to the fact that it does not get more “Tori Kelly” than perfectly written, guitar-driven ballads. Just when you get really into the song and you think it couldn’t possibly get better, Ed Sheeran… the ED SHEERAN sings. Predictable yet amazing, “I Was Made For Loving You” left us feeling grateful for having Tori Kelly (and Ed Sheeran) in our lives.

City Dove

After hearing this song performed live for the last few weeks (thanks to fan videos on YouTube), it was such a relief to hear it in a professional studio setting. Production wise, there is nothing particularly captivating about this song. The important aspects of this song that makes it so special are the lyrics. If you’ve ever felt like flying, listen to “City Dove” because it would do a great job of lifting your spirits.

Talk

Again, nothing special about this. Well, other than Kelly’s fantastic falsetto. You want to know what’s a bit crazy? Up until now, we haven’t really picked up on songs that were just added to the album to fill it up. Kind of ironic, considering this is titled “Talk.”

Funny (Live)

It sucks just a little that we’ll never really get an official studio release of this song. The very first time it was heard was in a video Tori released about a year or so ago and it’s become a fan favorite since then. “Half bread is better than none,” they say. So, we’re happy it was even put on the album, as it fits its theme perfectly. This track is all about how everything in life is a full circle and how you can fall, especially when you’re on top. “Funny how it goes all around…” It’s very good song, mainly because it’s very humbling.

Art Of Letting Go

We’re going to go ahead and say that this is a continuation of “Should’ve Been Us.” Or maybe a “All in My Head” Part 2? This song is perfect for that follow up stage in a break up where you really can’t let go of the person.

California Lovers (Feat. LL Cool J)

This song needs to be nominated in the category for “most random collaboration that magically worked out somehow.” There is no better Californian anthem (aside from Katy Perry, but oh well.) The LL Cool J-assisted track is filled with so much smash potential, we can’t wait till it is made a single — hopefully before summer runs out. This song + a convertible with the top down = an unforgettable summer.

Falling Slow

Some songs are so good, finding words to describe them is extremely difficult. “Falling Slow” is without question one of the album’s best offerings. Why? The old school vibe about this particular song will leave the listener completely hooked a few seconds in, thus, leading to endless repeats. The perfect blend of pop and R&B, “Falling Slow” is astonishingly-brilliant, to say the least.

Anyway

Another, “this is who I am, and this is what you’re getting” type of song, a common theme in this album as mentioned before but with a “Flaws & All” twist.  “Well this is the only Tori that I know how to be, I’m sorry if it don’t fit your reality. I’m giving 100% of me, so take it or leave. Whether you’re in or out, this is what I’m about” Tori raps on this and she kills it, as per. Random but this song left us wanting a rap battle between Miss Kelly and Nicki Minaj. OK, maybe we’re reaching but… one with Ed Sheeran will be pretty dope, don’t you agree? It would be fire. “Whether you leave or stay this is me any-anyway.”

Dear No One (Bonus Track)

The song that really put her on the map. This is the record that got the attention of people who weren’t already on the Tori Train. It’s the perfect love song especially for the youth of this generation where unfinished relationships and unrequited love are more common than actual relationships. This song makes the process of not being in a relationship seem less painful and makes it feel beautiful. “Because when the time is right you’ll be here, so until then dear no one, this is your love song.” This is definitely a song all kids in High School need to hear.

Beautiful Things (Bonus Track)

Traditional Tori song. Just her and a guitar. We believe there is a specific reason why this is a bonus track on the album. Its a treat for the fans that have been there since the beginning when all of her original songs sounded like this. It’s very reminiscent of her very first EP “Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly.” And that in itself is a beautiful thing.

Tori Kelly‘s debut effort is an album that has earned itself a “timeless” title. Even though we hoped she would have left her comfort zone every now and then, we’re glad that when you listen to the album (especially as a long time fan) you can hear every last bit of hard work that went into it’s making. “Unbreakable Smile” most definitely lived up to our expectations. How about yours?

Staff Picks: I Was Made For Loving You, Expensive, First Heartbreak, Falling Slow.

 
 
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This post was written collaboratively by all of Trendio's writers! It was broken into parts, with each writer assigned a particular portion. Read, enjoy, and be sure to leave a comment.

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