Tori Kelly breaks free on debut album “Unbreakable Smile”

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

In a world where someone can make a video by themselves one day and be known by the world the next, talent can be found all over the Internet.

One emerging star, Tori Kelly, a singer/songwriter from Wildomar, Calif., took full advantage of the World Wide Web, where current manager Scooter Braun discovered her in 2013.

She released her first EP “Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly” the previous year, containing songs she wrote, recorded and mixed independently. She released an official EP “Foreward” the following year, which debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard 200.


Her heavy presence on newer social media outlets like Snapchat and Vine have made promoting her new album “Unbreakable Smile,” which was released June 23, much easier when reaching a broad audience.

It felt as if Kelly was holding back when recording “Foreward,” as if she was testing the waters and seeing just how audiences would react to her style and songwriting. Songs like “Dear No One” and “Treasure” showcased Kelly’s soulful yet peaceful voice, but felt primitive for the musician.

“Unbreakable Smile” is a project in which Kelly is ironically breaking out of her shell as an artist, which is apparent on some songs more than others.

She eases listeners into the album with a slow and short introductory song before throwing us into the title track “Unbreakable Smile,” a personal favorite on the album.

This comfortably optimistic track is something to be admired from any artist. Some musicians tend to focus on heartbreak or negative experiences when creating a track, so it’s refreshing when someone can make a happy song and get away with it.

“Nobody Love,” a single released in February, where Kelly pulls out all the stops and really shines vocally, follows the song. The track’s gospel inspired instrumentation complements Kelly’s soulful sound.

While her trademark vocals take the spotlight on this album, the lyrical artistry should be noticed as a huge improvement on her recent releases. She tackles issues like selling out, the pressures of the music industry and lost love throughout the record.


Songs like “Should’ve Been Us,” and “First Heartbreak” bring out those more sympathetic lyrical elements, but show us just how diverse she is as a producer.  Both titles suggest slow, sappy songs, but are completely different. One has a hip-hop inspired beat and quick melody while the other is an acoustic guitar and her voice.

She also brings Ed Sheeran onto the album, an artist she toured with in 2014, in “I Was Made for Loving You.” The song compliments both voices as they trade melodies and join in unison as the chorus fluctuates in and out.

While there are a lot of great moments on this album, I felt there is room to improve.  Some songs are not as powerful as others and her unique vocal runs start to disappear as the album continues.

Overall, “Unbreakable Smile” is well put together and the high points out-weigh the lows tremendously. Kelly is one of those artists breaking the industry by doing her own thing and in the long run, her personality and mindset alone as a musician could take her far.