Music Review: Unbreakable Smile

If you listen to Top 40 pop radio, then you probably can’t turn the radio on these days without hearing Tori Kelly’s hit song, Nobody Love. The 22-year-old pop-music powerhouse from California has achieved a lot of success in the past few months since the release of her debut single.

So it’s no surprise that her second major-label release (she previously released an EP, Foreword, with Capitol Records) would be just as amazing.  has received mostly positive reviews since its release last month, and debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 charts. That’s pretty impressive for a debut album from an artist! Add some powerhouse vocals, inspirational lyrics, and incredible collaborations (such as LL Cool J and Ed Sheeran), and you’ve got one of the best recording efforts of the summer.

It’s also worth mentioning, Kelly wrote or co-wrote all 16 songs on Unbreakable Smile (18 if you include the tracks on the Target exclusive edition). And she knows how to play the guitar. She’s so talented, that I don’t know HOW IN THE WORLD she got eliminated from American Idol in 2007 or 2008!

Standout tracks include “Nobody Love” and the follow-up single Should’ve Been Us, among others. In every song of this release, Tori showcases versatile, passionate vocals that are similar to those of Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and Kelly Clarkson. On the more upbeat tracks, she can belt out the lyrics (like Ariana Grande does in a lot of her songs); however, she can also pull off the slow songs like First Heartbreak and the Ed Sheeran-penned I Was Made for Loving You (which features the British singer-songwriter). In terms of versatility as a performer, she reminds me of Alecia Moore (otherwise known as P!nk); someone who can really sing anything.

As a Christian, one thing I love about Tori is that she’s not afraid to talk about her faith. In the title track, she sings about becoming famous without losing sight of who she is or where she came from. Take the following lyrics as an example: “‘Cause I know who I am, yeah I’m still the same / Just a California girl with big dreams / Thinking maybe they’ll let me sing songs about real things / And 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…”  I pray that as this young star becomes more famous, she won’t be pressured to follow the crowd, and she won’t lose track of her relationship with God– something that has happened to many celebrities before.

I must admit, as someone who listens to a lot of Top 40 radio, I can’t help but say I’m a little disappointed with most of the new music that has been released this past year. I find that most of it is auto-tuned and repetitive– even new songs by artists that I normally like (such as Demi Lovato’s new song, “Cool For The Summer“). It’s rare that I find a new Top 40 artist I like; however, Tori Kelly is one of the exceptions. To paraphrase what I originally said when she performed at the Billboard Music Awards, “THIS GIRL CAN SING!!!!” I would give Unbreakable Smilea rating of 5 stars 🙂


Unbreakable Smile

Studio Album by: Tori Kelly
Release Date: June 23rd 2015
Recorded: 2014-15
Genre: Pop
Produced by: Max Martin
Tori Kelly
Toby Gad
Ed Sheeran
Record Label: Capitol Records / Schoolboy Records

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