Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly: Album Review

On the 26th of June, Tori Kelly’s debut album Unbreakable Smile was released in Australia following the singles Nobody Love and Should’ve Been Us earlier in the year. The album went straight to number two on the Billboard 100 chart, no surprise for a previous American Idol contestant. If you’ve never heard of Tori Kelly, all you need to know is she has vocal prowess akin to Mariah Carey and has worked with the likes of Sam Smith, Pentatonix and recently, Ed Sheeran.

If you are familiar with her work, you might be wondering whether her song-writing skills are as good as they’ve been previously. Well, to that I say: Is the Pope Catholic? The first track on her album brilliantly showcases her diverse musical upbringing with a unique harmonic progression ending on a nice jazzy chord. It is also apparent in various songs on the album that her song-writing style is very honest, her best works being her alone singing and accompanying on guitar.

The highlights of the album are the songs Where I Belong, Unbreakable Smile, Nobody Love, Expensive and I Was Made For Loving You. In Unbreakable Smile the third verse is quite refreshing and clearly inspired by her work with Pentatonix, with an a cappella section. Nobody Love includes a descending scale in the brass section which is reminiscent of sixties pop. The chorus in this song contrasts greatly to the verse, which doesn’t usually work in pop, but this time it works perfectly adding a more sensual element to the track. Expensive which features rapper Daye Jack has a really groovy chorus with the build up to the climax of the song well-thought out and effective. Ed Sheeran’s contribution to the song I Was Made For Loving You is clear in the waltz feel and folk elements used; on top of this Tori and Ed’s voice sound fantastic together.

For all the highlights, much of the album is unremarkable and has the potential to be boring if listened to more than a few times. The pop ballad Should’ve Been Us could have used a more gritty tone from Tori which would have taken it to another level emotionally. Although First Heartbreak shows off her lower, much more mature-sounding range it could have done with more thought into the light and shade of the vocals, making use of an airy tone to portray vulnerability.

The first few songs and last few songs on the album are great, with the upbeat California Lovers featuring LL Cool J, Anyway’s groovy thirty-second ending, and the unique harmonic structure of Beautiful Things. However, the middle section of the album is a let down. For this reason, I’m giving the album 6/10.

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