Tori Kelly’s debut album entitled Unbreakable Smile was released June 23, 2015 and debuted at number 1 on the iTunes album chart. The album features the Pop hit “Nobody Love” as well collaborations with Ed Sheeran, LL Cool J, and legendary producer Max Martin.
Having been a fan of Kelly for over two years now I have been anxiously awaiting for her to release an album, that time is now here. I’m going to listen to these tracks for the first time and give my first impression, without further ado, here is my first reaction to Tori Kelly’s debut album Unbreakable Smile.
Track #1: “Where I Belong”
This song is very simplistic, as the first line says, “just a girl and her guitar.” This is a great first track, gives a good introduction to her voice and a good hint to who she is as a person and an artist. The vocals are strong but not overbearing, this exactly the kind of singer/songwriter vibe I absolutely adore her for. Short, sweet and to the point with a track time of only 1 minute and 27 seconds.
Track #2: “Unbreakable Smile”
I know this song has been out for a while, but I had yet to hear it. I was saving it for this moment and I am quite excited to hear it! Exactly 12 seconds in and I’m already dancing in my chair. It has a ’90s vibe, I’m totally digging it. The lyrics are continuing with the theme of really giving insight to who Kelly is as a person and artist. I love her honesty! “You’ll see me at church, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cause trouble,” absolutely love this lyric! She has a Macklemore tone almost, refusing to be controlled by the media or the industry. Her lyrics are catchy and meaningful at the same time, I think I may be in love. The overall message about smiling no matter the circumstance is a great message, definitely going to blast this when I’m having a bad day.
Track #3: “Nobody Love”
While I waited to hear “Unbreakable Smile,” it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing this song, it has been all over the radio for a few months now, however, I have yet to grow tired of it. Again, with the ’90s vibe, but then those horns come in, the track minus the lyrics is music to my ears alone! Her vocals really come out on this track without feeling out-of-place or too much for the track. It’s a sweet, catchy love song with an awesome musical background, mixing just the right amount of bass drops and instruments, to create an overall amazing sound. I agree that this was a good song for the lead single, gives the audience just enough of Kelly to want to hear more.
Track #4: “Expensive” featuring Daye Jack
It’s a new age take on “Can’t Buy Me Love,” great message to send to her audience that is probably chock full of teenage girls like myself. Super catchy and fun, I would totally blast this in my car with the windows down. I don’t know who Daye Jack is but I’m not really feeling his verse at all. Hoping I can somehow find a version without Daye Jack in it, I would be all about this track again, but that just kind of ruined it for me.
Track #5: “Should’ve Been Us”
So the ’90s vibe is still here five tracks in and I am completely okay with it. I’m digging her vocals on this track, she belts it in all the right places. However, I’ve heard this song a 100 times in a 100 different ways, I don’t think this is one I will be playing very often. There is nothing wrong with this track as far as musicality goes, but I just feel the storyline is a bit overplayed.
Track #6: “First Heartbreak”
Back to the stripped down acoustic vibe and meaningful lyrics, I like it so far. Very relatable, honest love song about being scared of her first love leaving her. Love the simplistic track with the guitar and string section now and then. The tone in her voice really makes the song, I can really feel her fear of losing this person. A good change-up from the mostly upbeat songs on the album so far without being so dreadfully slow that I automatically want to press skip. Overall, I like it, I’m not one for obviously sad songs, but I think this one will grow on me.
Track #7: “I Was Made For Loving You” featuring Ed Sheeran
This is the song I have been waiting to hear, I have really high expectations of this song with both artists being amazing lyricists and musicians, I can’t wait to press play! Oh the guitar, signature Ed Sheeran sound, I love it with her voice! I can’t place it exactly, but it reminds me of this song from Demi Lovato’s second album, not in a copycat way, but just the way her voice flows over the music. Alright, so Ed sounds fabulous. It’s a back and forth love story between the two of them, my heart is melting, not because I ship them together or anything…. Their voices are wonderful together! The lyrics are simple and honest, definite Ed vibe. Her strong voice mixed with his soft voice singing the melody, it doesn’t get any more perfect than that. Needless to say I am completely in love with this song!
Track #8: “City Dove”
I love the story of this song, embracing what’s happening now and being hopeful for the future. Her voice sounds fabulous as always. However, the track just doesn’t do much for me. I’m torn about this song, maybe it will grow on me, but for now this is definitely one of my least favorite tracks on the album.
Track #9: “Talk”
Same with “City Dove,” I like the story of this song, wanting this person to show her love instead of just talking about it, but her falsetto on all the verses ruins this song for me. I love her voice on the chorus and the bridge, but I prefer falsetto to be like a little spice on a track, not the majority of the track. Not a terrible song, just not one of my favorites.
Track #10: “Funny (Live)”
Tori and a guitar, love the simplistic vibe and sound that I fell in love when I first discovered her. The lyrics, her vocals, one verse in and I am absolutely loving this song. If I had to pick one song from this album to sum up Tori Kelly’s sound it would be this one, this is the kind of music that made me and bunch of people fall in love with her as an artist. 5 stars, this is everything I could hope to hear from her and more!
Track #11: “Art of Letting You Go”
Childhood crush story, this is adorable so far. Definitely see as the song people sway their arms to when it plays live. Sad song without a completely sad vibe. I like that she is keeping her vocals simple and raw, not letting them overpower what she is telling, I love that she can show emotion without belting all over the place. Relatable song about a love that never happened but she can’t seem to get over it. This song definitely hits home for me and that may be why I like it so much, but either way I adore this song.
Track #12: “California Lovers” featuring LL Cool J
The second I saw that she had collaborated with LL Cool J I got really excited to hear this song. LL was prominent in the late ’80s early ’90s and Tori has shown that she really likes that kind of sound and vibe so I couldn’t wait to see what they could do together. The track has that ’90s vibe I was hoping it would, I’m already in love with it. Dancing in my chair, this is a fun summer jam song, I can definitely see myself playing this in December just to pretend it isn’t snowing outside! Unlike Daye Jack’s verse, I love LL Cool J’s verse, it adds to that throwback vibe of the song and really fills the song out. Catchy and fun while still showcasing Tori’s vocals, this would be a fun awards show performance! I really hope these two collaborate again and soon!
Track #13 “Falling Slow”
This sounds like a song I’ve heard before but I can’t place it, if anyone knows please tell me in the comments below because it is going to drive me crazy until I figure it out! This has a definite Destiny’s Child kind of vibe with layered vocals to create these cool harmonies plus a piano and strings with drum hits over the top of it. For some reason I picture this as the song playing during a movie montage of this couple having cute pillow fights and laughing while walking down a crowded street. Maybe its the familiarity of the song that draws me to it, I’m not really sure, but I definitely dig this song.
Track #14: “Anyway”
At first I though this was “Nobody Love,” take that how you will. Catchy and fun and back to giving an insight to what kind of person Tori is, ” this is me anyway.” I love the message of her staying true to herself whether this person is in her life or not. Her vocals are flawless and I completely adore the honesty of this song with a just enough of “I don’t care what you think” sass. I am currently adding this to my morning playlist, this song is my new daily pep talk while I’m getting ready. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album!
The bonus track version of Unbreakable Smile features two more tracks, “Dear No One” and “Beautiful Things,” however, that is not the version I bought so I cannot give my first reactions to these two tracks.
Overall, I am quite content with this album. For me it has some things that I would like to hear changed or done a bit differently, but as an entire album it gives me everything that I could hope to hear from Tori Kelly as a long time fan of her and her music. If there is another artist or album you want to read my first reaction to leave it in the comments below and I will give it a listen!