All in all, "Unbreakable Smile" showcases Kelly's strong vocal ability and brings across her positive attitude while incorporating R&B and soul vibes making the album a great listen, with a balanced mix of charming love songs, tracks to make you get up and dance and raw acoustic tracks that fans will always associate with Kelly.
Californian, Tori Kelly, originally caught attention of fans with covers (most notably Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You”) on her YouTube channel before recording two EP’s “Handmade Songs” and “Foreword“; leading to the release of her highly anticipated debut full length album “Unbreakable Smile“.
The album begins with acoustic introduction of “Where I Belong” and sets us into the beginning of her story with “I’m just a girl and her guitar, trying to give you my whole heart” before leading into “Unbreakable Smile“, continuing Kelly’s story. In the narrative, her down-to-earth personality is proven and details her resistance to conform to what fame expects of artists in order to sell records. The honesty and positivity is refreshing, with simple piano riffs and a complimentary R&B beat throughout the track.
Kelly proves her vocal fluidity in “Nobody Love” with a happy, irresistible and upbeat vibe , it is no wonder it came as the first single release from the new album. Similarly, second release from the album, “Should’ve Been Us” is an expressive catchy break-up song that brings back ’90s R&B vibes that is bound to have you singing along out loud.
The album slows down with acoustic track “First Heartbreak“; a beautiful love song that brings true emotion in heartfelt lyrics “I guess that means I really love you ’cause I’m afraid to make mistakes“. Suitably leading to the calming finger-picking guitar intro into next track “I Was Made For Loving You” featuring Ed Sheeran. This song includes a cello musical accompaniment, and along with Kelly & Sheeran’s beautiful harmonies matching effortlessly – it’s enough to send goose bumps throughout your body.
“City Dove” expresses how Kelly hasn’t figured out the future but accepts that what is ahead cannot be known “I don’t really know my fate, I just know I’m on my way” before “Funny (Live)” brings listeners back to Kelly’s original YouTube roots with of a simple performance with her acoustic guitar and her raw vocals. Kelly’s lyrics in “Art Of Letting You Go” brings true thoughts of a previous love and questions how to move on from a past relationship, “if you could only see how much you mean to me, I know you’ll always be the one that stays with me, haunting me // wanna move on, but I’m scared of losing you“.
Funky track “Expensive” featuring rapper, Daye Jack, includes a saxophone providing music fills and slick guitar riffs, bringing a soul vibe to the song, while “California Lovers” featuring LL Cool J brings back the upbeat vibe at the beginning of the album, and is one for a summer playlist.
“Falling Slowly” is an easy listen, bringing back some old school R&B vibes with an accompaniment of strings, with an musical riff sounding similar to K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” piano introduction. Kelly then sings confidently in “Anyway” about her individuality with lyrics “This is the only Tori that I know how to be” reminding listeners of her self-belief and positive attitude towards her goals.
The album ends with two bonus tracks; “Dear No One” comes from Kelly’s previous EP “Foreword” is a personal favourite, describing the anticipation of waiting for a love interest “I’d love to have a soul mate and God’ll give him to me someday” and showcases the vocal range and strength that Kelly has. “Beautiful Things” is another raw acoustic song reciting the feelings of long distance relationships and is a beautiful acoustic ballad that leaves you wanting more.
Check out the music video for ” Should’ve Been Us” below: