Tori Kelly's album Unbreakable Smile reached number one on iTunes shortly after its release on the 23rd, just hours before I saw the New York City show of Tori's Where I Belong Tour. The show felt like the party-of-the-year that you didn't get invited to in high school. Except this time you are invited, and you walk in feeling like you fit in instead of worrying about who's saying what behind your back. Plus, you now know that the parties everyone kept talking about weren't really that great anyway.
There was a tangible camaraderie and mutual respect in the room, and a distinct lack of hierarchy between artist and fan. The atmosphere quickly demonstrated to me, a relatively new fan, how Tori has maintained such a loyal audience over the past decade. The crowd was enthusiastic and passionate and Tori was the same. As Tori switched between her old and new songs, the audience respected her in a way that I'm not sure I've ever witnessed before. She spoke to the crowd in a humble tone, saying over and over again how grateful she was to have progressed from YouTube videos to a hit debut album and a sold out New York City show. (An honorable mention to the Best Buy Theater, too, for being comfortable and awesome.) The entire night felt like a celebration of success. I was half expecting her to bust out a bottle of champagne and make a toast.
Tori Kelly makes high quality pop music, which is hard to find. At only 22, she's defined her own R&B-influenced sound, written killer hooks, and managed to pen songs that have some substance but also make great mainstream hits. (Talk about #goals.) She has the demeanor of your best friend and the voice of a Broadway lead. In fact, the power of her voice could probably bring world peace or fuel a sustainable energy plant or something like that. (You'll understand what I mean when you listen to "Funny.")
Just a California girl with big dreams thinking / maybe they'll let me sing songs about
real things / and who knows / maybe I could sell out shows / without taking off my clothes
Although she surprised the crowd with performances alongside LL Cool J and a trio she heard singing under a bridge in Central Park earlier in the week, Tori held her own at this show. She's got big dreams, big potential, and big hair. It's been less than 72 hours since her debut album Unbreakable Smile came out, her success is already remarkable, and this is only the beginning for Tori Kelly.
The First Time I Met Vance Joy and The Tenth Time I Saw Taylor Swift
And you / you’ve got this wide-eyed gaze / and a smile /
that you’ll carry through / your days
Entirely due to a stroke of dumb luck, I met Vance Joy last week. I entered a contest through his website for tickets and a meet & greet for two people to Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour show in Philadelphia on June 12th. I simply entered my email address sometime in May, and evidently, I was the one winner out of thousands of entries. I have decent luck, I won’t deny that—I’ve won tickets from a couple of radio contests over the years and I’ve met a handful of musicians—but I genuinely thought the email saying I had won was fake. My luck seemed just too unlikely this time. But I received confirmation emails after that, and headed off to Philly a few days later with my best friend Rachel, who is even more enamored with Vance Joy than I am. (Her reaction when I called and told her I won was priceless.)
Even if you don’t know who Vance Joy is, you probably know who Vance Joy is. You’ve probably heard him on your local pop station cooing, “Lady / running down to the riptide / taken away to the dark side / I wanna be your left hand man,” more times than you can count. Though “Riptide” is an excellent single, the rest of Joy’s album is even more impressive. Rachel and I have fallen in love with his words over and over again; “Georgia” and “Wasted Time” are our respective favorites.
On Friday night, we were escorted backstage before the show by Vance Joy’s manager (whose job seems as cool as her Australian accent, and I’m not sure which of those two things I am more jealous of). We talked to Vance for a few minutes; we tried to express in a short amount of time how important his writing is to us. He was perfectly sweet and appreciative, smiling at all the right moments, posing for pictures, and taking the time to personalize autographs for us. He later Tweeted the one of the pictures he took with us and tagged us in it, which lead to our receiving endless Twitter notifications—not that we’d have it any other way. We went back to our seats with legs like Jell-O and too star struck to form any comments beyond did that really just happen?!
Not a minute of this show was disappointing. Shawn Mendes, sixteen years old, owned the fifty-thousand-person stadium when it was his time to. He held his own and made me eager to see where he goes from here. The influence that Ed Sheeran has had on his style was evident without sounding like a cheap imitation. Vance Joy’s set was incredible, as I expected—I can’t properly express the rarity of authentic, raw, and intelligent writing like his. (Go buy his album Dream Your Life Away!) A half hour after his set ended, Taylor’s began.
It's been just about six years since the first time I saw Taylor Swift live and everything is different yet everything is exactly the same. She has preserved the quintessential elements of every previous headlining tour she’s been on, but made edits to accommodate bigger stadiums, crowds, and productions. She still has a B-stage, but instead of popping up in the back after the humming of “Hey Stephen,” her massive stage extends out into the crowd to reach the same upper-level seats. Instead of renting a car to drive across the country on a radio tour with her mom, she takes a private jet from city to city. Instead of telling stories about bad guys with perfect hair, she thanks us for defending her during the Red Era before beginning “Clean.” Throughout her shows, albums, and career, she has maintained a personal dialogue with each one of her fans. The crowds have doubled in size, but her ego hasn’t. Everything that matters remains—her character, her personality, her wit, her storytelling—and they show no sign of leaving.
Music, feelings, and a little bit of feminism.
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