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.