Recording information: KMA Studios, New York, NY.
Improbably combining the heartfelt optimism of Taylor Swift with the literate soulfulness of Alicia Keys and the melismatic virtuosity of Mariah Carey, Tori Kelly's full-length album, 2015's Unbreakable Smile, is a thrilling, positive-minded debut. Produced by Max Martin (Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Ellie Goulding), Unbreakable Smile finds Kelly expanding upon the stripped-down vibe of her initial EPs, 2012's Handmade Songs and 2013's Foreward, with a set of emotive, well-crafted songs that straddle the line between melodic rock, contemporary R&B, and acoustic singer/songwriter pop. Cuts like the summery Janet Jackson-esque title track, the funky Brand New Heavies-sounding "Expensive," and the hypnotic unrequited relationship anthem "Should've Been Us" are universally relatable, utterly infectious songs that you immediately want to hear again. ~ Matt Collar