Tori Kelly – tori

Epic Records

Release Date: July 28th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Tori Kelly– tori (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. cut
  2. missin u
  3. shelter
  4. unbelievable (feat. Ayra Starr)
  5. alive if I die
  6. young gun (feat. Jon Bellion)
  7. missin u (R&B edit)

For virtually all of my life (except for the last few years!), I’ve been listening to Christian music. And only Christian music. In the past, I had this widely misinformed perception that Christians should only listen to Christian music, and that anything else was me walking down the wide road and not living by what Jesus has in store for me. Anything else was me straying and walking away from Jesus. Yet my perception of mainstream music changed in general when I started my blog posts about music artists who I deem to be influential in the coming yearsTori Kelly, one of my favourite female artists (and one of my favourite solo artists), was one of the few mainstream artists, whom I blogged about, that has recently changed my whole perception of what type of music God can and often does use to draw people closer to himself. And that goes for anyone really- God can use anyone He wants to bring people to Himself- and that might be a hard thing to get your head around, but it’s true. Anyway, enough philosophical deep thinking for this post- now it’s time to dive into Tori’s latest EP, the self-titled tori. Tori has had a rough go of it of late (with her being in hospital and now being released!); and let us thank God that she’s ok now. But with everything now put in perspective, let’s remember that however Tori wants to celebrate this EP, that’ll be ok, and we don’t have a right to say that this is how she should market the release or that way is how she should market it. While you can check out who Tori is all about in my blog instalment, as well as my review of her gospel album Hiding Place; a couple of weeks ago, Tori unveiled an all-new original project, the follow-up to her 2020 quarantine EP Solitude and her 2020 Christmas album A Tori Kelly Christmas. With the track list being a short 7 song mini-album standing at only 20 minutes; we are introduced to an immense intimate experience, and one of the most emotional, honest and vulnerable projects of 2023!

For one reason or another, I never managed to review Inspired By True Events, the second full length album from Tori. It was one of those albums which we wanted to review but never got around to it. However, I jumped at the chance to voice my opinion here- given how much I have enjoyed Tori’s previous original material, and especially Hiding Place; and the results of the EP remind me that Tori is a force to be reckoned with in the mainstream music market- and the fact that she’s going to change the world someday with her music. You can read Jon’s glowing endorsement of Tori’s Christmas album; but we are here to dive deep into tori. The lead single is “missin u”- a track that dives deep into the concept of regrets and what-if’s; and when Tori reiterates how the persona in the song still feels love (or some residue of some sort of feeling) for her ex, she also wonders if she made the right decision in breaking up with him or not. With the song being an honest and vulnerable depiction of how people sometimes still hold lingering feelings for people who may still be compatible with us, and may not fit with us in this certain time for whatever reason; Tori challenges us as to whether breaking up with a person is the right thing, or whether sticking it out with them and staying the course is actually the better, more satisfying and more rewarding thing. With The EP ending with an R&B version of “missin u”, Tori reminds us of her staying power, and the fact that a new label home means that she’s just getting started.

The rest of the self-titled EP harkens back to the 80’s and 90’s in terms of sound, as Tori eloquently and majestically transports us into a musical experience like no other. EP opener “cut” is a pulsating and electric pop banger, where Tori reiterates to her current beau that she is a boss and that she is legit, and that if he doesn’t want to be with her, then he won’t ever get a ‘cut’ (as in probably a one-night-stand or a friends-with-benefits kind of relationship. And as Tori lays down the law with her partner (or the persona in this song, as Tori is rock solid with her husband!), we are met with the realisation that some people need to man up (or woman up) if they want their relationships to thrive and not just survive. “Shelter”, a powerful melody outlining Tori’s dedication and her resolve to be a shelter and the one people lean on when it comes to her immediate and extended family, is an EP highlight; while the independent and empowering melody “unbelievable”, with guest vocalist Ayra Starr, speaks about relying and depending on the love of a significant other, even when you are independent and free and an individual person. “alive if I die”, an 80’s-music themed track, speaks about the unbreakable and everlasting bond and love that Tori has with her husband; while Jon Bellion features as a guest vocalist on the heartbreaking and emotional story-song “young gun”, where Tori and Jon outline in the song the disintegration of a relationship where one person is highly devoted to the relationship and the other person cheats on them with someone younger. While this isn’t based on Tori’s life (she is happily married!), the melody still may ring true for others, and Tori reminds us that sometimes life is full of twists and turns; and just because there’s this bad thing that happens, doesn’t mean that it isn’t being used somehow in our lives to help us grow and to strengthen our character and resolve somewhere down the line.

Tori Kelly surprised us all in a good way with her pop album Unbreakable Smile in 2015, and even more with the gospel/worship Hiding Place in 2018. Inspired By True Events in 2019 was a sleeper hit, which I actually slept on and never listened to the album (and now it’s time for me to change that fact!); and Tori continued with the music successes with Solitude EP and A Tori Kelly Christmas. With a wide range of genres that Tori has experimented with in the past, it’s anybody’s guess as to what future albums will sound like. But with such a rich lyrical meaning in these songs, as well a deep meaning in this Ep tori; I reckon Tori’s upcoming untitled full length album (whenever that releases!), isn’t to be missed! So…what are you waiting for? Even if you aren’t a fan of Tori (yet!), check out tori, and let us know your thoughts. And well done, Tori- I’m more than interested to hear what God has in store for you next!

Deuteronomy 31:8. Hi friends … as you may have heard, I’m dealing with some unexpected health challenges. It’s been a scary few days but I can feel your prayers & can’t stop thinking about you.” She continued by saying, I’m feeling stronger now & hopeful but unfortunately there are still some things to uncover. I’m so grateful for the amazing doctors & nurses who have been looking after me. Of course I’m heartbroken about all of the things I had planned for this week of releasing my EP, but I know my health must come first. Until i see you again, I still want you to enjoy a project that represents the happy place I’ve been in the last few years. I won’t let this hurdle prevent the music from yours on Friday!

3 songs to listen to: missin u, shelter, alive if I die

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: 1GN, Cimorelli, Selena Gomez, Britt Nicole, Taylor Swift, Lecrae, Tauren Wells, Hollyn, Alessia Cara

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