Tori Kelly

Most fans know Kelly from her days on American Idol and YouTube, but "Inspired by True Events" encapsulates an emotional experience she's ready to share with audiences.

In recent years, Tori Kelly has been through serious life changes between her parents’ divorce, her grandfather’s passing and her marriage to former basketball player Andrew Murillo. Her newest album, “Inspired by True Events,” channels her emotional experiences through the stories she tells in her lyrics.

The first track, “Coffee,” is about missing her husband while they were in a long distance relationship. Kelly writes about how she envies the cup of coffee that gets to kiss his lips every morning and how she wishes she could cross the ocean to be with him. The lighthearted melody makes for a sweet opener that also showcases the Kelly’s powerful vocal range.

The former YouTube star and American Idol contestant released her first album, “Unbreakable Smile,” in 2015, and her second album, “Hiding Places,” in 2018. “Inspired by True Events” differs from her past two albums. Although this album has 16 songs, they’re split up between four interludes. Each interlude includes dialogue between Kelly and her family from her childhood, adding depth to just how personal “Inspired by True Events” is. 

 

One of Kelly’s life events that ignited “Inspired by True Events” was her parents’ divorce, and “Sorry Would Go A Long Way” tells a story about a struggling couple. There’s a man in the relationship showing less and less love to his partner, and they’re struggling with the realization that the man has changed. Kelly sings, “You never tell me you love me / Oh what a mess you’ve made,” representing how the love in their relationship is fading. The hurting partner is looking for an apology that hasn’t given, which is the meaning behind the title of the song. With the only instrument being acoustic guitar, the melody blends in with Kelly’s strong vocals and adds a level of raw emotion. 

Kelly continues the heartache theme in “Until I Think Of You.” It’s about feeling sad over a past love who’s no longer present in her life. She begins the song by singing, “Some days I wake up wishing I hadn’t / Just leaving the house is hard to do,” emphasizing how she feels lonely and sad. Her source of strength and happiness only comes from thoughts of the past. The melody consists of a jazz instrumental and features a gospel choir during the refrain to emphasize the deep love and importance this person has in Kelly’s life. Here, Kelly sings, “You’re all I need to get me through the darkest night / My peace of mind ‘cause I know you’ll never leave my side,” to show how her thoughts of this person helps her during hard times.

“Your Words” can resonate with anyone who’s ever experienced the death of someone close to them. Kelly is singing a message to someone who’s no longer alive, as if she’s singing her last words to them directly. With her grandfather’s recent passing, she sings a beautiful devotion to someone who had a huge role in shaping her into the person she is today. 

When Kelly sings “Language,” she performs with immense vocal capability. Between the notes she hits and her runs, the soulful song carries a bit of an edge that best displays her talent. Compared to the other songs on the album, this song bears a jazzier beat and bolder vocals. In the chorus Kelly sings, “I’m tryna’ learn your language, sugar / I just wanna love you, love you, love you good,” because she wants to understand her husband’s love language so she can show him how much she loves him. Later, she sings, “Please just hang on / I’m putting that work in / Leave your pride, I’ll leave mine,” to present to him how much of an effort she’s putting into their relationship.

“Inspired by True Events” is an album thematically driven by emotions that came from recent life events. Her lyrics tell stories that can resonate with others who may have gone through similar life changes. Kelly reveals much about her character through this album — as she sings about life principles she values through people who play a huge role in her life. She proves she isn’t just another pop star who wanted to be discovered through reality television. Between the growth of her vocal range and passionate lyrics, Kelly founded an evidently personal album that tells listeners who she really is. 

Contact Joanna Sommer at sommerjj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.