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ATP! Essential Listening: Tori Kelly

In the auditions for the ninth season of American Idol, Simon Cowell turned keen young contestant Tori Kelly down, saying her voice was “annoying.” Fast-forward a few short years and she has over a million YouTube subscribers, was picked up by Scooter Braun Management and is signed to a major label… so it seems as if more than a few people are begging to differ.

Kelly began posting videos of her singing and playing guitar on YouTube and MySpace at age 14, and her covers of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You,” Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” and Michael Jackson’s “PYT” have each garnered millions of views, along with a dedicated legion of supporters. After a few stray singles, she released her first EP, Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly independently in 2012, having written, recorded and produced the entire thing by herself in her bedroom. Her follow-up release, Foreword – EP, came out under Capitol Records in late 2013, debuting at #16 on the Billboard 200. Lead single “Dear No One” made waves with its lyrical honesty and relatable subject matter, and landed Kelly several daytime television performances. This past year, she had a song featured on the soundtrack for the theatrical adaptation of The Giver by Lois Lowry (you know, the one Taylor Swift was in for about five seconds), and also sang on newly appointed Grammy winners Pentatonix’s Christmas album.

Kelly casts aside her beloved acoustic guitar in her new single, “Nobody Love,” a seamless crossover between pop and R&B. Produced by hit-maker extraordinaire Max Martin, the song undoubtedly serves up a great beat and a killer hook, but also showcases Kelly’s incredible vocal ability (including her infamous riffing skills and range, as she effortlessly hits a G#5 in the bridge. … Yeah, a G#5. It’s casual.) The sound is polished and she sings with the cool confidence and soul of a well-seasoned performer. “Nobody Love” also features elements of old-school swagger in the roaring horn section of the pre- chorus, and the modern sleekness of a Justin Timberlake track when the beat drops and Kelly croons in repetition, “ain’t nobody love/ain’t nobody love like you do.”

Kelly will appeal immensely to fans of fellow Scooter Braun artist Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Ed Sheeran, the latter actually having worked on her upcoming debut album, anticipated for a 2015 release. Kelly demonstrates true artistry in her carefully crafted songs and immaculate live performances, and delivers a hearty “eat your heart out” to any non-believers with her iridescent confidence and unbreakable smile. Take that, Cowell.

Words by Megan LaPierre

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