|(Schoolboy Records & Capitol Records)|
At age 25, Tori Kelly has already lived a life well-lived. The world first took notice of her when she began posting videos of herself on YouTube when she was just 14 years old. Two years later she auditioned for the 9th season of American Idol and made it through to “Hollywood Week” but she wasn’t part of the “Top 24.” However, she was then asked to participate in a new version of “We Are the World” charity song.
In 2012, Kelly released her first EP, Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly. Since then, she has appeared on the We Love Disney album (singing “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas), performed a new version of Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” (with Grant’s original vocals), released the best-selling album Unbreakable Smile in 2015 and became the voice of Meena the elephant in the animated movie Sing in 2016.
This month Kelly has released her new album, Hiding Place, a project teamed up with Kirk Franklin. The eight-song album features a blend of R&B and Southern gospel styling which is a bit of an unusual choice for the singer. Not because it is out of her league, as it clearly is not, but time will tell if her new music will catch on with Christian mainstream audiences.
Each song on Hiding Place is soulful and takes its time. The music sounds “older” and perhaps from another era with the exception of Masterpiece which features a section of rap from Lecrae. There’s no dance muisc here. Kirkland, who also wrote most of the songs, even makes a couple of appearances as well. He calls Tori’s music styling “hope pop.” In return, Kelly expresses her gratitude to Kirkland on the album’s lyrics sheet thanking him for taking her “under his wings” and stating how much his faith inspires her. She also says in her own words what she wants her music fans to take away while listening to the album. “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”
There’s no denying it; Kelly has an incredible voice which she likes to show her voice range in many of the songs. The songs are good and messages are even better. While it is not exactly my mug of espresso, I can certainly appreciate Kelly’s talents and they are many. The girl’s got soul.
Highlights of Hiding Place include “Masterpiece” (which features Lecrae and is the most modern sounding song on the album), “Just As Sure” (which features Jonathan McReynolds) and “Questions” (which dares to tell God exactly how one feels when they are angry or confused). However, the best song, in my opinion, was saved for last. “Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well)” is half a sweet love song ballad and half a tribute to the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul.” Again with that gospel choir, Kelly gives it her all and leaves nothing behind.