Tori Kelly power-slid her way through the VMAs, with her vamped-up live performance of R&B rooted single, “Should Have Been Us”. If by any chance you logged online that week – and we’re betting you did – you’d have seen, and possibly even re-grammed, thumbnails of Kelly slaying the awards stage back in August.
“I just went for it. I think I blacked out,” Kelly giggles in a sing-song laugh. Before the show, she’d been hanging out with everyone’s favourite polarising pocket-sized pop star, Justin Bieber. In the following weeks, she re- released her debut album, Unbreakable Smile in the US and premiered it in the UK. Not bad for an American Idol reject, right? Backtrack six years and Simon Cowell was on national telly, deeming Kelly a “human orange” (I’m still not sure what that means) and telling the beaming 16 year-old that her voice was “almost annoying”. Bit embarrassing for you now isn’t it, Si? “After the show… I was just excited to post YouTube videos and just start. It was like a re- boost, I reinvented my art and what I wanted to put out there,” smiles Kelly of the experience.
It was YouTube that boosted Kelly into the spotlight – she spent her pre-reality TV days pulling in millions of views of her cover tracks. “Nobody’s gonna stop you and say, ‘You should sound like this! You should do this! You’ve got to wear this!’”, Tori says, in a native Californian drawl so syrupy you could spread it on your pancakes. Now used to flexing her vocal prowess onstage rather than the murky confines of her bedroom, she thrives on the make-or-break excitement of live performances. “There’s something really thrilling about that,” Kelly explains wide eyed, “There’re no rules.”
Since the release of her debut album, June’s ballad-driven Unbreakable Smile, pop’s blonde, curly whirlwind has barely had time to draw breath. Visiting near enough every corner of
the US on her last tour, she’s announced UK shows for 2016 and is up for a pair of People’s Choice Awards – Artist of the Year and Favourite Breakout Artist, no less. Does she consider herself famous, yet? “I really try not to think about it,” she breezes. I bet Simon Cowell doesn’t, either.