Max Martin is everywhere in pop. From production credits with Taylor Swift to Ariana Grande, there isn’t a soul he’s touched recently that hasn’t gone on to make a chart smash. So it makes sense, then, that occasionally some of his output might suffer under all that mountainous expectation and all those relentless bangers. Unfortunately, that little blip happens on his exec-production watch for Tori Kelly‘s debut album.
It’s not that Unbreakable Smile is a bad pop album. Far from it, as there are certified chart-toppers in here (Should’ve Been Us should’ve been much bigger, quite frankly). But within the first three tracks there’s a familiar bombastic-pop path that feels retrodden, which is troublesome given tracks like Expensive recall people they shouldn’t: Kelly Clarkson and Jessie J. Eek.
Luckily the former American Idol contestant and Professor Green collaborator (don’t hold either of those against her) holds even the most functional tracks – cough, Ed Sheeran collab, cough – aloft on her endearing charisma and cavernous lungs. She shines when soaring closer to R&B, such as Talk, but ultimately this album does her talent a disservice. Kelly seems reined in by limiting production when, really, she ought to be given pop smashes as big and voluminous as that hair of hers. Sort it out, guys.
Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly can be ordered here.