October 25, 2013

"Dear No One" by Tori Kelly

Dear no one,

Have you heard about the new free single on iTunes? It's by this gal named Tori Kelly out of California. She's been on three different reality TV competitions: Star Search, America's Most Talented Kids and American Idol (season 9). She actually won America's Most Talented Kids, but
only made it to Hollywood week on Idol, so she's pretty hot stuff, but not too hot, if you get my meaning.

Y'know, when we get a free single from an obscure artists on iTunes, I'm used to it being an indie artist trying to promote their new alt. genre, but Tori Kelly is immediately going down the pop track. Her style is kind of Christina Aguilera-ish (or for a more modern reference, Ariana Grande-ish), with lots of runs and trills that don't mean anything. It's pretty showy for an artist that's trying to make it big time.

Anyhow, "Dear No One" comes off of her brand new EP, Foreword. She's released this EP, another in 2012 titled Handmade Songs and a handful of singles. Without having produced her first full album, she's actually leaving on a short tour pretty soon, staying mostly in California. Looks like she's making a push to get some fame before releasing an album. In the meantime, you should take a closer look at this single and her new EP.

You hear those opening guitar chords? I'm gonna use these to address a pet peeve of mine. When songs open and you can't tell if they're starting on the downbeat or the upbeat, that really grinds my gears. I'm trying to get in the groove of your song - don't make it difficult for me!

The chords are awful nice though, and immediately establish that this is a four-chord pop song. Miss Kelly plays her own guitar, by the way. We get the first taste of her singing on the verse, as she sings about her self-imposed isolation, being independent of the wants of others, a feeling I can empathize with. Then she rises into this B section about that occasional impulse, that wanting for a romantic connection with another person.

Then we get this clever chorus and the song's titular lyric:

"So if you're out there I swear to be good to you,
but I'm done looking for my future someone,
'Cause when the time is right you'll be here, but for now,
Dear no one - this is your love song."

Between these three sections of the song, we get the full picture of this conflicted woman's mindset (supposedly Kelly's). She loves her independence, is definitely an introvert, but wants that singular connection to overcome that. However, she doesn't feel the need to go seek out that connection - too much work - so when the man and the time are right, she'll overcome her tendency to shut people out. If ever there were a lyrical peek into the female psyche, this is it.

Jabs at women aside, the root idea of this song is very clever. As this single girl pines for romance, without a man in mind, she still fantasizes about the idea of having that soul mate, so she writes him a love song. Without any single person to address it too, she leaves it open: "dear no one".

But enough about lyrics, when we could be talking about her voice! Tori Kelly is about my age - just 20 years old, turning 21 in December - but, wow, has she got some powerful pipes. Her voice is very suited to the kind of artful trills and runs she throws in throughout the song. In my mind, that kind of styling is indicative of a big shot female artist like Alicia Keys or Mariah Carey - they do it because they can. It's strange for me to hear a relatively unknown artist pull it off because I think their recordings should be about the song-writing and the true melody first. All of the runs and such are distracting for me, and I think it's a kind of immature way of "injecting" her singing talent into the song.

Now, she has a lot of other tracks that are more mellow and relaxed. She does away with the trills and the descants and gives you a lot more of her voice and guitar, so she's certainly capable of both styles. In my mind, this characterizes her as a more mature artist, which I can respect. And, if I hadn't made it clear to you, I do like this song! It took me several listens before I could get over the runs and trills to appreciate the lyrics and power of her voice, but it definitely grew on me. If you're the same way, replay that YouTube video a couple more times and see if it doesn't change your mind.

Regardless, I wish Tori the best of luck on her tour, and hope to see a proper album from her in 2014. This week's single is a good taste of her talent to draw people to the EP, and I think it will win her some new fans, aside from those that remember from American Idol. For it's clever concept and catchy style, I give "Dear No One"...

3.5 out of 5

Sincerely, Austin

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