Woman with shoulder-length blonde curly hair looking to the right, her hand is on her right cheek, she is in front of white flowers, the words "Inspired By True Events" are across the bottom of the picture
Album cover for “Inspired By True Events.” Tori Kelly’s latest project is her first since 2018’s “Hiding Place” and features an acoustic sound similar to her YouTube days.

It doesn’t matter if she’s performing in front of Hollywood at an awards show, or posting acoustic covers on YouTube––Tori Kelly’s authenticity has never left, even after her mainstream success. Showing that she can successfully step back from the pop world with her gospel album “Hiding Place,” Kelly’s fans have been waiting for her to return to her singer-songwriter roots and “Inspired By True Events” achieves just that.

Despite releasing music spanning across different genres and winning two Grammys, these past couple of years in Kelly’s personal life has been a whirlwind to say the least. “Inspired By True Events” touches on everything from the divorce of Kelly’s parents to her recent marriage to former basketball player André Murillo. With the help of producer and song-writer Jimmy Napes, Kelly was able to capture the emotions surrounding these life changes in a raw, unplugged way.

“Coffee” kicks the album off to a breezy start. Written with Tayla Parx, Nate Campany and Noel Zancanella, Kelly describes the difficulties of a long distance relationship. It’s poetic nature tackles the feeling of being jealous of everything surrounding the other person. Kelly mentions being envious of the cup of coffee that touches his lips, the seatbelt on his chest and even the stars that get to see him at night. Although the lyrics depict a sense of longing, the song itself isn’t too heavy and is by far the grooviest track on this vulnerable project.

The first single “Change Your Mind” is where the heavily personal themes begin. It depicts the story of her falling in love and later not getting her father’s approval when her now-husband asks for permission to marry her. Kelly is known for her massive vocal range and ability to flawlessly emote when she performs, but what makes this song special is the way she dismisses a perfect pop production. Sometimes hearing the cracks in one’s voice and their unembellished original vocals is the way to go when telling a story like this, which suits her style more than previous records she’s done in the past.

Before certain songs, Kelly added in interludes of audio from her family’s home movies to tie in all the events together. “8/28/1997” is an adorable one in particular, which shows the voice of a young Kelly asking her mom if people can sing in their bathing suits. The sound clip flows right into “Kid I Used To Know” –– a track about missing the simplicity of being a child. With all that Kelly is going through, she sings: “I keep trying to find that fearless heart that’s running wild with/ Nothing weighing heavy on my soul.” The track is one of the most relatable on the project, as it depicts what many feel when the reality of being an adult hits them.

“Sorry Would Go A Long Way” takes a different turn in terms of the subject matter being about her. Because the song is about her parents’ separation, she decides to take a different approach as she seemingly sings from the perspective of one of her parents. The track is heart wrenching, vocally stellar and is backed only by a faint acoustic guitar––letting the lyrics patrol the entire song.

Serving as one of the most interesting songs on the album, “The Lie” is embodies an unapologetic attitude and gives off the sense that she’s playing a character. With lyrics: “Played my role and did what I’m supposed to/They say, ‘She’s heating up,’ but I feel colder,” it seems to imply herself imagining that she fell for the lie that money and fame buys happiness. Lyrically, she’s already touched on this topic with “Funny” from 2015’s “Unbreakable Smile,” but this song embodies anger more than her signature introspective storytelling. 

Ending with “Before The Dawn” turned out to be the best way to tie the whole journey together. After Kelly unleashing all of her joys, worries and grief into the project, this last track tells her listeners the importance of hard times and reminds them to keep their head up. It’s inspiring and the most cinematic sounding song off the record––reminiscent of a song that’s played during the ending credits of a movie.

“Inspired By True Events” proves that less is more in terms of the type of music Kelly shines the most in. Being a true singer-songwriter at heart, all she needs is her outstanding voice, the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and lyrics that display life as it really is.

Rylee Jackson can be reached at ryleejackson@sagebrush.unr.edu, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.