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Tori Kelly Reveals How Her 'Hard' Health Scare Inspired 'Fresh' New Music

Photo: Adrianna Casiano for iHeartRadio

Tori Kelly revealed how a health scare last year inspired her to revisit a record she thought was complete to add more music to showcase new sides of herself.

The singer/songwriter made the revelation while celebrating her new album TORI. during an exclusive iHeartRadio Album Release party in virtual reality only in Meta Horizon Worlds. Throughout the show, Kelly wowed the crowd with her incredible vocals and catchy melodies as she performed some songs from her latest album, a record filled with R&B tracks that will have you playing the full album on repeat.

Kelly kicked off her jam-packed set with "thing u do," a fitting choice given it is the opening track to her new album. The song shows off her powerful vocals and impressive control as she nails riff after riff, leading the crowd into the catchy chorus.

She then moved on to another R&B-fueled track with "cut," which features a heartbeat-like rhythm. With the unique perspective from the VR view, listeners were able to "feel some type of way," as if Kelly was singing directly to them while she declares, "You ain't get this love from nobody else." She even leaned on one of her influences, adding a bit of her own version of "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child.

Kelly, who has won two Grammy Awards for gospel music, showed off her rich lower register as she began another new track, "shine on," a grooving long song that had the crowd moving along as she sang sentimental lyrics like "you are the stars, the moon, the sun" and "you'll always be the only one I want." She kept the vibes going with her next song, "unbelievable," encouraging the crowd to dance and sing along.

Taking a step back from new music, Kelly upped the energy even more and threw things back with "Should've Been Us" and "Nobody Love," both from 2015's Unbreakable Smile.

Kelly slowed things down with "missin u" and "high water." Earlier in the show, she spoke to iHeartRadio's JoJo about how her health scare last year, which saw her hospitalized with blood clots, led her to revisit her EP tori, which released days after her hospitalization and features several tracks seen on her latest release. Now feeling better, she mentioned her need to rework the album and specifically to include "high water," which she wrote after her scare.

"I though the album was done and when everything happened, it was just like, I know that there's a song missing here because I felt like I needed a pick-me-up type of song during that time," she said. "It was really hard, it was scary, and when I came out on the other side of it, I was like, 'What's a song I would've wanted to hear while I was going through that?' and so it started there... My hope for the song was how can this maybe touch other people's lives and they can be inspired by it as well."

The two-time Grammy winner also shared how her health journey has led her to feeling "more grateful in general."

"To be here, doing what I love, I think I don't take as much for granted now," she said. "Even with this new music, there's a new 'oomph' about it. It just feels bigger, it feels like I'm having more fun. I think that's the main thing, I just feel more grateful now to be here."

Encouraging the crowd to dance along, Kelly kept the good vibes going with "spruce," another new track that she called her "cute getting ready song" that hypes up her "beautiful and confident" friends.

Kelly closed out her set with "shelter," a track where she promises to be the comfort and stability "when you got one life left inside of you and you got too much on your plate [and you need] someone to carry you," singing, "I'ma hold it down for ya ... [and] be your shelter."

While talking to JoJo about TORI., Kelly explained why her album showcases new sides of the decorated artist that fans may not have heard before in her previous work.

"I don't know if it's just me getting older or just stepping into myself," she said. "I think I'm just learning myself more and more and realizing that ... there's all these sides of me where I know they've always been there, but I think I just haven't had the right sonic palate or even the confidence to really step into it and just do these types of songs. In some ways, it's fresh, it's new, it's a little bit of a departure, but I do think that there's still that OG Tori sound. It's a little bit of everything mixed together."

TORI. is Kelly's first album since her 2020 Christmas album A Tori Kelly Christmas and 2019's Inspired By True Events, and includes features from artists like Jon Bellion, who also served as a producer, Arya Starr and Kim Chae-won of Le Sserafim. She previously shared how she had been working on the project for years "exploring new sounds & expressing so many different sides of myself."

TORI. is available to stream on iHeartRadio.com.

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