By Hayden Wright

It’s safe to say that the field of former American Idol competitors (and even winners) is a mixed bag. For every Carrie Underwood who won the big prize and catapulted to stardom, there are a couple forgotten artists without much visibility or esteem. But even the losers get lucky sometimes: Adam Lambert has a tremendously dedicated following, Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for Dreamgirls, and Clay Aiken even sought political office…albeit unsuccessfully.

This is to say that navigating a career after appearing on American Idol is treacherous business. That’s why it’s maybe for the best that Tori Kelly didn’t crack the top 24 when she competed in 2010. As a green young singer with a fresh voice, her profile wasn’t encumbered with the same “win or lose” stakes that some fall prey to.

Related: Watch Tori Kelly Perform ‘Girl Crush’ with Karen Fairchild

Five years later, her debut album Unbreakable Smile launched her the pop charts and the GRAMMY ballot —she’s nominated for Best New Artist. American Idol is a mere footnote to her current wave of success, proof that she tried, erred, and improved her craft in this evolving media landscape. At 23-years-old with solid singles like “Nobody Love” and “Should’ve Been Us” to her credit, Kelly has the pop music world at her feet.

Under the management of Scooter Braun, the California native joins an impressive talent roster that includes Justin Bieber. Whatever her start on television tells fans about her trajectory, both her voice and her drive to succeed will leverage this breakthrough to even greater heights.

Now is the time for GRAMMY voters to take notice of Tori Kelly, and for her, it’s a triumph that they already have. We expect big things from the next season of her burgeoning career.

Find out Kelly wins Best New Artist at the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards, which will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 15. It will air on CBS at 8 PM ET.


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