"It's pretty surreal," Kelly tells Billboard of her new role representing the brand. "I remember the Britney Spears [spot], who I didn't realize was the last artist to sing this particular jingle for Pepsi -- that was 15 years ago. Just trying to be the follow-up for that is a pretty big deal and a huge honor. Remembering all the artists who have been a part of Pepsi -- it's really cool to be kind of like the next one."
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Pepsi's senior director of brand marketing Lou Arbetter tells Billboard that choosing Kelly to continue that legacy was a no-brainer. "The energy, the talent, the passion just really comes through with Tori," he tells Billboard. "She's incredible to work with. We've been working with those kinds of stars since Michael Jackson moonwalked."
Reviving the classic ba-ba-ba-ba-bah "Joy of Pepsi" tune in her own way ("The second I heard it, I felt like a little kid again," she says of relearning the tune), Kelly stars in the spot as a new, approachable face of the brand. "The whole concept is for people in the car to start hearing the song, tapping their feet and really getting into it," she says of the ad itself. "It was cool because it felt really genuine."
That sincerity started in the studio, where Kelly worked to make the memorable tune her own. "I didn't know what to expect, really, when it came down to what they would want as far as the music side of it," she tells Billboard, "so the fact that they gave me creative freedom to put my spin on the song was really cool. It felt good to just completely make it my own."
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The Pepsi deal comes as Kelly prepares to close out what's already been a huge year. Between winning awards, hitting No. 2 with her debut album Unbreakable Smile, and scoring her first Billboard Hot 100 hit "Nobody Love," a little burn-out would be understandable. But for Kelly, who's currently on the second leg of her tour, performing live keeps her grounded.
"To be able to do shows every night, to bring it back to the music and what I'm all about is just so fulfilling," she says. "It's really easy to get lost in all the chaos -- doing literally completely different things every day -- so just to kind of have the consistency of doing live shows [helps]. Touring is one of my favorite things about being an artist."
Look for Kelly's new "Joy of Pepsi" spot to debut during Wednesday night's episode of Empire, airing at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.