Tori Kelly: Does Her Billboard Music Awards Slam-Dunk Mean Grammy on the Horizon?

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Tori Kelly performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Las Vegas. 

"The vocal performance of the night," tweeted John Legend. And maybe of the year?

When Billboard spoke to Capitol Music Group chairman Steve Barnett back in February in the wake of his Grammy successes -- Sam Smith took home four trophies; Beck, two -- we asked the veteran label man who among his acts has a shot at the 2016 awards.

Tori Kelly,” he replied with little more than a second's thought. “I believe ‘Nobody Love’ is a global smash and she could be a really big artist. It’s all about timing.”

2015 Billboard Music Awards: See All Our Coverage

Fast-forward three months and Tori Kelly’s time has clearly come. Taking the stage at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night (May 17), accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and the strength of her solo vocal, the 22-year-old singer wowed a packed arena of music fans, along with more than 11 million people watching at home, many of whom took to social media to sing the newcomer’s praises.

Among them were John Legend, who tweeted, “Tori Kelly with the vocal performance of the night;” and Billboard’s own editor-in-chief Tony Gervino, who wrote, “Still buzzing about @ToriKelly's show stealing performance at the #BBMAs. Great song, even better performance.”

JoJo of Los Angeles pop powerhouse KIIS-FM, meanwhile, took to fawning over his “girl Tori Kelly,” with multiple on-air mentions during the station’s prime drive-time broadcast, and even a shout-out to her manager, Scooter Braun.

Indeed, the industry is buzzing, even while the Max Martin-penned song has seen a slow build at radio, seesawing on the lower half of the Hot 100. But with a BBMAs bump imminent, a commitment to this newcomer artist seems just around the bend -- not unlike Smith, who released his breakout debut, In the Lonely Hour, nearly a year ago on June 17 (it has since gone on to sell nearly 1.9 million albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music). Kelly’s first album Unbreakable Smile? Due out June 23.

Consider the race to Grammy on.

2016 Grammys


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