Tori Kelly Says She Feels the 'Hunger' of a 'New Artist Again' with Y2K-Inspired Single 'missin u'

Tori Kelly is looking back in time for her next era.

On Friday, the Grammy winner released her new song and music video "missin u," which expertly channels the bubbly pop-R&B sound and colorful, hyper-real aesthetic that dominated 2000s MTV culture.

Her first new solo single in nearly three years, "missin u" marks new territory for the singer-songwriter, known for belting sweet melodies and strumming the guitar. The track also arrives alongside a brand-new look for the 30-year-old musician, who's swapped her signature blonde locks for a sleek brunette 'do and adopted a more vibrant style.

This new era feels like a major pivot for Kelly, and in many ways, it is. After getting her start as a kid on multiple TV competition series, listeners became familiar with her talents through soulful acoustic covers on YouTube and a short stint on American Idol in 2010. She soon launched a pop career and released her debut album Unbreakable Smile in 2015, notching hits with the ultra-catchy "Nobody Love" and "Should've Been Us" along the way.

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Kelly then took successful turns into voice acting with 2016's Sing and gospel music with 2018's Hiding Place, earned two Grammys and got married to basketball player and coach André Murillo before returning to her signature sound with 2019's Inspired by True Events. Aside from a quarantine EP and Christmas album, fans haven't heard from her in a minute.

Earlier this month, she teased "missin u" with a Y2K-themed retrospective video with clips from throughout her decade-long career, giving listeners the space to reminisce before following her into a bold new sound. As she launches into this new chapter, Kelly recently sat down with PEOPLE to discuss the inspiration behind "missin u," what she loves about the 2000s and when fans can expect to see her on tour.

Tori Kelly Says She Feels the 'Hunger' of a 'New Artist Again' with Y2K-Inspired Single 'missin u'
Tori Kelly Says She Feels the 'Hunger' of a 'New Artist Again' with Y2K-Inspired Single 'missin u'

Emilynn Rose Tori Kelly

This new single "missin u," crafted with Jon Bellion, is super high-energy with emotional lyrics. It seems to be about a breakup, but you're happily married to André Murillo. Can you tell me about this song and how it came together?

This song is about missing somebody, but it's also, just so inspired by the early 2000s, late '90s. We wanted to make sure that we got that nostalgic feeling both in the lyrics and in the music. I just knew, 'OK, when people listen to this, I want them to be transported. I want them to think about that era or just that nostalgic feeling,' whatever that is for them.

I've played it for some people who just cry when they hear this song because maybe they're thinking about a specific person, and there's other people who are just dancing in the club and not sad at all when they hear it. I love that about this song because I think everyone can relate to it in their own way. For me, I just want to blast it in my car and belt it out.

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I'm obsessed with the lyric "I miss the way that you would make my Sidekick bling." What was it about the 2000s that inspires you? Also, did you ever have a Sidekick?

I literally had the Juicy Couture Sidekick, and it was a special edition. It was all pink, and I still have it. I was obsessed with it. You know how they have fidget spinners and all these fidget toys now for kids? I feel like that was the original fidget spinner. Anyone with a Sidekick would just be playing with it. There's also just something about that era. You go back and listen to all those songs, and there's something so special about it. I was really, really inspired by that in the studio. Both Jon and I were, so people might be hearing a little bit more of that as we release more things.

Tori Kelly Says She Feels the 'Hunger' of a 'New Artist Again' with Y2K-Inspired Single 'missin u'
Tori Kelly Says She Feels the 'Hunger' of a 'New Artist Again' with Y2K-Inspired Single 'missin u'

Emilynn Rose Tori Kelly

The music video is directed by Marc Klasfeld, and it pays homage to the Y2K era of colorful Hype Williams music videos with these hyper-real settings. What did you set out to accomplish with the visual?

There were some very direct references that we wanted to throw in there. There's some TLC references. We're very inspired by Aaliyah and Missy Elliott with all the fisheye stuff. We were having so much fun being like, "What if we throw this little move in and see who catches it?" I grew up just being obsessed with all those videos. For whatever reason, in the early 2000s, everything was metallic.

Marc wanted to focus on the performances because I don't think I've really done a video where there wasn't necessarily a storyline. It was like, "Let's just make a dope performance video," because that's what a lot of those early Y2K videos were. I think of [Destiny's Child's] "Say My Name," where it was different colored rooms and them performing, hitting all these poses. I just had to make sure that I killed it every time. I was like, "OK, there's nothing else going on in this space. I just have to bring it." That was a nice, little fun challenge for me.

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There's a little bit of dancing in this video, which we haven't really seen much of from you before. Did you enjoy incorporating movement into this visual, and can we expect more dancing to come in this new era?

Yeah, for sure. With this new sound, it felt so natural to move around. Whatever the music was making me feel, I was like, "I'm just going to do that." I grew up dancing. People might not know that, but I grew up taking hip-hop classes and stuff, so I really was just like, "I'm taking it back." It was fun just to tap into that side. I think you might see a little more of that in the future.

You teased "missin u" earlier this month with a video of you playing a VHS tape called, do u evr think of me. Is that the title of a new project?

I'm very into Easter eggs this era, and the fans know. I'm on Twitter, sending cryptic messages. I think I'm in a place in my career where I've done so many cool things, and it's fun to point back. I love dropping little hints, so people might have to wait to figure that one out, but it'll make sense at some point.

The teaser featured clips from throughout your career, starting with your YouTube days through Unbreakable Smile and winning two Grammys. How do you look back on your career now that you've been in the game for more than a decade? And how does that inspire you going forward?

It's really trippy looking back. I feel so grateful that I've been able to have this amazing career and quite honestly, live my dream. At the same time, I'm gearing up for this new project, and it almost feels like I'm a new artist again. I have that excitement, drive and hunger. A pretty big artist told me a long time ago, "I always want to feel like a new artist. I don't want to ever feel jaded. I want to always feel a little nervous and excited and ready to put out the next thing." I want to feel like that too. I've been able to do so many things, but at the same time, there's so much more that I haven't even shown people yet.

RELATED: Tori Kelly Says She's 'Not in a Rush' to Have Kids with Husband André Murillo

André Murillo and Tori Kelly attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors at Arena on March 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
André Murillo and Tori Kelly attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors at Arena on March 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Allen Berezovsky/Getty André Murillo and Tori Kelly

For this new era, are you thinking about any collaborations? I've been thinking this would be the perfect time to finally work with your friend JoJo on an original song.

I've seen so many comments — yes. I would love that. I just adore JoJo. We've actually known each other for a really long time. I think I was like 12 when we met. She's the best, and obviously one of the OG 2000s queens. When it comes to collaborations, we're brainstorming. There's definitely a handful of people that I would love to collaborate with.

You celebrated your 30th birthday in December, and André sweetly wrote on Instagram that he sees a "crazy decade" in your future. How's he been supportive as you've prepared for this new era?

He's the best. He's the most supportive. It's been awesome to have him. I'll ask him what he thinks about things and get his opinion on stuff. He grew up on '90s R&B, so he's super stoked about all the new stuff.

Fans haven't seen you on tour in the U.S. since 2019. Can we expect a tour anytime soon?

I miss touring so much. I was actually on a world tour right as Covid was happening, and it was heartbreaking to have to cancel that. Since then, I haven't been able to tour. That's one of the most exciting things I'm looking forward to. I can't give any details or anything yet, but I cannot wait just to see fans again and belt out these songs with them.