Having any smidgen of talent and a yearning to stick a toe in any creative outlet is both a blessing and a curse for Silicon Valley spawn. Sure, having famous parents gives you the tools and budget to blossom your career, but also you run the risk of being seen as a privileged novelty act that no one takes seriously. Willow and Jaden Smith have always fought this battle, but most recently have begun to gain the respect of their own and a place in this industry.
Willow Smith first stepped from under her parent’s eclipsing shadow at the extremely young age of ten, when she catapulted into success with the infectious and Kidz Bop-friendly, “Whip My Hair”. Willow ultimately ended up expressing that the track was not who she saw herself as creatively and ended up rebelling against the song by shaving off her own tresses. This artistic purge opened up her true self to begin to shine through, who she truly exhibited on her first album titled, Ardipithecus. In 2017 we got The 1st which showed even more sonic progression and highlighted a more raw and expressive sound then the previous effort.
Now at 18, Willow has truly tapped into herself with a self-titled album that highlights all of the slight nuances that make Willow Smith feel like herself. In a Billboard interview Willow explained that inspiration of her work includes the likes of The Cocteau Twins, Autumn’s Grey Solace, and “a lot of 80’s ambient music.” The influences are evident among the psychedelic acoustic dreamscape that she creates throughout the tracks.
“Female Energy Pt. 2” leans into this notion with plenty of layered vocals, a simple acoustic riff, and lyrics that I’m sure any emotionally aware teen can relate to. “Tell me, how am I to feel?/Tell me how/ I don’t know if I can chill/ I need to scream it loud.”
One of my favorite tracks, “Time Machine” is a soulful track that delves into Willow’s tendency to feel like an old soul born in the wrong era. “Baby, if I had a time machine/ I’d go back to 1983/ Maybe I’d chill with Basquiat/ I’d be out there playing make believe,” she sings.
“Samo is NOW” is definitely a highlight on the album with multi-layered vocals and an intoxicating psychedelic vibe. I truly feel this is Willow’s most authentic moment on the album and her vocal progression truly shines here. The only feature on the album is her brother, Jaden, who does his best to do a repetitive impression of Travis Scott.
There are plenty of gorgeous moments in WILLOW, as well as a few grating moments where the vocals and production aren’t that polished. But at the self-discovery age of 18 years old, this is a perfect representation of a free artistic teen caught in the confines of LA culture and how discovering ones self can be a road of elegance, bumps and bruises, mistakes, and a rocky road of finding your wizard at the end of the yellow brick road.