Arts & Entertainment

New WILLOW album bends genre, stuns listeners

By Griffin Brammer, Staff Writer

Willow Smith, known musically as WILLOW, has come a long way since her earliest days of whipping her hair back and forth for the Kids Choice Awards. From R&B and soul pop, WILLOW is an ever-evolving artist. 

However, her newest album, Lately I Feel EVERYTHING, surprised me with just how far she can stretch her musical grasp. 

The album, released on July 16, features a new WILLOW, unique from any other we’ve seen on her previous albums. She channels a pop and punk rock personality in her newest, and most experimental, musical venture. 

Like WILLOW shaving her head mid-performance, Lately I Feel EVERYTHING is bold, iconic and hard to forget.

The album starts off suddenly with the energetic “T r a n s p a r e n t s o u l,” which some may recognize from its stint on TikTok. While it’s definitely the most “pop” of WILLOW’s new songs, the hypnotic opening guitar riff serves as a good segue to the album for fans who are more used to the sound of WILLOW’s previous albums. 

For me, it’s the chorus that shines as the best part of the song. While WILLOW’s semi-deep, soulful voice leaned well to her R&B and pop work, it’s here where  her belting delivers a truly amazing performance that heightens expectations for the rest of the album.

However, after the first song, the album jumps to a more punk-inspired sound. Such is the case with “Gaslight,” which features heart-pounding and head-banging beats provided by WILLOW on guitar and Blink 182’s Travis Barker on drums. 

Coupled with an in-your-face, fast-paced vocal performance, this song alone makes it easy to forgive the arguably too sudden change in rock styles between the first couple of songs.

The prerequisite slow song of the album takes the form of “Come Home,” featuring a duet with musician Ayla Tesler-Mabe. The beat is reminiscent of a ‘50s slow song, with an alt-rock twist, before later developing into full guitar-shredding goodness. 

That, in addition, to the perfectly complimenting voices of WILLOW and Tesler-Mabe lead to an emotional rollercoaster that only deepens by the simple yet hauntingly effective lyricism WILLOW is known for.

The album then takes a deep dive into another style, this time channeling the vibes of alt rock from the early 2000s with Willow’s “G R O W.” This is probably the best song on the album chopped up to the surprising duet between her and pop punk legend Avril Lavigne, as well as Travis Barker’s return on drums. The song is energetic and catchy, and Lavigne’s nostalgic vocals are a great complement to WILLOW’s new age voice.

WILLOW has found her niche in the rock scene. While I think the album is a perfect introduction to her new style, ultimately, I would be wrong if I said the album wasn’t without its flaws. There are some songs that feel more “filler” than anything, especially the half-minute long “F**K You.” Then again, a few songs would have benefited from a slightly longer run time. 

The album does seem to be a little disordered. WILLOW experiments with multiple subgenres of rock, it is sometimes at the cost of the album’s cohesion. WILLOW’s musical range is her biggest strength as a musician, but perhaps is also this album’s biggest downfall.

WILLOW’s newest album, Lately I Feel EVERYTHING, includes songs that range from punk to alt rock. Listeners may recognize one of the songs, “T r a n s p a r e n t s o u l,” which made a splash on TikTok a few months ago.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com