Culture / Music / Willow Smith Goes Pop-Punk

Willow Smith Goes Pop-Punk
6 min read
Sheldon Pearce writes about Willow Smith's new pop-punk album, "lately I feel EVERYTHING," which features guest appearances by Avril Lavigne and Blink-182's Travis Barker.
Willow Smith spent the better part of her teen-age years trying to bypass her celebrity birthright and arrive at a higher calling. She was determined to move "freethinker and bohemian musician" above "child of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith" in her biography. "Take the money, take the fame / All I want is truth," she sang on "8," in 2014, before naming the transformation she was going through: "My third eye is opening."

Now twenty, Willow has been making music for half of her life, mostly as a way to seek insights into the divine, or, as she's put it, be in service to the life on this planet. But working with her creative partner, Tyler Cole, on a collaborative album called "The Anxiety," in 2020, led Willow to look inward: before the pandemic, the two willingly trapped themselves inside a box at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art for a twenty-four-hour performance with live and online spectators. They spent most of it acting out eight stages of anxiety—paranoia, rage, sadness, numbness, euphoria, strong interest, compassion, and acceptance—with the intent to raise awareness about mental health. The performance had the side effect of awakening something in Willow; she told The Face, "The biggest thing I've learned about myself since I released 'The Anxiety' is that I have a lot of deep-seated emotional issues that need my attention."

Willow's fourth solo album, "lately I feel EVERYTHING," which was made in the wake of that realization, is her least spiritual yet most existential release. She dives into the rousing sounds of pop-punk and alternative rock to reckon with her own limitations and those that others might impose upon her. She is intent on setting herself free. Easily the best and most assured music of her career so far, the album is the first to maximize her talents, externalizing the pent-up, dialled-up angst of her adolescence. "I need you to tell me when I'm being naïve / 'Cause I know I can be," she yowls on "naïve," and it often sounds as if she is…
Sheldon Pearce
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