WILLOW: lately I feel EVERYTHING (LIFE)
Didn't take much. As soon as the first chorus from LIFE exploded past the cheap padding of my Sony headphones, (lead single and opening track "t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l") I was in love.
WILLOW's voice is just... Undeniable. I think when it's all said and done, she'll be touted as the most talented member of the Smith clan. (And that's saying an awful lot considering the musical legacy she's walking in.) She also has one hell of a sense of humor. For someone with serious musical chops, she doesn't at all take herself too seriously (her seemingly impromptu call out to an ex, "F**K You"). Makes her music all the more poignant when she gets caught up in her own soul.
Effervescent, scathing, gorgeous. The reason why someone as young as WILLOW appeals so much to millennials like me? Her relatability has less to do with the universality of her message than it is the uncompromising realness of the delivery. Why it took me such a long time to find anything to connect with in artists like Kehlani and Kahlid. There's a maturity in tone, musical breadth and lyrical emotion in WILLOW that I just didn't find in the others. What she brings to the table is a clarity of thought and openness to being wrong, being corrected, being vulnerable that she doesn't hide behind. It's an authentic need, a palpable obsession to be as human as she can possibly be.
That's why she can drift so effortlessly between pop, alternative, punk, soul when she really gets swept up in her vocals. Because, for better or worse, she leaves herself open to be judged, admired, taught, humbled, forced to grow into her womanhood. It helps that she's been allowed to do that at her own pace and without being molded for another person to live vicariously through.
Let's not ignore the brilliance of the artists who feature throughout. First, Travis Barker, a legend who deserves flowers right now. Considering how much support he provided on his album, his presence is like a shadow: solid in the sunlight, melding with ease when in darkness. He seems to have a mentoring effect on WILLOW, allowing her bite to have more weight than whine. Secondly, Tierra Whack, an emotional explosion of excellence in her own right. (Again, where is her bouquet of roses, orchids and sunflowers?) If Barker is the mentor, Tierra is the big sister. Her timing and penchant for the whimsically twisted works like a warm embrace for WILLOW in a moment when she needs someone to confide in ("XTRA"). From vocalists to members of her band, every single person on this album with a voice allows it to unfold without pretense, without fear. They're all along for this ride that WILLOW has them on. Trusting her to give them space to express themselves even within the confines of very structured and meticulous music. She, too, trusts the artists she works with on the album to give her the chance to get whatever it is inside of her out.
lately I feel EVERYTHING is not an exaggeration. WILLOW's range of emotions, from rage to pettiness, ebullient joy and raw hurt, she leans into it all, her voice the anchor and the wayward ship. We feel what she feels, and she invites us to drown in it all. To drown in EVERYTHING.