Willow: One of The Decade's Most Underrated Albums

Coming from a family of artists and creatives, it comes as no surprise that Willow Smith possesses just as much talent and creativity as her brother and parents. The release of her third studio album in 2019, Willow, was the climax of Willow Smith coming into her own as an artist and musician. Not only is this album painfully underrated, but it is easily one of the best albums of the decade. With influences such as Tyler the Creator, Solange, and her own brother, Jaden’s work, Willow is the culmination of poetic song writing and masterful production.

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The album begins with the track “Like a Bird”. Willow’s soft, crooning voice is balanced out by jazzy guitar chords, producing a sort of hazy, mysterious feeling. Her voice stretches thin and bellows out over the melodies; The song is eerily beautiful, and the perfect way to begin the album. The next track of the album, “Female Energy, Pt. 2”, is in my opinion, the best track on the album, and one of the best songs ever written. The soft guitar chords are consistent with melodic harmonies of “Like a Bird”, but in this track, Willow is far more earnest in her singing. In the chorus, she sings, “I’m falling into the arms of naked truth, not surprised to see myself reflecting the universe.” It’s poetic, and it’s brilliant. She later asks, “Tell me how am I to feel?”, as her voice takes on the tonal quality of a mere child, questioning her place in the universe. This song is an ode to every young woman who is in search of something more, of her place in the world, of what it means to be human, to be a woman. The end of this song comes far too soon, but its subsequent track, “Time Machine” does not disappoint. Willow sings about her feelings of being born in the wrong generation, of her desire to travel back to the streets of New York in 1983. Despite the poetic lyricism, there is something so effortlessly cool of the intervening of Willow’s voice with slow, thought-out guitar chords. She sings, “I don’t give a fuck, I’m doing me”, and instead of sounding vulgar or harsh, it’s as sweet as pure, dripping honey. 

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“PrettyGirlz” almost makes me reconsider about calling “Female Energy, Pt.2” the best song on the album. Willow’s voice, as beautiful as ever, is filled with longing as she describes the kind of girl she wants. This song is essentially a love letter to not just the women that Willow likes, but women everywhere. She sings about the kind of girls society wants, “They want the girls with the hips, they want the girls in the movies, want the girls with the prettiest smile, seemingly perfect life, movie”, and she then goes on to croon about the kind of girls she wants, singing, “I want a girl who’s got a light, that makes me squint when I look in her eyes, she doesn’t give a fuck when emotions run amuck.”

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On “Samo is Now”, the album transforms into something less reminiscent of the soundtrack of an indie movie about first loves, and something far more haunting and adult. Where guitar chords were once whimsical and soft, they are now more forced - still beautiful, but with less magic. As Willow sings about her feelings of confusion and self-doubt, her voice is offset by the echoes of a recorded males voice, speaking “Are you in prison? No, the city is killing me.” As the song ends, we are greeted by “then”, the first and only interlude on the album. This piece consists entirely of vocals, and is a testament to the simplicity of Willow’s range. Even without words, it is as though she is reaching into the soul of the listener and pulling them into the world as she sees it from her eyes. 

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On “U KNOW”, Willow calls for the assistance of her equally talented brother and rapper, Jaden. This piece is deeply personal, as Willow sings, “I invoke the spirit of the mother and the father’s son, tryna be a beacon of each other, love everyone.” Jaden effortlessly ties his own powerful lyricism to Willow’s, and the effect is nothing short of transformative. Willow ends the album with “Overthinking IT”, and it is a perfect end to the story Willow has masterfully told. Whereas the entire album up to this point consisted of hazy chords, questioning, longing, and a sense of doubt, this track offers some sort of resolution. Willow acknowledges her hectic lifestyle, singing, “Wanna be here, I wanna be there, I’m overthinking it”, and then consequently reminds herself to breathe. The beauty in this track, as well as every other song on the album, is that even though she faces all of the doubts and insecurities young women face, she knows herself. She is simply trying to work out how she fits into the world around her, and invites the listener in to take the journey with her.