If you compared WILLOW from her first hit over 10 years ago to where she is now, you’d think they are two completely different artists. While all artists grow and tweak their sounds as they mature, WILLOW is one of the many few that has tried and succeeded in venturing out into an array of music styles from pop and indie to emo and punk rock. She’s the type of artist that could be singing a sweet slow melody in one album to belting out a hardcore rock tune in the next – and completely pull it off. Not only has WILLOW’s music evolved over the years, but we see her style and attitude change as she matures from a young 10-year-old entering the music industry to an accomplished artist and public figure.
Although it could be argued that her well-known parents are the reason her first track gained momentum, there’s no denying WILLOW has made a name for herself over the years which is evident as we unpack her style and music evolution from 2010 to now.
Whip My Hair (2010)
At the young age of 10, WILLOW released her first hit “Whip My Hair”. It was an unexpected entry into the music industry with her originally only being known for the various acting parts she had alongside her well-known father and actor Will Smith. Despite this, WILLOW’s track was an instant hit as it peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two in the UK. The catchy track put WILLOW in the spotlight, something she initially struggled with as she mentioned in an interview “I was extremely done with music after that. I tried to do so many other things. I didn’t make music for a whole year, which is insane for me.” WILLOW went on to tell her dad that she was finished with the music industry and after he refused to let her back out of her commitments with “Whip My Hair”, the singer protested by shaving her head, thus cementing her image as the rebellious young popstar we first knew her as.
After WILLOW’s short hiatus, the singer was back on the scene with her album ARDIPTHECUS. The album was a new direction for WILLOW, providing a more slow-burn indie pop sound compared to her fast upbeat track “Whip My Hair”. Although the album didn’t gain as much momentum upon its release as her first hit back in 2010, some of the tracks proved to be ahead of their time with the likes of “Wait a Minute” gaining success 5 years later as it made the viral rounds on video platform TikTok. Many fans were shocked the song had come out 5 years earlier than its peak, and even more so that it was written by an immensely talented 14/15-year-old WILLOW. The switch from her “Whip my Hair” era to ARDIPTHECUS clearly shows how WILLOW’s vocal talent had grown throughout the years as well as her talent for writing considering she played a bigger part in the lyrics of her tracks this time around. A talent that is highly evident in the emotion and depth of the tracks compared to her earlier songs.
The 1st (2017)
About two years after the release of ARDIPTHECUS we are blessed with a second album by WILLOW that has taken yet another artistic direction as she ventures out into new genres of music. The style of this album can be described as folk meets jazz with the tracks providing the sense of a story being told in addition to a catchy tune that creates an easy-listening vibe. The album’s organic feel shows that she is after the kind of music that reflects her personality and talents, rather than gaining spots on the charts. Critics of the music industry compare the album to the alternative female singer-songwriters of the 1990s and note that despite not being born in the decade, WILLOW has captured the tone and style perfectly whilst adding her own flair to it, proving yet again that the singer has no limits when it comes to her creative ability. Her fashion style reflects this sentiment as 2017 saw her rocking the classic leather jackets you’d see throughout ’90s pop culture.
In her third album titled WILLOW, we see a softer side to the singer’s music as the tracks provide an ethereal feel to it. The album gives off feminine energy that we see replicated in WILLOW’s style as she makes more public appearances, notably her attendance at the Aladdin premiere with her family in May 2019 where she opts for a classy blazer dress paired with a bold red lip. We see WILLOW mature from this point as both a public figure and artist, particularly as she joins her mother and grandmother on the popular TV show “Red Table Talk” where they discuss key issues in current society. The more sophisticated image is a far cry from the “Whip My Hair” era and highlights WILLOW’s ability to grow her style and music to suit the maturing of her fanbase.
THE ANXIETY (2020)
2020 could be described as a pivotal moment in WILLOW’s career as she forms THE ANXIETY with fellow bandmate and rumoured boyfriend Tyler Cole. The two joined forces to release an album that has the iconic hit track “Meet Me At Our Spot”. The catchy tune helped cement her image as the cool indie artist whose tracks frequented the viral chain on TikTok. Cole and WILLOW named the band to highlight some of the struggles that each of them has with anxiety which is also evident in the lyrics of the tracks. The album comes at a key moment where topics of anxiety and mental health are openly discussed amongst Gen-Z and Millennials making the tone of the album well-fitted to its intended audience and WILLOW a relatable artist to her fans.
Lately I feel EVERYTHING (2021)
It’s 2021 and punk-rock WILLOW has entered the chat. The year saw WILLOW proving, yet again, that she can conquer any genre as she takes on an edgy rockstar style that somehow fits her perfectly. With the likes of Travis Barker, Kourtney Kardashian, Megan Fox and MGK sporting the emo/punk-rock looks, WILLOW is right on trend as she teams up with Barker and MGK to create the popular tracks “Transparentsoul” and “emo girl”. The rockstar look is a side to WILLOW that we haven’t seen before but she slides into the genre and style effortlessly as if she has been there all along. Despite the gap between indie to punk-rock genres feeling the widest it could ever be, for WILLOW it feels like a natural progression as she continues to use her music to highlight her evolving style whilst notably always staying on trend.
‘<maybe> it’s my fault’ (2022)
Keeping her rock aesthetic, the lead single off her upcoming album <COPINGMECHANISM> finds WILLOW doing what she truly does best. Her vocals are a no-brainer for the edgier and punkier tracks she continues to put out and she seems to be maturing not only in age but in emotion with each new one. ‘<maybe> it’s my fault’ blends the soft with the angry, showcasing a controlled mix of gentle singing with escalated screaming towards the end. It seems WILLOW has finally found her voice and where she’s meant to be, evolving through the years to not only become a better musician but a better self. And we can’t wait to see what she still has up her sleeve.
WILLOW’s upcoming album <COPINGMECHANISM> is out Oct 7th.