WILLOW: feminist, spiritually-soothing, & mature

Willow’s newest self-titled project dropped on July 19, and it’s gotten tossed around as a “new age trope” and “disappointing.” What those reviewers missed is its calming energies, feminist messaging, and proudly anti-materialistic declarations – a bold step for the daughter of two of society’s wealthiest people to take.

“Like a Bird” is a poem. “Female Energy, Part 2” is a slow, crooning ballad that is entirely too relatable amidst our current political and environmental crises. “I don’t know if I can chill / I need to scream it loud,” she sings. “[H]ow am I to feel? Tell me how,” alludes to the new trend of climate-change-and-political-inaction-related-anxiety.

This project is more mature and staunchly realistic in its statements than ARDIPITHECUS and The 1st. It is primarily written from the perspective of Willow looking outward, whereas much of her past work, including “Cycles”, were more typical pop songs in their self-centered themes. The feminist assertions of “PrettyGirlz” and “Overthinking IT” are not to be overlooked. “Overthinking IT” takes responsibility for changing one’s own perceptions and stereotypes and removing one’s self from anxiety-inducing situations (self-care!): “I got so much work to do… I have so much love to give.” “PrettyGirlz” is my favorite track on the project; it celebrates femininity, bi- and pansexuality, and the attractiveness of intelligence (“Want a girl who knows herself like her favorite book right on the shelf”). Willow contrasts what society wants from girls (hips, Hollywood glamour, perfection, and oodles of straight, styled hair) with more desirable, genuine traits: curls (yay natural hair!), emotions running “amok”, passion, and confidence (“Her planet so bright, can’t see shit”).

The nostalgia of “Time Machine” is powerful and understandable; I’m a 90s kid, but I read and watch and hear about growing up in the 80s and 90s (my husband is eight years older than me) and yearn for that safer, anti-establishment moment. Instead, the cost of living today is so high that my friends don’t have time to get together; we’re working two or three part-time jobs seven days a week; what I wouldn’t give to have time to ride a longboard and “cruise all day.” She also references Basquiat and in “Samo Is Now”, SAMO, the pair of graffiti artists whose artistically-scrawled epigrams challenged conventional thinking and encouraged societal critique.

Her 2015 track “dRuGz” deals with insecurities and spiritual uncertainty. WILLOW demonstrates her newfound confidence using psychedelic imagery, energies, and spiritually-fresh musings: “Ancient secrets on me, on the beach for the week.” This project’s stunning, musically-mature sound and challenging content make it stand out among other 2019 releases.

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