Pop-punk is in good hands
Vicky Greer
09:20 19th July 2021

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Willow Smith has been a Gen Z hero for a long time. Debuting with ‘Whip My Hair’ at the tender age of 10, the daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith has come of age in the spotlight, and now at 20, she has already released five albums. The most recent, lately I feel EVERYTHING, arrived this week and sees her transition from a DIY bedroom-pop sound into the booming rebirth of pop-punk. And with the support of genre royalty like Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne, it’s the best decision she’s ever made.

The beginning of the album is most striking, opening up with the dazzling single ‘t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l’ featuring Blink-182’s Travis Barker (seemingly in line with industry regulations that require him to feature on every new pop-punk record). Don’t pretend you don’t know this song – even if you aren’t an avid user of TikTok, the track is everywhere. Along with Olivia Rodrigo and Eurovision’s Måneskin, Willow has been a part of rock music’s re-entry into the UK Singles chart with this opener. And it has everything you need: rapid-fire lyrics paired with soaring choruses and pounding drums that need to get out in front of a crowd. She’s already won the hearts of the new generation of alternative kids, but this is a style that’s going to appeal to older fans as well.

Leading off this massive statement of intent we come to ‘F**K You’, a 30-second Bikini Kill-esque battle cry against a past heartbreak that sounds like the forgotten skit from a '90s riot grrrl record. Changing the pace so rapidly at the beginning of an album is a bold move, but one that stands in Willow’s favour. There’s a tendency for pop-punk records to sound the same after a while, each three-chord song blending into the next. By giving us something raw and stripped back, Willow stands out from the crowd.

‘G R O W’ is without a doubt a standout song on the album, for nostalgia if nothing else. Hearing Avril Lavigne come on to vocals had a much bigger emotional impact that I thought it would. If you’re Of A Certain Age, don’t be surprised if hearing the Queen in all her glory moves you to tears, or at least to wearing too much eyeliner again. There’s a lovely mix of collaborations throughout the record, from legendary names like Lavigne and Barker to newcomers like Ayla Tesler-Mabe (formerly of Calpurnia), Cherry Glazerr and Tierra Whack.

While it is a big change in musical direction for Willow, we aren’t missing out on anything we loved about her work previously. She’s not afraid to show off her powerful voice in songs like ‘naïve’ or ‘Lipstick’, calling back to the massive choruses of previous favourites like ‘Marceline’. The move to pop-punk came as an initial surprise but coming from a young woman who has been making bold, outspoken music for years, this new direction is a perfect fit.

Lately I feel EVERYTHING is an extremely well-crafted foray into pop-punk. Its only setback is that it feels rushed in places – it’s not easy to make such a big album fit into 26 minutes. There are songs like ‘don’t SAVE ME’ could be more fleshed out and given some breathing room to grow. But elder emos need not fear – your beloved genre is in good hands.

lately I feel EVERYTHING is out now. 

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