October 31, 2017 was the day Willow Smith resurrected my soul. It’s felt like an eternity since the release of her 2015 debut “Ardipithecus,” and I didn’t know how much I needed a follow up until I got one. She released “The 1st” on her 17th birthday, almost like a gift to her fans so that we, too, could celebrate her birth. This 11-track album is a display of her own personal introspection. This self-examination is on display in songs like “Ho’ihi Interlude” in which she is exclaiming her yearning for community and unity and oneness with the universe, and “Oh No!!!” in which she is starting to understand her part in the dynamics of a relationship. She explains how she is “going to break [her] heart/ Because [she] knows you won’t do it first.” This album flows like a diary — each song or “entry” is unique and pensive.
The album opens with “Boy,” a brutally honest love song in the form of a conversation with her mother, Jada Pinkett-Smith. She sings somberly about a boy who “likes Quentin Tarantino and really sad songs.” She also talks about feeling boring to this hipster sad boy because she “comes from a cluster of bright stars” (her famous family), and feels boring in comparison. The angsty violin adds to the feeling of being romantically dubious. She hits the nail of uncertainty on the head when she confides in God and admits that “I’m feeling love is here [in the relationship], and then it’s not.” She’s insecure in her feelings, and is questioning if they even exist.
This song transitions into the beautifully elegant, instrumental piano ballad of “An Awkward Life Of An Awkward Girl.” This song works like a melancholic extension of the song that precedes it. She is further expressing her apprehension toward love. She no longer feels the need to speak, instead letting the instrumental persuade the listener.
“And Contentment” is Willow laying out a blueprint for happiness, self acceptance, and leading a fulfilling life. She starts the song with the lyrics “Happiness and contentment/ Comes from zero comparison/ One-hundred percent personal experience,” which accurately sets the tone for the rest of the song. Though the song is addressing the listener, it feels like it was written for herself, almost like a reminder to stay on the right path. In the first verse she states, “[her] sword is up, and [her] heart is down.” She then adds, “Baby girl, there’s so much love in your eyes. So baby girl don’t let ‘em turn it into ice.” The “baby girl” she’s addressing might in fact herself. She is reminding herself to stay true and to not allow outside forces to sway her.
This album is a perfect display of the current millennial mindset. Willow is a poster child for this new wave of eclectic teens, thus making the album very relatable. Willow has come a very long way, vocally, lyrically, and stylistically since her debut. Her voice has matured and unlocked new ranges. She is able to express herself more creatively than before with her lyrics. She has refined her style to be more personal and unique, thus making her more recognizable stylistically as Willow, the artist. Her sound is now more pointed and purposeful and unique to her. To say that I’m proud of her evolution would be an understatement.
Amaris Powell, 16, attends South Gwinnett High School and is a lover of all things creative.