Willow Smith’s music is underrated and deserves more attention

by Aaliyah Alexander, Opinion Editor

“I understand that her music isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but can’t that be said for every artist out there? Olivia Rodrigo’s music isn’t everyone’s chosen flavor, for example.”

I hate to be that person who tries to plead a case on behalf of an artist who they think is underrated, but Willow Smith is worth setting my pride aside for.

You may remember Smith by her record-charting song “Whip My Hair” released in 2010. I was 10 years old when this iconic song dropped and I can still remember going crazy at birthday parties when it came on. 

After releasing “Whip My Hair” and a few other projects that didn’t receive similar attention, Smith removed herself from the limelight due to unwanted fame and personal reasons. 

“I would go out and I would be with… kids my age and I would just be stopped and constantly [hear] ‘oh that’s the girl from ‘Whip My Hair’ and I just saw my other friends just being able to live and being able to have experiences,” Smith said in an interview. “That kind of made me think like is this really truly the life I want to be living… I don’t want to just be like a caricature for the world to look at.”

Four years following her iconic song, Smith released EP “3” with her first album “Ardipithecus” appearing a little over a year later. These projects offered a distinctly new sound compared to the pop sound we were used to in tracks “Whip My Hair” and “21st Century Girl”. “3” and “Ardipithecus” set the tone for what was to come as she dropped songs centered around spirituality, self-discovery and growth.  

Not afraid to experiment like her older brother Jaden Smith, Smith collaborated with mantra meditation musician Jahnavi Harrison on an EP titled “Rise.” This collaboration highlighted her ability to mesmerize a completely new audience while keeping existing fans captivated. 

Her single “Transparent Soul”  featuring musician Travis Barker from rock band Blink-182 supports the previous claim. Although Smith dipped her toes in alternative rock before in her project “The Anxiety” featuring musician Tyler Cole, “Transparent Soul” stood out to fans —  as evidenced by its number one streaming spot on Spotify with over 39 million plays. This punk rock era Smith seems to be entering gives her the opportunity to diversify a genre dominated by white artists. Her latest single “Lipstick” left me with goosebumps and a heavy dose of confidence that she will represent Black female artists well in this genre.  

As a longtime fan, I’m surprised she hasn’t reached the same hype she had 11 years ago. When I play “Marceline”, “Wait a Minute!”, “Time Machine”, “Poolside” and “Waves of Nature,” I sit in awe and wonder why this girl isn’t receiving the attention she rightfully deserves. 

I understand that her music isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but can’t that be said for every artist out there? Olivia Rodrigo’s music isn’t everyone’s chosen flavor, for example. Smith doesn’t follow the same musical template that makes songs guaranteed hits but that’s what makes her music unique. Some critics describe her work “as if SZA suddenly retreated from the limelight, got really into Alanis Morissette and junk science, and was noncommittal about songcraft.” This opinion could be interpreted as an insult to Smith’s craft, but to fans, it is a compliment toward their indie artist. You may never hear a Willow Smith song follow a Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande single on the radio, but that doesn’t mean her music isn’t pure gold. 

From getting to know Smith through her socials, interviews and talk show “Red Table Talk”, one can see that this artist isn’t concerned about making number one hits; her only concern is making music that she loves. This alone sets Smith apart from so many artists who reach a certain status in the music industry, become complacent and produce similar catchy songs that are overplayed on the radio. Her dedication and genuine love for music radiates from her work and is why she has a loyal fanbase. 

There’s a lot of artists that deserve more play and attention, but if I had to choose one of the most underrated artists of our generation, it would be Willow Smith. 

(Be sure to check out Smith’s new album “Lately I Feel Everything” on July 16.)

Aaliyah Alexander is a junior studying journalism and international studies. Follow her on Twitter @aaliyahdanyell.