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A genre-defying artist, Willow reinvents pop, R&B, rock, and alternative music in her own individualistic ways. As a singer/songwriter, she debuted with the viral 2010 hit "Whip My Hair," becoming the youngest artist (to date) to score a double-platinum single. On her 2015 self-produced full-length debut, Ardipithecus, she added alt-R&B textures to her style. By the time of 2017's The 1st, her sound had evolved to include pastoral acoustic elements, while 2019's self-titled album brought touches of dream pop into her music. In 2021, the pop chameleon added punk rock to her repertoire with Lately I Feel Everything and continued her maturation with 2022's rock-driven COPINGMECHANISM and the mingling of alternative pop and jazz on 2024's "Symptoms of Life" and Empathogen. Along the way, Willow was a frequent collaborator with her brother Jaden, as well as Tyler Cole (as the duo the Anxiety) and Jahnavi Harrison (for 2020's R I S E). In addition to film and music, she is also a fashion icon, social rights advocate, and television personality, starring alongside her mother and grandmother on the family talk show Red Table Talk. The daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow, like older brothers Jaden and Trey, got her start in the entertainment industry as an actor. She first appeared alongside her father in I Am Legend (2007), which led to roles in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008) and Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa (2008), as well as a couple appearances on the television program True Jackson, VP (as a younger version of star Keke Palmer). In 2010, Jay-Z's Roc Nation label signed Smith as a vocalist. Her first single, the bouncy "Whip My Hair," was released later that year and was in the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart by the end of October. The single ultimately went double platinum, making ten-year-old Willow the youngest artist to achieve that feat. In 2011, she won Outstanding New Artist at the NAACP Image Awards. Smith's debut album, Ardipithecus, arrived in 2015. Exploring different sounds and textures, the record was a stark departure from "Whip My Hair," unveiling a more alternative side to the songwriter -- somewhere between Lorde and Janelle Monáe -- who also produced ten of the album's 11 tracks. Her sophomore effort, The 1st, marked another shift in tone for Smith. Issued in 2017, the album focused on an organic, singer/songwriter style highlighted on tracks like "Boy" and "A Reason." Her eclectic third LP, Willow, appeared in July 2019 and was co-produced by Tyler Cole. Plaintive like The 1st, but with more production, the short set had a dreamy energy similar to Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star and featured brother Jaden on "U Know." Her collaborative work with Cole was extended when the pair formed the Anxiety, recording a self-titled album that landed in March 2020. The lead single from The Anxiety, "Meet Me at Our Spot," became an international Top 40 radio hit the following year. To close out 2020, Smith teamed with British musician Jahnavi Harrison for the spiritually focused EP R I S E. In 2021, Smith added pop-punk to her sonic resumé with the angst-packed single "Transparent Soul" featuring drummer Travis Barker. That track -- along with two other Barker features -- landed on her next album, Lately I Feel Everything, which was influenced by childhood favorites like Paramore and My Chemical Romance. Delving headlong into this fresh space, she also recruited additional guests Avril Lavigne, Tierra Whack, and Cherry Glazerr. The record peaked at number five on the Top Alternative Albums chart and cracked the Top 50 of the Billboard 200. The next year, in addition to collaborations with PinkPantheress, Camila Cabello, and Yungblud, Willow continued her rock trajectory with her fifth set, COPINGMECHANISM, home to the metallic riffs of " it's my fault" and the punky "hover like a GODDESS." In 2023 she issued an EP, Live at Electric Lady, which featured re-imagined versions of five songs from her previous album. More sophisticated, alt-pop-leaning stand-alone singles arrived with "Alone" and 2024's "Symptom of Life." Another single, "Big Feelings," preceded Willow's sixth album, May 2024's Empathogen. Featuring contributions from Jon Batiste and St. Vincent, the full-length expanded on her alternative pop-meets-jazz direction.
© Neil Z. Yeung & Andy Kellman /TiVo


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