Willow - Music Album Reviews

Willow - <CopingMechanism> Music Album Reviews
The Gen Z philosopher’s hard-rock era continues with an album about love and hurt, pain and healing, done with great nuance but not quite enough originality.

Last year on Mother’s Day, Willow surprised her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, with a reunion performance by Jada’s 2000s nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom, starring Willow in her mother’s place as frontwoman. Clad in a Mastodon T-shirt, she foreshadowed her rocker era belting uncharacteristically dark lyrics—“I love your pain and how it opens you so wide/And I love the way you bleed all over me”—while the band shredded electric guitars to “Bleed All Over Me.” Though she officially shed her R&B indie-folk skin on 2021’s pop-punk Lately I Feel Everything, <COPINGMECHANISM> gets even grittier. The Gen Z philosopher’s efforts to evocatively communicate complex generational angst are hindered by her impersonal writing and delivery that doesn’t quite push past vocal imitation of her predecessors.

Willow’s early albums, her 2015 neo-soul debut Ardipithecus and subsequent psychedelic-folk record Willow, sought spiritual enlightenment. Here, she follows the example of artists like Rico Nasty and Kelis by reclaiming cathartic rage in a genre where Black women are woefully absent. Willow grew up watching audience members hurl racial slurs at her mother during her Wicked Wisdom days and came out of that experience determined to end the exclusionary nature of heavy metal. On <COPINGMECHANISM>, she’s not afraid to sound feral and vindictive. Through frenzied guitar breaks, guttural screeches, and screamo vocals on tracks like “ur a ˂stranger˃” and the Yves Tumor collab “Perfectly Not Close to Me,” she purges her grief over the dissolution of a relationship. Though she has noted bands like Lamb of God, Deftones, and Crowbar amongst her inspirations, here her style more closely mimics the celestial croons of Evanescence (“Split”) and the “rock-voice” of early Paramore’s Hayley Williams (“<Coping Mechanism>”).

Even for the self-assured performer who commanded attention on the Oprah show at 5, scored a breakout hit at 9, and put herself first by pausing her career as an adolescent, navigating life in the spotlight as a Black girl can be a horror. In a 2021 interview with Genius, she spoke about her anxiety surrounding betrayal: “I can’t tell you how much I’ve had fear that if I opened up about this to this person or if I say this or whatever, they’re gonna tell TMZ.” As she’s come of age, a deep sense of paranoia runs through Willow’s pop-punk and rock discography. She preemptively plays offense on “BATSHIT?” “If I were you, I would watch out/Whatever you do, it better be true/I’m coming for you,” she hisses, throwing “fucks” like grenades as howling guitars and propulsive drums heighten the potency of her venom. Her lulled laments peak through the adrenaline-filled finale and sum up the album’s tension between intellectualizing her pain and surrendering to its visceral messiness.

Chris Greatti’s stadium-ready production is often diluted by lyrics that attempt to abstractly embody and assuage the disaffection of an entire generation. <COPINGMECHANISM> is a break-up album for Gen Z—a generation that exchanges mental health advice on TikTok and isn’t afraid to publicize their innermost thoughts and pathologies. Sometimes painfully reminiscent of an episode of Red Table Talk—the healing-driven multigenerational talk show and pop culture forum hosted by Willow’s family on Facebook—the album is peppered with therapeutic mantras like “I try to stick to the facts/I try to learn from the past” and buzz phrases like “fight-or-flight... freeze.” “Never wear a frown/Because life doesn’t choose either side/Win or lose, right or wrong/It’s a battle that’s all in your mind,” Willow continues on “curious/furious.” She does counteract cheesy lines with ethereal melismatic breaks and yearning falsettos on tracks like the sapphic love song “hover like a GODDESS” and on the Evanescence-inspired “Split” she makes a case for a spot as one of her generation’s most versatile vocalists.

Despite the pop-therapy mad-libs, Willow takes a nuanced approach to heartbreak. Even while jilted, she retains compassion for her former lovers and doesn’t view herself as blameless. She starts the album with “How I can forgive you?” and evolves into a I’m starting with the man in the mirror moment: “I don’t know if I’m worth forgiving,” she wails. Love can inspire vengeful feelings but on this album the final wound is self-inflicted: “Murdering my ego with a hatchet.” <COPINGMECHANISM> asks us to accept a grungier and more mature Willow, but this maturity feels formulaic and the intimacy feels manufactured, relying on universal tropes of angst instead of her own. Even if the album is generic at times, Willow’s limber vocals surely enchant as she trapezes across pop, punk, metal, and screamo never fully landing on a signature sound.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Willow - Music Album Reviews Willow - <CopingMechanism> Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 20, 2022 Rating: 5


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