Arguably the most underrated Gen Z nepotism baby, Willow Smith or WILLOW, released her fifth studio album, “<COPINGMECHANISM>,” just over a year since her last album. “<COPINGMECHANISM>” sees WILLOW crash through the genres of pop rock and pop punk with the passion of a scorned lover.
The daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith is no stranger to the music industry after signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation at the tender age of nine. In this album, WILLOW is at her most vulnerable and unleashes a side of herself listeners have never seen.IThe singer discussed her connection to the album and how it has been a reflective project about her mental state. Throughout her journey towards the light, WILLOW has been “checking in with [her] shadows,” and this album demonstrates just how thorough that examination has been.
WILLOW has created an album that speaks perfectly to teen angst. This album is comparable to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour.” Themes of heartbreak and betrayal are laced throughout each track. However, “<COPINGMECHANISM>” carries a powerful punchiness Rodrigo’s debut album doesn’t quite match.
The lead track “<maybe> it’s my fault” introduces listeners to skater guitar riffs and rock drums. WILLOW softly sings the first verse as she recounts when she first met her former girlfriend. It seems this song will be bittersweet, but then, the rocker loses herself in emotions as she screams over the pre-chorus. As quickly as she loses control, the singer masterfully reins in her emotions to return to singing lowly during the chorus. With the lyrics “it’s all in my mind,” WILLOW clues listeners into how this album is a survey of her interior landscape.
“Falling Endlessly” and “WHY?” — second and fourth on the album, respectively — also touch on WILLOW’s self-isolation in relationships. Listeners can relate to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt as the singer puts it all out there.
“Falling Endlessly,” which sounds similar to the previous opening, falls a little flat musically — the guitar riffs and beats remind listeners of the previous song, which makes it easy to forget. Otherwise, the track does succeed in its illustration of how tiresome it is to always bear the heavy load of mental illness. Lyrics like “don’t want to get up now / It’s the same everyday” touch on the repetitiveness of depression and how frustrating it is to be trapped in that monotonous cycle.
In “WHY?,” WILLOW seems to have a breakthrough musically. The song skillfully drifts from soft music underscoring vulnerable lyrics to chorus-backed rock guitars that support raging lyrics. Pointed at the person who hurt her, the singer shows a relatable aspect of the human experience. Relationships are hard on everyone, even celebrities.
Performed on “Saturday Night Live,” “curious/furious” and “ur a <stranger>” are the third and seventh tracks. The third track of the album features the most impressive set of lyrics. WILLOW sings of mentally fighting a battle against the darkness of her mind with lyrics like “walking through a darkened forest, goin’ home / curious, furious, I feel alone.” The intensity of the music builds after each verse and reaches peak intensity at the chorus.
“ur a <stranger>” features a sound reminiscent of British rock. With lyrics like “the least you could do is find someone else,” WILLOW is not quite angry, but she is certainly less than happy. As she releases angst and anger, the musicality of the artist breaks through on these songs. WILLOW shows skilled vocal command as she goes easily from screaming to the point where her voice could be worn out to sweetly crooning verses.
The title track “<Coping Mechanism>” dives deeper into heartbreak. In this song, WILLOW sees the writing on the wall. In true pop-punk fashion, the singer turns her anger outward at her cheating former lover. Here, betrayal has never served as a better inspiration.
The second single, “hover like a GODDESS,” has the most powerful beats and vocals of the album. Full of her signature wailing sounds, this track sounds closest to songs from her last album, “lately I feel EVERYTHING.”
However, “hover like a GODDESS” is not alone on the album in terms of WILLOW paying homage to her roots. The slowed-down track of “No Control” has the artist step back to ponder her part in the uncoupling of her relationship. It also features the siren sounds fans know to be a calling card of the artist.
The final track, “BATSH-!,” rounds out the album. The song sounds like a new beginning for the artist as she gives in and accepts the chaos of her mind. She washes herself of all her concerns, but she warns her lover in the final line, “Whatever you do, it better be true, it better be true.” After traversing the shadows of her mind, WILLOW emerges confident and unbending.
Without a doubt, “<COPINGMECHANISM>” is the most ambitious album of WILLOW’s twelve-year career. She leans into punk rock sounds more than in previous attempts and the effort pays off, showing she has developed into a mature music veteran at the age of 21. Listeners should keep an eye on the musician to see what else is in store.