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‘Lately I Feel EVERYTHING’ is newest addition to Gen-Z’s pop-punk revival

‘Lately I Feel EVERYTHING’ is newest addition to Gen-Z’s pop-punk revival

August 04
12:00 2021

Willow Smith has always been hit or miss for me, but she’s been mainly a hit with some killer tracks from her debut album “Ardipithecus” and her self-titled third album “Willow,” but with the release of “Lately I Feel EVERYTHING” my interest and fascination has reached its peak and I’m excited about what comes next. “Lately” is the fourth studio album from Willow as she shifts her sounds from experimental alt-R&B to a mish-mash of pop-punk and indie rock. At 11 songs in 26 minutes, “Lately” is Willow’s tightest and most sonically pleasing album to date.

Willow isn’t new to changing up her sound to fit the goings-on of her personal life, and “Lately” is no different. In her self-titled album in 2019, we saw her delve into psychedelic soul reminiscent of SZA and Erykah Badu. This new record instead leaps into pop-punk sounds and Willow wears her influences on her sleeve proudly with her co-producer Tyler Cole, as they expand their abilities as rock musicians and songwriters. However, it would be misleading for me to say this is a complete true-to-form pop-punk, but instead sort of like Olivia Rodrigo because the pop-punk influence is merely the seasoning to the album’s main ingredient.

“Transparent Soul” is an exceptionally strong start to the record with its driving guitar riffs and superb drumming by Blink-182’s Travis Barker. The Gen-Z angst is very apparent throughout the album as “Gaslight” and “F–k You” are the next tracks following the excellent opener. “Gaslight” is relentless in its production and lyrics, although this is the first instance of some of the tracks sounding a bit like a promotional track for a Disney Channel original movie. This song and “Grow” could make case for a “Lemonade Mouth” reboot with how much more pop than punk these tracks sound.

“Lipstick” is where this record truly shines as Willow belts out with wonderful control with a sparse, heavy bass riff in the background. One of my favorite parts of this album is just how well the mix is. Willow blends in perfectly with the production leading to a very sonically pleasing album on the ears. Honestly, Willow is just that good and is truly under-appreciated as a singer.

The strongest tracks on the album are without a doubt are “Naïve,” “Come Home,” and “XTRA” with the latter offering a verse on the reverb-heavy ballad. “Come Home” features Ayla Teselr-Mabe, the former lead guitarist of Calpurnia and one-third of jazz-funk band Ludic, on a track that blends classic rock, grunge, and nü-metal.

“Grow” features Avril Lavigne, and while I love her and Willow together, this track was not for them. It’s a song about self-acceptance and maybe it’ll grow on me (no pun intended), but it feels like a missed opportunity. Again, as I stated earlier, “Grow” and “Gaslight” feel like they should be on Kidz Bop album. That’s not an insult, though — it just doesn’t fit with the emo rock vibes Willow is going for here. Finally, the record closes with “Breakout” which goes into full riot girl territory with its even heavier backdrop vocals and the out of nowhere interpolation of Kanye West’s “Power.”

As someone who’s only two years older than Willow, I admit I relate a bit too much to this record. Coming of age in a post-9/11 America, two recessions and a global pandemic can do a mess to one’s psyche and it’s laid to bear on “Lately.” “Breakout” and “F–k You” were probably the weakest tracks (although you probably wouldn’t consider “F–k You” a track in the first place). Overall, Willow has shown us on “Lately” that emo isn’t dead and adds another excellent album to the current pop-punk revival.

Final rating: 3.5/5

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Chance Townsend

Chance Townsend

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