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Smooth Bananas: The Career of Willow Smith

American rapper and singer Willow Smith has received a resurgence in popularity due to songs going viral on TikTok. Her career is only beginning to take off.

Smith, the daughter of actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, began her career in acting alongside her father in the 2007 film “I Am Legend” as well as a handful of smaller roles. Her film career fizzled to some degree after she auditioned for the role of Annie in 2014’s “Annie” but lost out on the role to younger actress Quvenzhane Wallis.

After her start in film, Smith went on to music, inspired both by her father and her brother Jaden’s success in music. Many may not remember her first single “Whip My Hair” or at the very least probably haven’t put together that she performed that song as well. The single was wildly successful, earning the young singer a platinum record, but that success did not become a hot streak. Her subsequent singles “Fireball,” and “I Am Me” completely flopped, even with the collaboration of Nicki Minaj on “Fireball.” The album these singles were written for, “Knees and Elbows,” was eventually scrapped, but Willow continued work on songs that would presumably be material for the unfinished album. Her choices on these later songs are sometimes criticized as “too mature.”

Her first fully released album, titled “Ardipithecus,” was named after the first known transitional fossil between non-human ape and man and the singer-songwriter stated that she wanted to represent that she was in a “transitional state” while writing most of the songs on the album. The album received mixed reviews and not many of the songs receive much traction five years later.

After her stumbles of the past, Smith became a relatively unknown name save for any work with her parents. Her parents’ separation as well as her brother’s romantic escapades gave her a small amount of publicity here and there but for the most part, Willow stayed out of the spotlight. Then, like a bolt of lightning, she made her resurgence with the power of TikTok.

Smith released a single with almost no lead up titled “Transparent Soul.” The song featured Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and is a distinct shift in her musical style. Previously, Smith had operated in an easily identifiable pop/R&B style but “Transparent Soul” is a stark shift into the pop-punk genre. Gone are the electronic beats and synthesized patches. Instead, Smith utilizes a nice balance between driving drums and wailing electric guitars. Her vocal style has also changed dramatically to a much simpler tone but with more potent lyrical content. The song’s words fly by, but Smith is able to deliver each word like a knife in the heart of an enemy, which fits the song quite well.

Smith has recently gained more traction on TikTok thanks to her song, “Meet Me at Our Spot,” which features band The Anxiety and Tyler Cole. If history is to be believed, this recent track record of quite successful endeavors into the short form video platform could be the steppingstone Smith needs to get out of the rut that has been much of her musical past.

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