Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Willow Smith – 21st Century Girl

And so she learns her harshest lesson – Always Include a Dance Routine…


Josh Langhoff: Willow has given me much to puzzle over. Would classy rebellion look more like Oscar Wilde or a kid blowing her allowance at the Nike store? Do her 21st Century Girl bullet points more closely resemble a Seventeen article or a Goldman Sachs orientation? Does Willow’s idea of “living life on the edge” annoy me more like a Super Bowl ad or a Pink song? Despite these concerns, I’ll cut her some slack for those brief, shining moments when she makes me wonder whether she rocks the beat more like Tigra or Bunny.

Chuck Eddy: So the concept is that she was born in 2000, so she earned the title, right? Am I a detective, or what? But how did she earn the Ke$ha imitation? Actually, I like that part, and at least Willow acts her age more here than whilst hair-whipping. To me, this is no worse than that one was. Might even like it more.

Iain Mew: The chorus is slightly rote bigness without the same kind of viral power as “Whip My Hair” but there’s a lot of other stuff going on which keeps this as enjoyable. In particular the fun bit around about “I’m the kind of chick who likes to rock the beat” which leaps out. Said bit kind of reminds me of Robyn, which I guess is a demonstration of how you can carefully cultivate a persona which allows you simultaneously indulge in the thrill of braggadocio and the ironic distance provided by how obviously ridiculous it is, or just achieve the same effect much easier by virtue of being 10 years old.

Al Shipley: It’s not that she’s making surprisingly grown-up pop, it’s that half the adults on the charts already kind of sound like 10-year-olds.

Jer Fairall: Hearing a 10 year old girl affecting “I’m the type of chick that likes to rock the beat” in a Ke$ha squawk is enough to land me in the bathtub scrubbing myself over with Ajax and steel wool, trying to get the ick out.

Katherine St Asaph: This is vocal dressup. In the span of a verse, we hear Willow’s approximation of Rihanna’s snarl and schwas, Ke$ha’s sass and Pro Tools clipping; a semblance of “Womanizer”-era Britney, minus Britney’s entire persona, of course; everyone’s faux-Luke stomp. It’s all age-inappropriate, naturally, and you really don’t want to think too hard about the implications of her lyrics. But it’s probably all going over Willow’s head, too. And there’s one moment where we get to hear Willow herself, sans sheen. It’s the bridge, and especially its last line; she shouts out “this song is just the start!” like, well, a 10-year-old having lots of fun. Why begrudge?

Asher Steinberg: Apparently the 21st Century Girls are just like the 20th Century Girls, assuming Ke$ha and Dev were born in the previous century (it can be hard to tell sometimes). Cheap cracks about Willow’s gaping lack of a personality aside, this song makes me sick; it’s the pop music equivalent of the adult makeup little kids wear in pre-teen beauty contests. You are not the type of chick who likes to rock the beat, because you are not a chick at all, but a 10-year-old girl. Nor are you old enough to be stepping on any “gas,” real or metaphorical. Come back to us in six years, and if you’re still intent on sharing your meaningless, pitch-corrected, sub-Ke$ha insipidities with us, I’ll give you a 2.

Jonathan Bogart: Empty, content-free sloganeering has a way of turning into generational anthems given enough time; whether the kids who don’t remember Bill Clinton will latch onto this remains to be seen (given the way it slipped off the charts, they don’t have much purchasing power yet). But it’s a reasonable facsimile of the most dependable girl-power anthem-providers around, splitting the difference between Rihanna’s hedonic assurance and Ke$ha’s glib sneer. Then there’s another, non-imitative voice she puts on in the bridge — could this be Willow finding her own sound? If so, prepare for total world domination by the time she enters high school.

Martin Skidmore: Willow sings it with plenty of oomph, but the song is completely uninteresting, and I was disappointed to spot no T. Rex references.

Zach Lyon: Unlike “Whip My Hair,” this one sounds like it was specifically written for her, and not by someone who understands what would fit her personality.

Edward Okulicz: Would it be churlish to say that Willow Smith appears to have peaked when she was nine? Perhaps. But would it be offensively privileged of Smith to expect that everything she does has inherent quality or even interest? Yes. So let’s call us even.

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