The first time I’d ever heard the name Willow Smith was earlier this week.
Seemingly out of nowhere, blogs all across the internet were ablaze with praise for a song called “Whip My Hair.” And no, we’re not talking Disney Channel blogs; adult-oriented music (or otherwise) news sites lauded this song as pop gold, a surefire hit, and perhaps the beginning of an incredibly successful career. She has ridiculously famous parents (Will and Jada), but that wasn’t the focus of this media coverage. People really liked this song. And of course, what was apparently most astounding about Willow is that she’s just 9 years old.
I tend to find kid singers annoying so, of course, I ignored all of these bloggers.
I was being an idiot.
“Whip My Hair” is airtight, (seriously) near-perfect urban pop songwriting. The song is a ten, complete with buzzing, rowdy synths, an undoubtedly catchy hook, and confidant, triumphant lyrics. The song perfectly captures what pop music sounds like in 2010, and it will be a massive hit, no doubt. And it’s surprisingly age appropriate. The lyrics perfectly straddle the line between a mature and childish confidence, referencing the famous Rick Ross “whip it real good” line to refer to a little girl giddily shaking her pig tails. Pretty clever stuff.
But what truly floors me about this song is Willow herself. This girl is only nine years-old, and her vocal performance here is flawless. Clearly channeling Rihanna, Willow effectively exudes the kind of confidence and attitude the song requires, but always acts her age. She comes off sassy and cute, like a hip hop Angelica Pickles, placing emphasis in all the right places while seemingly having a blast throughout. In other words, she can already do what takes most aspiring singers years to master.
Nine year-olds can be taught to do a lot of things, and singing pop songs is definitely one of them. But there’s a difference between singing a song, and performing a song. There have been plenty of child singers/performers, but very few of them make songs that adults actually take seriously and enjoy unabashedly. Willow is special; not even a pre-teen yet, she nails this song like a professional. Honestly, I think she’s going to be huge.
And Jay-Z agrees with me. Just days after the song practically took over the internet, Jay-Z announced that he’s signing little Willow to a deal with his Roc Nation label. Hov has big plans for this girl, telling Ryan Seacrest he thinks she’s going to be a superstar, even comparing her to a young Michael Jackson.
Will he be right? Will I be right? Only time will tell.
But I wouldn’t bet against her.