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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Neo-Soul artist Willow Smith delves into rock with “transparentsoul”

An overview of the artist’s latest release and possible future punk-rock direction
Willow Smith showed the world another side of her vocal range when she dropped “Transparent Soul” April 27. Screenshot from @willowsmith Instagram. (Hustler Staff/Eva Pace)

The newest track from previously alternative R&B and neo-soul artist, Willow Smith, functions as a completely new dive into a punk inspired rock genre. The song, “transparentsoul,” co-produced with Blink-182 drummer and producer Travis Barker, allows Smith to craft her own individualized take on the genre.

Smith’s punk rock side was previously unexplored on more alt-indie and neo-soul releases, including “Ardipithecus,” “The 1st”, self titled “Willow” or most recently, 2020’s “The Anxiety.” Willow’s vocals are almost unrecognizable, compared to the more nasal takes on previous releases, as she belts strongly across a drum and guitar laden backtrack. The song escalates quickly, relying on the heavy drum backbeat and Willow’s strong reverb and quick pace as she sings, “transparent soul, I can see right through you just so you know.” 

The track production is reminiscent of late 90s rock, rather than more modern alternative rock, bringing to mind artists such as The Cranberries or The Smashing Pumpkins. Such inspirations are understandable considering the former work of featured Travis Barker, as the drummer for infamous punk rock band, Blink-182. The track acts as a strong addition to the artist’s already impressive discography, including multi-million listens on “Wait a Minute!” and “9” via Spotify. 

“transparentsoul” hints at a new venture for the artist, with more backtrack focused songs with heavy drums and impressive guitar solos, as the first EP from upcoming Summer 2021 full release. The song, ending abruptly at the two minute mark, leaves listeners craving more. This hunger might be substantiated with the simple yet powerful music video, featuring the artist in a typical punk get-up, writhing on a blank background. The video reminds listeners of the solo power of Willow as an artist, emphasizing her non-reliance on any other artists or supports to ensure her success and impact.

Overall, the release acts as an exciting and impactful take for Smith as she takes a confident step into bold new territory. The step plays in tune with previous ventures by the artist—always willing to expand her repertoire, improve her music ability and consistently craft genre-bending releases. The upcoming Summer 2021 album release is highly anticipated by die-hard fans and newcomers alike. I can already tell it will have a permanent spot on future “hype up” Spotify playlists!


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About the Contributor
Sophie Edelman
Sophie Edelman, Former Staff Writer
Sophie Edelman (‘24) is studying cognitive, child and educational studies in Peabody College. As the former Music Correspondent, she is passionate about expanding coverage of local musicians and performances. She loves fish tacos, thrifting and working at Vanderbilt’s Acorn School! She can be contacted at [email protected].
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