Not many artists already have a decade of experience behind them by 20. Touring with her mother Jada Pinkett-Smith’s rock band from the age of 3 through 7, then releasing her debut album Ardipithecus in 2015 at 15, Willow Smith has already been in this game for half her life and has entered a more confident state, experimenting with her sound, instrumentation, and words. Picking up the guitar and writing during the pandemic in 2020, Smith started making demos—which she later recorded in studio once it was safe—including “Transparent Soul,” one of the tracks off of her upcoming fifth album, out summer 2021, on Roc Nation.
Featuring Travis Barker, “Transparent Soul” channels more of Smith’s pop-punk influences with Smith roaring I don’t fuckin’ know if it’s a lie or it’s a fact / All your little fake friends will sell your secrets for some cash / Smile in my face then put your cig out on my back / If you ever see me just get to runnin like the flash.
“I thought this was a really dope outlet for a new energy I wanted to bring to my music,” says Smith, who says the lyrics were inspired by a quote from a swami, a Hindu teacher who Smith personally knows. “It is said that a saintly person is so pure that he or she acts like a spotless mirror. When we come in the presence of such mirror-like soul, we can see both the beauty and ugliness of our inner life.”
Produced by Tyler Cole, who also worked on Smith’s 2019 release Willow, has been a “synergy” the artist says has helped unlock something deeper in her music. “Transparent Soul” reveals Smith, not only as a songwriter but as a guitarist, an instrument she’s been playing since she was 14. “I personally feel it’s just really important to play an instrument if you’re going to have a career in music,” says Smith. “Songwriting is 15 million times easier when you can actually write the songs.”
Moving through all the the different shades of friendship and relationship, the video, directed by Dana Trippe (Demi Lovato, Haim) propels into Smith’s powered up pop.
Splitting time between music, Smith is constantly surrounded by the women who inspire her most, co-hosting Red Table Talk, the Facebook Watch talk show with her grandmother Adrienne Banield-Norris and mother, who formed the nu metal band Wicked Wisdom, which released two albums and appeared at Ozzfest, when Willow was just an infant. “I was always so inspired by the power of her voice,” says Smith of her mother’s music and the more rock and pop-punk she’s now exploring. “I never felt like I could sing that kind of music because I was always trained to sing R&B and pop.”
Smith adds, “I realized that it’s not my voice that can’t sing this kind of music. I was afraid to sing this kind of music, because I wasn’t sure what people would think.”
On this upcoming piece of work, Smith says reveals an artist who has worked through insecurities and anxiety and connected to her inner child, which she felt was lost for a time.
“It was very cathartic for me,” says Smith. “I want to live more like that.”