REVIEW: Willow – Ardipithecus

“I’m just a little girl, but I stand mighty,” sings Willow on the track dRuGz – perhaps a revelatory title for the genesis of this album – as she slowly unfolds various mission statements in her debut full-length. Ardipithecus, like its title suggests, is an early stage of a career that might well be destined for greatness, but seems very much a work-in-progress.

The reason that song’s line is so revelatory, however, is that the Smith scion perhaps has a misguided sense of her own importance. Which is of course natural for a teen, but it results in her music being like one of your English essays after you’ve first discovered a thesaurus: you pack in complex ideas and use big words to define them, but they don’t necessarily fit or make sense. Add to that the element of a surprise release; we haven’t even got a handle on what Willow’s sound or style is (hell, most people will still remember her for whipping her hair), so doing a Beyonce here seems a little bit ill-advised.

Of course, on the flip side, with that stubbornness and resolute desire to be anything but commercial pop, Willow’s music come with the freedom to take risks and defy convention in a way not too dissimilar to Miley Cyrus‘s recent liberation. There’s still a sense of some structure on songs like Natives of the Windy Forest and the trippy-hippy psychedelic R&B (that’s the only way to describe this thing) of F Q-C #8 and Marceline.

But there’s just too much thrown into the pot here, too much zigging when occasionally just a zag would do. Willow hasn’t yet mastered the control of her voice either, or the ability to utilise it to its full capacity. It jars when it should lull, it grates when it should give goosebumps. On top of that, the earth-mother thematics are displaced by immature turns of phrase (“I’m the heroin in the syringe”), which makes it even more frustrating when Wait A Minute! and Wave of Nature come along. This is absolute perfection for everything Willow wants to – and could – be: essentially, successful germination of hybrid pop in a record that otherwise seems full of wanton, unwatered seeds.

Ardipithecus by Willow can be ordered here.

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Willow - Ardipithecus
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