Singer-songwriter WILLOW (Willow Smith) dropped her highly-anticipated 11-track album, “<COPINGMECHANISM>,” on Oct. 7. Regular listeners know that the 21-year-old doesn’t shy away from dropping heat, as exhibited by the widespread TikTok success of her single “Meet Me At Our Spot” from her 2020 album, “THE ANXIETY.” In her latest album, WILLOW showcases her propensity for combining pop punk and metalcore instrumentals to help elevate her story of how love can be simultaneously confusing and comforting.
1. “<maybe> it’s my fault”
The first track serves as the initial look into the world of WILLOW. In this song, we meet her at a party. In one of her verses, she sings, “Layin’ down, six feet under, it’s sublime / Should’ve saw the signs, now we’re in a fight.” Listeners hear how WILLOW is coping with a strained relationship. Chaotic drums in the background add to the level of intensity that we’re going to expect in the rest of the album.
2. “Falling Endlessly”
In this track, WILLOW expresses her fears of being in a relationship in the pre-chorus, which features the song’s title. Before belting out, she softly sings, “I’m falling endlessly / Look at my face, tell me / Who do you think is more insane? You or I?” This song is more experimental than others in the tracklist, which is a good thing. It reminds me of how hard one might fall in love with someone and not realize how that feeling may numb the pain that the other person causes. The lyrics that push harshness toward WILLOW’s partner’s friends adds another layer to the song that I didn’t expect from the first listen.
In the third track, WILLOW is scared of her heart and doesn’t want to acknowledge that it’s affecting her ability to process and get over her feelings for someone. This is evident in the lyrics, “Never wear a frown / Because life doesn’t choose either side / Win or lose, right or wrong / It’s a battle that’s all in your mind / You better open wide.”
Here, WILLOW leans into the psychological effects of being in love, asking herself why she subjects herself to this kind of madness. She expresses this in the first verse saying, “Don’t know what’s true / My mind’s talkin’ shit, throwin’ fits / All the layers peelin’ back for you.” In this track, we hear a more angelic sound from WILLOW. It’s as if these were the last words that she can say to herself before she has to make a decision to end the relationship for her sanity.
5. “<Coping Mechanism>”
The titular track seems to set the tone for this album. WILLOW delivered engaging lyricism and rock instrumentals that guide listeners through what she considers a need for “a coping mechanism now, every night.”
This song emcompasses WILLOW’s ability to bring her listeners along on the ride that is having a lost love. You can understand the pain and suffering that she describes so well through her lyrics. It shows especially in the chorus, “I’m always actin’ tough / Close my heart and now I starve the love.” It’s definitely one of her more reflective songs on the tracklist. Having heard WILLOW harbor on fractured relationships in the past, you can expect this song to be more of a power ballad than a head-banger.
7. “hover like a GODDESS”
In this track, WILLOW’s voice pairs perfectly with the visualizer that she released two months ago. In the visualizer, WILLOW, herself, is visible in front of black background but is shown in different holographic states. As the title suggests, she’s also seen hovering throughout different parts of the video. Since her likeness in color only makes up a portion of what we see, we are never fully exposed to her except through her voice where she projects her feelings for a mystery person. In the song, she sings, “To taste you is sweet, my heart is in pieces / When I walk, you fuckin' hover like a goddess / Just meet me under the covers, baby, I wish.” I really enjoyed the fast-paced beat layered behind her lyrics. It's an anthem-like song that I can hear being blasted outside a fast moving car.
8. “ur a <stranger>”
I found this track to be the most in-line with WILLOW’s rock roots. There is intense aggression in the way she performs the lyrics. She additionally offers a more straight-forward approach to relationship storytelling. The title, “ur a <stranger>,” says it all. It has this punch that makes it a stand out track.
9. “Perfectly Not Close To Me (ft. Yves Tumor)”
This song is the most peculiar one. In the refrain, listeners are exposed to WILLOW’s vulnerability. Having Tumor featured brings another layer of intimacy that the song needed to fully tell its story. WILLOW shares, “Ooh, my God / I don't wanna, I don't wanna talk shit / But I'm so fucked up, just like this / Ooh, I / I just die / I just need to get out of my life.”
10. “No Control”
WILLOW’s vulnerability shows in her words. She sings about not wanting to speak and forgetting. She’s lost control and feels like she can’t go on. Even though she says, “I try to stick to the facts / I try to learn from the past / My head's down when I search for the path / Like I always do, always do / I'm an equation, I don't know the math.”
As the concluding song, “BATSHIT!” is the perfect title. It opens with the screeching sound of a guitar. In her lyrics, we hear that WILLOW still senses that something is up. She sings, “We kiss while you drive / (This stinks) I’m smelling a lie.” It’s a finale that embodies the personality of WILLOW’s voice that people know and love.
Overall, “<COPINGMECHANISM>” offered more than what I initially expected from WILLOW. Her focus on telling herself that being so deeply in love can sometimes bring more harm than help to someone may serve as a healing balm for those who are going through the same thing. The combination of pop rock and metalcore may be aggressive to some, but to loyal fans who have stuck by WILLOW, the improvement is clear from her first release to the latest. This album is one of her more put-together pieces of expression and signifies maturity in her work, setting the groundwork for future music to come.