Willow Puts On A Vocal Masterclass In Her Dynamic Tiny Desk Concert

This Friday, May 3, Willow Smith (known mononymous as Willow) will release her latest album, Empathogen. Billed by the second-gen singer as a “musical compilation” in a teaser prior to its official announcement, the project was recorded under drastically different conditions than its predecessor. “For this new album, I was sober for every single recording session,” she said. “I feel like my mind state was extremely different.”

She recently brought that new mind set to NPR Music’s offices for a passionate Tiny Desk Concert performance, which was released today. In addition to playing a pair of her catalog hits, she also introduced the crowd to three of the songs from the new project (“Symptom of Life,” “Run!” and “Big Feelings”) while backed by a new band including social media star Taylor “The Pocket Queen” Gordon on drums. The performance ranges from jazz-inflected soul to folksy, ’90s-esque alt-rock that would fit right in at Lilith Fair, with Willow putting on an absolute vocal masterclass. This show should be studied in schools.

Willow’s new musical direction won praise from no less an authority than Questlove, who wrote of the new album on Instagram, “Shout out to @willowsmith for allowing herself to evolve into this artist. Doing all the things artists over the years have told me they wanted to do but were too afraid to because we been told odd time signatures don’t work or @gentlegiantband level prog rock song structure (blink and you missed it codas & bridges coming outta nowhere) might be too much for the “average listener” to consume or to lyrically go to this vulnerable place that we might think will get us ridiculed. Once in an eclipse there is an artist out there that will just be like ‘fuhggggit….this is how I feel’ and the stars align.”

You can watch Willow’s Tiny Desk performance in full above.