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Willow’s Project To Reform Music: “Empathogen”

In 2024, two years since her last full-length project, Willow Smith returns to the scene with a new, impressive project: 'Empathogen.'
Willow ‘Empathogen’ album cover

The success of an album is not necessarily proof of its quality. The low economic return of a project does not necessarily mean that it has no value overall. These are the main rules on which the last years of Willow Smith’s career are based on. Just as her first ARDIPITHECUS project achieved unparalleled success for the singer, in an hour it was kicked by the creativity, daring, innovation and versatility of her latest and most misunderstood project: Empathogen.

Empathogen: Willow’s Golden Age Has Just Begun

In 2024, after two years since her last full-length project, Willow Smith returns to the scene with a new, impressive project: Empathogen. The album distances itself from all the singer’s previous works. And the fundamental thing is not how much the result differs from past works, but rather the intentions.

The intention to create something new, unexpected and surprising differs from the banal repetition of the four quarter-length pop chords of which contemporary music is full and overflowing. In this saturated market, we’re in a period where music is immediate, and for this reason, repetitive and somewhat predictable. Willow decided to take a completely different direction from her peers to create something unique. In fact, in Empathogen, each song has something to differentiate it, not only from the rest of the record, but also from the industry altogether. At the same time, it still succeeds in creating a natural flow that makes the record compact and circular.

Empathogen is an attempt at making genuine and profound art that overcomes boundaries and schemes. The LA singer never loses a chance to dare with her voice, with the rhythm, with the musical structure. In the album, Willow switches song tempos, even embracing the 7/4 that mainstream music has been avoiding for over ten years. And everything flows naturally, light and symphonic, caressing conceptual and structured music, but also embracing pop influences. In this way, Willow manages to create a project that’s inspiring for musical experts and professionals, and that also captures the attention of those curious who never had the chance to explore this jazz-experimental style. Take for example the lead single, “Symptoms of Life.” The song, in its incredible diversification, still finds itself proposing lines and vocal choices that incorporate R&B.

Willow Smith at NPR's Tiny Desk
Taken from @willowsmith Instagram

Tomorrow Sparks From Yesterday

Empathogen is an album that welcomes, celebrates and performs all of these things magnificently. With an entourage of jazz professionals to support Willow’s “bizarre,” extravagant and adventurous ideas, the singer is able to explore a musical universe unknown to most, mystical for a few and unexpected for us. She creates a masterpiece that is anything but simple, immediate and, above all, obvious. In an hour, her work achieves its goal of reaching the listener one piece at a time, one listen at a time. To the regurgitation of the bubblegum pop of the masses and for the masses, Willow offers a masterpiece of patience, details and meticulous angles to discover.

A return to music made to dare, to experiment, to discover new sides of it; a return to music as an end, first of all, to the art that it itself is; a return to the past that promises to be a breath of fresh air, which, thanks to the fame that led Willow Smith to be considered merely a “nepo baby,” could soon become the solid and stable foundation for the future of mainstream music.

Musical and Personal Renaissance

The LA-based musician is now at her best, emotionally and mentally. For Willow, Empathogen is the result of a healing process. In November of last year, the singer opened up in an interview for Rolling Stone. “During that time, emotionally, I was going through so much. There was so much anger. There was so much resentment. There was so much need to just express myself. And those two albums [‘lately I feel EVERYTHING‘ and ‘THE ANXIETY‘] helped me get it out. For Coping Mechanism I was almost never sober in the studio. And for this new album, I was sober for every single recording session.

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