WILLOW’s “lately I feel EVERYTHING” – Playful, Jaded, Inclusive, & Enormous

WILLOW’S groundbreaking new album lately I feel EVERYTHING dropped on July 18. For being her first venture into pop punk territory, lately I feel EVERYTHING was a pleasant gift to the scene.

WILLOW delves into a terrain seemingly all her own with this new release, while also featuring several other artists of varying musical backgrounds. Leaning toward alternative, she mixes R&B with pop punk in completely unconventional ways, blending genres seamlessly. The masterful drum work of Blink 182’s Travis Barker is definitely worth noting, as he certainly enhanced several tracks with his legendary playing. WILLOW forcefully breaks out of the confines of genre and every track adds something incredibly unique to her catalog. The lyrical content of the record is mature in an unimaginable fashion – far beyond what you would expect from a 20-year-old artist. Her newest record is an empowering one to say the least; spilling her guts, she unapologetically says what she wants everyone to hear. 

Opening the record is “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l,” punchy with lots of bite, while being smart and brutally honest. Travis Barker’s feature on this song was an excellent choice for the introductory track. Already drawn into the new sound, I notice that a comparison can be made to Paramore’s work, specifically the hit “Ignorance,” in blunt lyrical and musical composition. With pop punk running through her veins, she sings: “I knew a boy just like you / He’s a snake, just like you / Such a fake, just like you, but I can see the truth / Transparent soul / I can see right through, just so you know.” We could even make similar connections to their earlier album Riot!, a very impressive feat. Following is the amusing 36 second spoken word interlude, “F*ck You,” solely backed by drums with screaming for further emphasis. 

“Gaslight” has great potential to be a modern punk rock classic and is another backed by Travis. The lyrics in this song are metaphorical yet direct: “I blew out the gaslight / Now I feel a different way / I’ll just love me instead.” As the term ‘gaslighting’ suggests, the lyrics denounce invalidating someone’s feelings and speak to the importance of getting away when you come to the realization that it’s happening to you. 

Beginning with distorted bass and slow rolling drums, “don’t SAVE ME” finishes with hard punk influence in the form of distortion and hefty guitar riffs. This song literally screams “independence,” encouraging the idea of fighting your own battles though you know it’s not going to be an easy ride. The track has a dramatic last quarter with cymbals crashing and slow aggressive guitar jamming.

WILLOW mixes personal with politics in “naive,” where she asks for honesty from her peers; the song tries to do the work to acknowledge the injustice and prejudice that exists in the world, even if you aren’t experiencing it yourself. Second verse in, she proclaims: “Life’s a movie / And it sucks / But I can’t stop watching,” seemingly out of responsibility to stay aware of the violence around us. 

“Lipstick” speaks about the fallacies of rising to fame and discovering that you won’t always find everything you’ve been looking for. The singer paints the picture eloquently in the lyrics: “I think we live in a labyrinth that was created by my mind…and I went up so far / I took my time / Tell me why I couldn’t ever find cloud nine.” The guitar, drums and bass are very dramatic and raw from the start.

Structured with clear R&B and rock and roll influence, “Come Home” starts off slow before leading into the chorus with a punctuating, deep, rolling guitar and just as commanding vocals. This is possibly the most lyrically impressive song on the album. Ayla Tesler-Mabe adds in a poignant and introspective verse: “Am I someone by myself / Or am I only someone / When I’m with someone else?” Following WILLOW’s suit of unique song structure, “4ever” is akin to a poem, with one verse and one chorus. She seems taken aback by a realization about a relationship with a life expectancy and focuses in on endings.

There are heavy rap elements in “XTRA,” even apart from Tierra Whack’s remarkable breakdown in the extended bridge. WILLOW forthcomingly calls the subject “extra” with their fabricated apologies and lack of effort, despite her own similar behavior. Putting this relationship aside indefinitely and focusing on her own self preservation, she affirms: “Like a hundred pound bench press / It might get me down / But it’s in my best interest.” 

“G R O W,” featuring Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker, splits vocals down the middle between Lavigne and WILLOW. This is possibly the poppiest song on the record, not to take away from how introspective it is. Referencing the record title, they each share the chorus: “Everytime I look at my face / I feel everything / It’s the same growing pains / ‘Cause no one ever truly knows just who they are.” Here they seem to imply that in order to improve yourself, you must work on knowing yourself first. 

The final track is “BREAKOUT!” and it shocks with boisterous punk rock and metal influences – an abundance of vocal distortion and wild drum work is heard. An impactful song of empowerment, she screams, “I can set fire to the water / I can change the world / I’ll heal my mind!” WILLOW truly broke the chains of genre with this conclusive song.

Clocking in at just 26 minutes and nine seconds, this record still had so much content to absorb. As a modern dive into the past, WILLOW gave me a second appreciation for pop punk of the 2000s (her main guide for the album). You can hear the punk, rock, pop, and metal influences so clearly, yet nothing sounds recycled. There is only original, groundbreaking content crafted by the WILLOW spin. This release will surely garner nostalgia for other genres and eras while completely immersing you in something brand new.