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Returning Artist of the Year 2021 – Billboard

For our continuous update this year Greatest Pop Star of the Year project, Billboard is counting down staff picks for the top 10 pop stars of 2021 for both this week and next. First, say hello to the artist who made the most impressive comeback this year: Willow, the critically acclaimed pop-punk hit-maker.

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Willow

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After briefly moving into the mainstream as a child star, Willow Smith found a large following of devoted fans throughout the 2010s, thanks to enduring streaming hits like “Wait a minute!,” from her 2015 debut album Ardipithecus. Despite her strong following, the LA-born girl has not enjoyed huge success since the release of her debut single, the pop-rap song “Whip My Hair”, which peaked Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 2010.

However, 2021 is the year Willow really solidified herself as a mature artist with authority at the center and center, a story befitting of someone who officially entered legal adulthood in October. After years of playing joking around with psychedelic R&B, neo-soul, and sassy pop, followed by a brief musical hiatus to focus on herself and the efforts on her part, the adventurous singer took give a nudge her mother, actress and curator of nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom, Jada Pinkett-Smith, is set on a sharp path. (“I think seeing my mom on stage and the way she conducts the music and the band made me realize that’s what I want to be,” Willow said in an interview with DRAW Magazine. “I want to be a strong woman who is giving her all on stage.”)

With Blink-182 drummer/producer Travis Barker playing a key role in changing her direction, Willow reintroduced herself in April with the intense pop-punk single “Transarentoul.” Though relatively new to popular rock, Willow has long boasted a rebellious spirit that makes this artistic turn relevant. (She shave head was an 11-year-old girl, somewhat ironically, in protest of continuing her 2012 Whip My Hair tour.)

“Transarentoul” became the singer’s first song on the Hot 100 in 10 years, peaking at number 76 in July. It also introduces her to BillboardsRock and Alternative charts – including #2 on the chart Rock music streaming song chart – and was Gold certification in September. The release of “Transwomanoul” couldn’t have come at a better time, as it matched the massive wave of successful pop-punk hits released in 2020 and 2021 by artists like Machine Gun Kelly. , Yungblud and Olivia Rodrigo .

A niche album quickly followed the electric single: Lately I’ve been feeling everything released in July 2021, includes elements that cross the spectrum of alternative rock – pop-punk, of course, but also grunge and indie. More than Barker’s standout drummer on several tracks, pop-punk grandmother Avril Lavigne also accompanies Willow on the guitar-heavy “Grow,” while rockers Cherry Glazerr and Ayla Tesler-Mabe and rapper Tierra Whack are also notable vocalists found in the energetic 11-song project.

The effort peaked at number 46 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and received generally positive reviews from critics, with many publications praising Willow’s spiritual preservation of pop-punk, ranging from emotional expression to the shrill, intense instrumental part. Since then, it has been included in several year-end lists of the best albums by Music NPR, Complicated, Uproxx and Billboards. “[Lately I Feel Everything] Am I getting to a point where I just say ‘productive’ and want to have fun, “she told Billboards this early year. “This album is the most I’ve let go of myself.”

In May, after the release of “Transparent Soul”, Willow was announced is one of the activities in support of Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever World Tour in select shows in February and April 2022. The tour pairing of two young girls. was praised for rewriting the traditional rules of music, culture, and the unattainable femininity – and soon after, Willow announced her own country tour , titled “LIFE”. But even with the positive response to Lately I’ve been feeling everything and its lead single, it’s certainly a surprise that her most successful single since her pre-teen pop days will be a song that is completely ahead of her new punk era.

ANXIETY, Willow’s collaborative project with close friend and producer Tyler Cole, was quietly released in March 2020, without making much of an impact on the initial charts.. However, during September promotions for her upcoming Life Tour to support Lately I’ve been feeling everything, the duo performed a live version of “Meet Me at Our Spot”, a mid-tempo, indie track found on the internet. FAIRY TALE involves getting rid of an inner fear in order to “get in tune” with that special someone.

After the performance, the song found new legs by going viral on TikTok, becoming a bigger hit than anyone could have imagined. “Meet Me at Our Spot” peaked at number 21 on the Hot 100 in November 2021, becoming Willow’s most successful song since “Whip My Hair”.

By steadfastly playing by his own rules (and to his own strengths), Willow has successfully delivered one of the strongest comebacks of the past few years, closing the calendar year as the one of the leading vocalists in contemporary alternative music. Her track record in these genres is significant, as her presence breaks the stereotypical aesthetic of mainstream rock and punk stars.

Especially in the 90s and early 2000s, heterosexual, white, cis men dominated as the most prominent representatives of pop-punk. While people of color performing pop-punk music is nothing new (such as early 100s actor Fefe Dobson and current pop-punk band Meet Me at the Altar), the inclusion of the scene allows Willow’s greater reach and visibility in particular shows the evolution this musical style has undergone. (Plus, there’s no better outlet than rock music to relieve the frustrations that can come with navigating growing up during a pandemic, no less than Black women.)

While she’s always been an advocate of creating anything artistic that makes her soul soar, Willow’s total ownership and acceptance of her authenticity is what makes her return. Her back becomes much sweeter. Willow said in recently NME interview. “Through improving my musical ability, I was able to perform new genres with authenticity and quality. That’s really where I’m trying to be. ”

Later today: Billboard named Rookie of the Year for 2021.

https://www.billboard.com/music/rock/willow-comeback-artist-of-the-year-1235007451/ Returning Artist of the Year 2021 – Billboard

Dais Johnston

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