Willow Smith unleashes her inner pop-punk in guitar-centric new single, Transparent Soul

Willow Smith
(Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images)

R&B singer-songwriter Willow Smith has unveiled her latest single, Transparent Soul – a guitar-heavy track that sees the rap star take a significant sonic shift and swap intricate lyrical flows for thrash-y pop-punk powerchords. 

The song is taken from the 20-year-old’s upcoming fifth studio album, which will be released via Roc Nation/MSFTSMusic later this year, and features Blink-182 rhythm king Travis Barker on the drums. 

Wielding an Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent signature, Smith serves up a series of sweet melodic slides and oversized open-string chordal hooks over a moody bass guitar line, all of which are driven along by Barker’s high-octane drum part. 

The lyrics of Transparent Soul were inspired by a quote from a "beautiful swami" Smith knows personally, with the song being described as a testimony to her desire to "be the highest version of herself".

Accompanying the new single is a companion performance video directed by Dana Trippe, whose credits include Haim, Demi Lovato and more.

Of her new punk-flavored musical direction, Smith revealed that the upcoming album took inspiration from her mother’s [Jada Pinkett Smith] nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom, which introduced her to a huge array of bands outside the R&B scene.

“I never felt like I could sing that kind of music because I was always trained to sing R&B and pop,” said Smith of her hesitance to unleash her inner rock star, before noting, “I realized that it’s not my voice that can’t sing this kind of music. I was afraid to sing this kind of music because I was afraid of what people would think.”

Citing pop-punk heroes Hayley Williams, Gerard Way and Patrick Stump as being the driving forces behind her sonic shift, Smith says the new album will showcase an artist who has made it to the other side of that anxiety.

Smith, who started playing the guitar at the age of 14, also commented on the role that the electric guitar plays in the upcoming record, saying, “I personally feel it’s just really important to play an instrument if you’re going to have a career in music. Songwriting is 15 million times easier when you can actually write the songs.”

Willow Smith's as-yet-untitled fifth full-length album will be released in summer 2021.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.