Will Smith? Yep—her full name is Willow Camille Reign Smith. The Smiths like this naming pattern; her brother, Jaden Christopher Smith, is named for Jada Pinkett. For future kids, we suggest Jill and Wade.
And isn’t she, like, 9?
Ten, actually, but close enough—she’s definitely one of the youngest artists on the charts.
Yeah, about those charts. Why is she on them? Shouldn’t she be doing times tables or something?
Jay-Z doesn’t think so. (About the charts, not the times tables.) Sure, when your parents are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett you might as well have ten automatic Billboard points, but once Hova heard a leak of Willow’s single “Whip My Hair,” he proclaimed her a superstar and promptly signed her to his Roc Nation label. Try it for yourself—just listen to “Whip My Hair” and forget about how you were scribbling in coloring books at that age. Superstar, right? It helps that the song has built-in sass and a club-worthy beat that the Rihannas and Beyonces of pop have got to covet. Grown-up rappers Tinie Tempah and Nicki Minaj did, at least, both appearing on remixes. But Willow’s delivery is what sells it—superconfident, preternaturally poised and brimming with energy. “Whip My Hair” has more joy for joy’s sake than almost anything else out there today, and listeners noticed. “Whip My Hair” reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and, thanks to its genetically-enhanced earworm of a chorus and paint-slinging video, became the stuff of endless memes. Even Muppets and cockatoos got in on the action (with the help of video editing, natch.)
Speaking of editing, that’s not really her singing, right?
Why not? She’s 10, not 2. Plenty of singers have pipes by that age. Just ask Britney! And okay, nobody’s disputing that tons of Auto-Tune, overdubs and a zillion takes went into the creation of “Whip My Hair.” You can take that two ways—either technology’s made singing so easy that even some 10-year-old can do it, or technology’s made it so that even a 10-year-old can morph into a star. We think it’s pretty clear which we believe.
So does she have any other songs?
She does now: “21st Century Girl. Apparently, being a 21st century girl means borrowing Dr. Luke’s pistons, rapping like Ke$ha and electro-stuttering like the Peas. It’s nowhere near “Whip Your Hair,” but bizarrely, it works. After all, Willow’s appeal is all about how she’s a preteen icon—a true 21st century girl. Just, y’know, with famous parents, a crack team of producers and gallons more style.
I keep hearing about how she’s a fashion icon. She’s 10!
Hey, 10-year-olds can have style, too, and Willow definitely qualifies. She’s already got a signature sideswept hairstyle, and whether it’s deconstructed shrugs, bedazzled jackets and chokers or Union Jack pants, Willow rocks it. She hangs out at Milan Fashion Week and was featured in W magazine, Vanity Fair and Teen Vogue, in which she gave her fashion philosophy: “If I want to put on a pair of Converse with a pencil stuck through them, I will.”
Okay, so let me guess: She’s also going to break into acting.
Why shouldn’t she? If Jaden gets to be the
Kung Fu Karate Kid, Willow can get a few movies of her own—she’s certainly got the presence. And besides, she’s already done it. Willow’s debut was in I Am Legend with Will Smith, and she had a part in kid-friendly Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Next up is a remake of Annie, with Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett at the producer’s helm and Willow as the titular orphan. No word yet on whether she’ll follow in the footsteps of every child star ever and belt out “Tomorrow.”
So when’s her album out?
There’s no release date yet—all we’ve got is a tweet, circa January, assuring us it’s due “VERY soon.” But Willow’s been working with Fresh Prince collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff and up-and-comer Jessie J, who co-wrote Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” She’s also slated to tour with fellow teen idol Justin Bieber in March. And no, she doesn’t have a crush on him. In case you were wondering.