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WILLOW: Tiny Desk Concert

On a call ahead of her Tiny Desk taping, WILLOW told me that she "just wants to feel it and be in the vibe." Many artists worry about having to tailor their music for the space, but if done right, a beautiful synergy can be achieved. With boundless energy and magnetic stage presence, the artist's exceptional vocal range and musicality left the audience spellbound.

Despite being only 23 years old, the singer-songwriter and musician Willow Smith is a vet when it comes to this music thing. She's been consistently making music and on a journey of sonic exploration since she was just 9 years old and is about to put out her sixth album, empathogen, in just a few days. Zach Tenorio on upright piano kicks off the show, cueing the first few bars of the jazz-infused, odd-meter vibes of "Symptom of Life" from the new album, later complimented by trippy Ebow effects courtesy of Liso Lee on guitar.

Then, a couple throwbacks: a stripped down arrangement of "Split" from the 2022 album and fan-favorite "Wait a Minute!" from her 2015 album ARDIPITHECUS, which undergoes some mind-blowing bass riffing from Mohini Dey. Dey continues with some severe stank-face on a world premiere of the funky, bass-heavy "Run!" from the upcoming album, locking in tastefully with The Pocket Queen on drums. Closing the set with "Big Feelings," the band gets busy while WILLOW's vocals soar, effortlessly teetering between emotive highs and lows, leaving us all wanting more.

SET LIST

  • "Symptom of Life"
  • "Split"
  • "Wait a Minute!"
  • "Run!"
  • "Big Feelings"


MUSICIANS

  • Willow Smith: vocals   
  • Liso Lee: guitar, vocals       
  • Zach Tenorio: keys         
  • Mohini Dey: bass            
  • Taylor "The Pocket Queen" Gordon: drums      


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producers: Ashley Pointer, Bobby Carter
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Technical Director: Josephine Nyounai
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Kara Frame, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Engineer: Hannah Gluvna
  • Production Assistant: Elle Mannion
  • Photographer: Zayrha Rodriguez
  • Tiny Desk Copy Editor: Hazel Cills 
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Ashley Pointer
Ashley Pointer is a news assistant for NPR Music.