Thursday, October 21, 2010

Willow vs. Rihanna... Fight?

Okay, time for some non-Asian music! Ever since 9 year-old Willow Smith dropped her fly girl single, "Whip My Hair" the internet has been ablaze with comparisons between her and pop music's current queen of all things hip, Rihanna. I have my personal biases, but I'm wondering if there's really any competition between the two. Let's take a look, shall we?

Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"

Rihanna - "Only Girl In The World"

Looking at the two videos, I understand the reasons why the comparisons are being made: they both tend towards unconventional hairstyles, bright colors and both are plenty confident and know how to work the camera. They're coming from a similar place visually - both are trying to appeal to young people today, who have gotten used to this kind of imagery as it's crept slowly into the mainstream in the past year or two. However, the songs themselves sound very different. Whip My Hair is absolutely hip-hop and R&B (urban music), while Rihanna is dance pop. I think that there will largely be two very different audiences listening to these songs. Willow Smith's music is aimed at an audience that listens more to urban music, while Rihanna's track is aimed at people who listen more to electro dance pop. So they're not really competing. These two audiences don't often mix - while plenty of urban artists have crossed over to the mainstream, they don't always take their fans with them. Rihanna may have been the queen of urban pop music back when she was still making urban pop music, but, she's slowly changing her image and music to appeal to a broader audience, leaving room for Willow Smith to come up and take her spot in the hearts of urban music fans.

So basically, I wouldn't say Willow Smith > Rihanna, but they're interesting artists to look at side by side - Rihanna who came into her current image as the fierce hipster queen after starting out as the island sweetheart, and Willow Smith who breaks out onto the scene with an avant-garde look that Grace Jones would be proud of. I won't lie, I find Willow Smith's brand of hip a little more convincing, not only because she's starting out with this image, but because to me she has more personality than Rihanna, who dulls me and seems to be coming into this image for the record sales. However, as I do not work with either of these artists to know what's genuine and what's not, I'll try to stay neutral and simply appreciate their artistry for what it is (...if it's even theirs to begin with. Sorry! I can't help but be skeptical, especially of Rihanna.)

What do you think? Should Rihanna be worried about Willow Smith stealing her thunder?


  1. I finally listened to Whip my hair yesterday and I love it. Great beat, very danceable, catchy and adorable/fun/hip video. The only Rhianna song I ever liked were Umbrella and Rude Boy. To me her popularity is more about her fashion and her trendy hair styles. I guess the hair style is where the comparison comes in. Plus Willow sort of sounds like Rhi.I've always considered Rhianna to be very mediocre live which makes it hard to respect her as an artist, she just has no stage presence. I feel the same way about Lee Hyori. Every time I've seen LH on stage she just looks stiff and awkward. Of course I've mostly watched her on special stages with other artists so maybe she is better solo. Seeing her on stage with Rain/Seven/Big Bang is awkward and painful to watch like they just threw some random woman from the audience on stage with a super star.

  2. @modest-goddess I feel the same way about both Rihanna and Lee Hyori. No matter how good their material is, it always falls flat when they perform live. I don't know what it is exactly that makes them boring - it's not like Hyori lacks personality, because she doesn't - she has oodles of it. i guess she's just not that kind of performer

  3. Hyori has tons of personality, she is great on variety shows. I think what she is lacking is what Rain refers to as 'ease' on stage. She knows the lyrics and the moves but she still looks uncomfortable.