WILLOW and Tyler Cole vent their young adult angst with ‘THE ANXIETY’.

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MSFTSMUSIC, Roc Nation

The cover of THE ANXIETY’s debut studio album, ‘THE ANXIETY’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Nearly eight months after the release of her magical self-titled third album, American singer-songwriter and producer WILLOW joined forces with her current boyfriend, American singer-songwriter and musician Tyler Cole, to form an indie rock band called “THE ANXIETY”.

Their debut single, “Hey You!”, arrived in late February followed by their self-titled debut studio album in early March, and in the following press release statement, the band’s concept was explained in more detail:

“‘The Anxiety’ is a collaborative project between MSFTSMUSIC artists Willow Smith and Tyler Cole. The project showcases the anxiety that both Willow and Tyler endure on a day to day basis and how they cope with it. ‘The Anxiety’ sonically embodies the meaning of personal unease, seeking to express the overwhelming feeling of a person on the brink of an attack. Their universal goal for this project is to use their voices to advocate for mental health awareness and help those who specifically suffer from anxiety.”

A stark departure from the sound of both artists’ previous work, THE ANXIETY is an indie rock and punk rock-focused record that is primarily centered around mental health, specifically anxiety, while also touching on lesser themes; such as social issues, the pressure of being a celebrity, and rebelling against authority.

The first half of the album is angry, intense, and heavily punk rock-inspired. “Hey You!” opens the record on an aggressive note with bold guitars and distorted vocals from WILLOW and Cole as they scream the slightly unintelligible lyrics, which see the duo venting about their haters and rejecting negative criticism — a concept mirrored by the second single, “Believe That”, with equally loud guitars, brash vocals, and angsty lyrical content.

The album then offers a slight contrast to the previous tracks with the non-single “Poolside” — a chilled-out indie rock jam that at first glance appears to be about being young and carefree, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals a frustration with the way that society often turns a blind eye to real issues in the world, such as racism and climate change — before completely mellowing out with the succeeding tracks.

Upon peeling back the hard exterior of the record’s first half, we unearth the more raw and vulnerable tracks that constitute its second half, which present the album’s major themes and speak directly about serious subject matter.

“Entertain” is a confession of how overwhelming the life of a celebrity can be and how WILLOW and Cole feel as though they have to hide how they truly feel in order to fulfill their roles as entertainers without bringing down the energy of the public with their problems, and on “Meet Me at Our Spot”, the couple speaks about the crippling anxiety that keeps them up at night in addition to discussing how they help each other cope with their mental health issues, reminding themselves that they’re not alone because they have one another.

The most significant track, however, is “The System” — a commentary on the current state of America in which the pair express their distaste for the government and its leadership with a rebellious tone, singing lines like “I ain’t got no president” and “I ain’t got no government” in an attempt to inspire rebellion, encourage the listener to question authority, and assert that they will not let themselves be controlled the system.

Released in the wake of the George Floyd protests, the music video is a compilation of footage from both the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement of the late 2010s and early 2020s that demonstrates how very little has changed in the past 60 years in regards to racial equality for Black Americans. In the description of the video, you can find a link with information on how to help support the movement, and I strongly encourage everyone reading this to do their part in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism in America.

Going back to the music, “After You Cry” closes the record by depicting the powerful emotions that someone with anxiety feels as well as the feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy that come with them, tying back into the central theme of anxiety and creating the polar opposite of the opening track.

As expected from a WILLOW and Tyler Cole project, THE ANXIETY is a solid body of work and although jarring, it’s a relevant and necessary discussion of the anxieties experienced by Generation Z in these very uncertain times that is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream THE ANXIETY on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2kZyqn4Cmr78D74K9TcO4K?si=m8EqwWgITjqbGJHiBtgGNg  

Watch the music video for “The System”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_onVea_1Xo 

WILLOW (left) and Cole (right) as they appear in the press release photos for ‘THE ANXIETY’.

This article was updated to include the “The System” music video in June 2020.