Two teens hold hands looking out at a pond. A voice then floats over the top of an otherwise bucolic scene, with presumably the girl noticing and flirting with the boy and then asking him out sometime. Some pool party shots, jumping on trampolines and other summer fun later and you are wondering — wait how old is Willow Smith?
“Summer Fling,” the actually pretty well done summer song that soundtracks these scenes is a new version of Willow, and a clear departure from the 9-year-old who garnered crazy radio play and gained the Smith clan a new legion of fans as she whipped her hair back and forth.
And although this track, with a cool beat and a video that the now 12-year-old directed herself, could have worked to progress the star past her most iconic track, it mostly left the interweb with a collective WTF vibe.
There are a handful of reasons why Willow’s latest is causing a ruckus.
One is the British accent.
This barely works when Nicki Minaj does it (even if its kind of amazing when she gets all Roman on a track and beasts and reminds everyone why she became such a powerful force in the female rap game in the beginning) so for Willow to do it seems affected and odd. But then again this entire video kind of seems that way.
Another is the blond wig.
It’s refreshing to hear parents that want to allow their children to grow into their own people without over-parenting them. People got outraged that they let the preteen shave her head but it’s not like Willow pulled a Britney. She made a style choice that has so many fewer consequences as a preteen than it does once you get a little older.
A third is the lyrics.
It seems like some of the problems critics of the song and video have are that the lyrics would fit more of a Cassie type than a teen singer trying to find her voice. “It’s just a couple months but we do it anyway” and “You tell me that I’m the one, I tell you it’s just for fun” have made people question the double meaning of the word it like President Clinton did during the Monica Lewinsky hullabaloo. But the other lyrics, ones like “I write you a song, you play your guitar. You and me both sing along and hold hands for too long” seem like to work alright for a middle school romance.
The last one is the age.
Willow is 12, which is crazy because it seems like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air just went off the air. (It’s been off the air 17 years, just an FYI.) Justin Bieber was 15 when “One Time” came out and a lot of people thought his heavy relationship talk was too mature for his age then. Lil Bow Wow came out with his first album at 13 and in his song “Puppy Love” he says, “I’m sorry little shorty, I just gotta take that back because I’m just too young to get down like that.”
It seems that in the discovery of her voice as an artist Willow might have pushed a little hard in the growing up direction — but to be fair everyone wants to be older than they are at 12. It’s just Willow gets to go through that on the world stage.
So let’s cut her a little slack.