One would expect a song from pop scion Willow Smith called “Sugar And Spice” to be about things that were nice, or at least pleasantly blending the sweet and the zingy—snickerdoodles, perhaps, or a particularly kicky type of ginger ale. But “Sugar And Spice,” which the 12-year-old singer/actress/blogger released earlier today, is sullen and almost gothy, with Willow singing through a thick smokescreen of echo while a piano (sampled, it sounds like, from Radiohead’s 2011 track “Codex”) plonks behind her. At points her vocal gets downright airy, and it’s not too much of a stretch to envision “Sugar” fitting comfortably on a playlist of antiparty jams populated by the likes of Solange and Bat For Lashes.
Releasing some me-against-the-world gothpop shouldn’t be too unexpected of a move for Willow, given her public displays of disaffectedness in recent months—until you remember that she is 12, and the “monsters under [her] bed” that she is singing of aren’t as far off from being real threats as they might be for other artists working in this idiom. Of course, that reminder could probably be useful to the song’s targets, i.e. people confusing her place in the spotlight with an excuse to dress down every aspect of her life, as well; midway through the song there’s a buried sample of someone mocking her outfit, which she follows up with the assertion “take a swing at me, I’ll fight.” It’s delivered in the same downcast tone as the rest of the song, but that affect doesn’t really negate the threat.
Willow posted the glum track on her SoundCloud page, where she calls herself “Arbre Mort,” which translates to “dead tree.” (And it’s French! The language of love and existential despair!) Her SoundCloud page introduces her thusly: “Hi my name is Willow. I have another account but I dont use that one as much lol. This is for my creativity to grow with now [sic] walls.” The description signs off with “Maulheureux Bound”; “malheureux” is another French word, this one for “unhappy.”