Pop Rocks

Willow Smith: A Chip Off The Old Block

You always want to be careful when writing about children. Not only because they're the future, as Whitney Houston and Bill Hicks once told us, but because it isn't exactly sporting to use your big person vocabulary and rhetorical arsenal to tee off on someone who hasn't yet been beaten into whimpering complacency by the rigors of modern life. For these reasons, kids tend to be off limits.

And for the most part, that's a pretty easy rule to follow. Our exposure to celebrity offspring is usually limited to the unnecessary and slightly skeevy photo spreads of Shiloh and Maddox Jolie-Pitt, or what outfit Suri Cruise is wearing this week, or who has custody of Charlie Sheen's twins. Withholding comment on that kind of "story" is sensible. And easy.

But then I heard the songs of Willow Smith, and all bets were off.

First, for the uninitiated:

I know, right? Somebody has to invent a new language to properly express how appalling that song is, because mere English lacks the words to do so. I even thought about writing this entry in French -- but their word for "horrible" is the same as ours -- or German, but there's only so many ways to use the word schrecklich without getting redundant.

Is it wrong to blunt your criticism if the perpetrator, er, artist is under the age of 18? Yes, because this isn't a case of a paparazzo pilfering a video card from the camera at somebody's 12th birthday party. Someone -- one is forced to point the finger at parents Will and Jada Pinkett Smith -- actually facilitated their daughter's dreams of pop superstardom by allowing this...song to be released. And unless you believe the worst conspiracy theories about her Svengali-like parents guiding her musical career, it's understandable to assume that, at least on some level, she wanted this.

And why wouldn't she? Her dad was/is a successful hip hop artist and one of the most bankable movie stars of all time, while mom has her own set of musical credentials. Given that, there was no reason whatsoever for Willow not to consider music her birthright. Never mind that Daddy's albums were largely laughed off before he started making hit movies (and even after), or that Mom's band actually made Evanescence look heavy.

People made fun of Hanson, didn't they?

In this case, any sort of criticism is unlikely to make a difference. When your father clears upwards of $25 million a movie and can afford a house with its own basketball and tennis courts, and its own lake, criticism is unlikely to be heard. Or at least funneled through the same echo chamber of self-denying qualification that allows Smith Sr. to coast along obliviously after coughing up dreck like Seven Pounds and I Am Legend.

Which isn't to say that I won't try. For while "Whip Your Hair" is dreadfully monotonous and discordant, setting one's teeth on edge in such a way that only the sweet, sweet kiss of the grave can ever alleviate, it's given a run for its money by Willow's newest single, "21st Century Girl."

She almost sounds like Ke$ha in spots, the realization of which would give most parents angina. ven though it's impossible to look at Willow's career as anything but a cynical manipulation by her parents to establish -- along with Karate Kid brother Jaden -- an entertainment dynasty which, rogether wth the progeny of other A-list actors, will set about creating a new American ruling class, the "entertainment-ocracy," and re-asserting Hollywood's dominance abroad.

Your move, Javier Bardem/Penelope Cruz.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar