It would be futile to even attempt defining Willow Kayne’s sound. Her introductory singles, ‘Opinion’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’, showcased the sheer breadth and ambition of her sonic palette, but the songs are just a small sample of the genre-blurring mindset that is constant throughout her debut EP. ‘Playground Antics’ is as joyous and cheeky as its name suggests, paying tribute to her Bristol origins by hopping and bouncing through a mix of genres such as hip-hop, pop, punk, and jungle – the latter’s subtle but commanding fingerprints are all over these tracks.
Kayne isn’t the first to pilfer the sounds of the ‘00s and ‘90s – much has been made of Gen Z’s appropriation of Y2K vibes – but she does so with the right balance of admiration and disrespect, cutting up and sticking the pieces back together in startling fashion. She makes her approach clear on EP highlight ‘Two Seater’: “The world chose you: live how you wanna, just do your own thing while we’re alive.”
That self-aware confidence permeates every second of the tracks across ‘Playground Antics’. On ‘Jealous’, she dismisses her haters with glee: “I don’t even know any of their names / But I know that they all know mine”. Her voice is confident and commanding, her tone never faltering as she delivers verses on her success that topple her doubters. There is certainly a sense of directness to her songwriting, opting to showcase both her “bad b self” and her “cool kid nature”. Her lyrics are also peppered with hints of growth, both as an artist and as an individual, particularly on ‘Faces Change’: “Always make mistakes in selection / Can’t be perfect without rejection”.
In less skilled hands, the mishmash of approaches would signal a lack of focus, but the threads that runs through each track – from ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’s grimey bassline, to ‘Two Seater’s lingering menace – keep everything controlled, necessary and from careering off the edge of the road. The EP is a commanding ode to her younger self, brimming with motivational mantras and upbeat sounds: this is a thrilling start.
Release date: February 1
Record label: Sony Music