One of the last things we heard from 16-year-old Willow Smith was an election song — and, honestly, one of the more nuanced pieces of music that was written about the election. Penned on 2016’s harrowing election night itself and shared the week after, Smith’s “November 9th” was a lullaby contemplating feelings of anger versus feelings of kindness, ending on a lyrical shift that looks out towards the sun and either God — or just a notion of an inhuman objectivity’s — “endure[ance of] our choices.” The sporadic musical output she releases across the Internet is often pleasantly surprising, and this week she followed that last piece up with another noteworthy musical tidbit: a cover of Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On.”
Smith posted different performances of the song on both Facebook and Instagram:
The original “The Book of Right On” can be found on Newsom’s first LP, The Milk Eyed Mender. Mender-era Newsom saw the musician at her most unrestrained when it came to her vocal delivery; with little instrumentation beyond her deceptively complex (often polyrhythmic) and lulling harp playing, Newsom’s first album achieved its dynamism by pairing that instrument’s sweetness with the barbed punctuation of her voice. (Since then, she’s shifted her vocal approach from album to album, singing mellifluously on Have One On Me and with arresting range on Divers.)
Smith’s cover (or the snippets that she’s shared) is more coffee-shop ready in its pleasantness, but she also emphasizes the lyrics by further stripping down instrumentation and relishing certain notes; it certainly makes for a fun alternate take.
Here’s the original: