Summer Walker has been a problem. She made that very clear when she exploded onto the scene with the tender “Girls Need Love” and her unfiltered Last Day of Summer mixtape. Recently, as hazy alternative and electro R&B dominated this decade, we have had many young R&B stars debut. Summer Walker’s malleable voice and unflinchingly honest lyricism has helped her stand out from her peers. Whether she’s employing copious amounts of Auto-Tune for effect, singing over glittery trap beats, or riffing over dry acoustic guitar chords, Summer impresses. Furthermore, her tone is equally vulnerable and confident, just like her songwriting. Summer stashes uncomfortable truths about toxic relationships and fearless self-psychoanalysis in catchy hooks and refrains. On her proper debut album, Over It, Summer Walker collaborates with the giants of new-school and old-school R&B and focuses her sound on a perfectly unpolished glimpse at her philosophies on love and life.
Over It strikes a careful balance; the album is able to simultaneously exist as a cohesive body of work and still maintain the listener’s attention. Obviously, Summer Walker is the main person to credit for this feat, but executive producer, London on da Track, deserves some praise as well. Best known for his work with rappers like Young Thug, Gucci Mane, and Gunna, London showed off his versatility on Over It. Overall, the album is well-produced and more analog songs like the unmixed “Fun Girl,” and the acoustic guitar-backed “Off of It” help break up the blocs of trap&B.
Summer Walker is too honest. Her songwriting is arresting in the way it succinctly addresses the most problematic and confusing parts of relationships and identity. She doesn’t drench her lyricism in metaphors. Instead she writes (and sings) in a stream-of-consciousness fashion that makes all of her revelations feel raw and steeped in a collective truth. On Over It, Summer invites Usher, Bryson Tiller, Jhené Aiko, PARTYNEXTDOOR, 6LACK, Drake, and A Boogie wit da Hoodie, to join her on this heartbreaking and self-affirming odyssey. We had already heard the Drake collaboration, a smooth remix of “Girls Need Love,” and the A Boogie collaboration was the album’s second single, the extremely catchy “Stretch You Out.” Bryson redeemed himself with his verse on the updated version of Over It‘s lead single, “Playing Games.” His voice sounds healthy and his delivery is probably the best it has sounded since T R A P S O U L. Furthermore, Jhené and Summer have inimitable chemistry and that much was evident on the unconditional love anthem that is “I’ll Kill You.” All of the collaborations are great, but the album’s brightest moment comes courtesy of Usher’s appearance on “Come Thru.” This was already one Summer Walker’s strongest records just based on the structure of the song. An even greater achievement of the song is that it updates Usher’s sound while still making the collaboration feel organic and natural. Usher’s last album, Hard II Love, was very disappointing, and his joint project with Zaytoven, “A,” was marginally better but still felt forced. On “Come Thru” he is able to blend the intricate ad-libs and dramatic emotion fo 90s and 00s R&B, with the more muted soundscape of 10s R&B.
In fact, “Come Thru” is the key to understanding the greatness of Summer Walker. She, like SZA and H.E.R., are helping R&B transition gracefully and with respect to its roots. The genre has become weirdly gentrified and overpopulated in recent years, We’ve all seen the seemingly endless stream of racially ambiguous “singers” who sound like they’re in a perpetual state of sleep. With Over It, Summer is doing her part in helping bring the rich storytelling and silky riffs from classic R&B into this new generation. Summer Walker isn’t forcing a “vibe” because she doesn’t need to, her music and talent are more than enough to connect her with any audience. Over It is a stunning debut album that expertly captures why we would should care about Summer Walker, and why we were captivated by her in the first place.
Key Tracks: “Come Thru”; “Fun Girl”; “Anna Mae”; “Potential”; “Off of You”; “Stretch You Out”