If you have yet to hear Summer Walker’s highly anticipated debut album, time to give your music library a stunning update. Titled Over It, Walker’s first major project has surpassed the record set by Beyonce’s iconic Lemonade, with 154.7 million streams, which is enough to pique the interest of any true R&B fan. Walker’s breakthrough X-rated ballad ‘Girls Need Love’, put her name on the map and garnered a remix by none other than Drake. A platinum single is impressive, but a number one 18-track debut album is an industry game-changer. So what is it about the album that earned the singer the historical honour of dethroning Queen B in female artist streams? Over It is both sharply honest and infectiously soothing. Walker has given us the unapologetic expression of female sexuality we didn’t realize was missing from our playlists until last week.
R&B has undergone a dramatic shift in the past ten years. Singers like Rihanna and Frank Ocean have redefined the genre: out with insta-hits with pop undertones and in with albums that present more like works of art. Artists are releasing projects again: musical capsules rich with an emotional depth that the early 2000s generally missed. This trend is cyclical, taking the genre back to the candor of the nineties. Legends like Lauryn Hill, whose lyrics tell simple truths about the universal human experience, laid the groundwork for the refreshing sounds we’re hearing today. Though this voicing was openly embraced in the industry back then, most uncensored sexuality was, and still is, coming from male artists.
Over It is both sharply honest and infectiously soothing.
Enter Summer Walker. In interviews, the rising star is listless, barely present. Her distaste for jumping through the industry’s hoops is apparent; though her social media voice is strong and infatuating, Walker does things her way. Whatever reserve she shows to the press melts away on the record. The album emulates the feeling of being in the girls’ group chat; you may think you’re hearing something you shouldn’t. The emotionally raw lyrics do not shy away from the truths of today’s hypersexual culture (“too much Patrón’ll have you callin’ his phone” is a personal favourite). Each track embraces the agony and pleasure inevitable in love, allowing us to feel deeply in tune with Walker’s various emotional dilemmas.
On ‘Just Might’ she bares it all. Her life of promiscuity detailed over sultry beats is immersive. Walker wants us to enjoy her recklessness, and when she jokes she “just might be a ho”, social norms go out the window in the most irresistibly catchy way. Lauryn Hill would certainly be proud. On the impeccably produced ‘Come Thru’, she teams up with fellow Atlanta artist Usher to remix his 1997 classic ‘You Make Me Wanna…’. Walker’s smooth crooning offers a fresh take on its original storyline — the difficulty of not indulging in a love you know won’t last. Her detailed musical depiction of this bittersweet reality is exactly what makes Summer Walker’s sound so relatable to her fans. ‘Like It’ is another winner, balancing a catchy song structure with fresh, sweet melodies. While the song is dynamic and alluring, its lyrics replay the sentiment that Over It consistently embodies: Summer Walker is a girl who gets what she wants. Walker sends an empowering message to male and female listeners by baring her truths and being herself, no apology required.
Summer Walker is a girl who gets what she wants.
We have entered an exciting period for the R&B genre, where a singer like Walker can detail her sex life to the world and still be considered a serious artist. An industry double standard has been wiped out in part by a tattoo-covered Atlanta native who confronts the female condition with refreshing honesty. The phenomenal success of Over It begs the question: why now? Breakups and make-ups have been the focus of R&B narratives since the genre’s beginnings. Why are the female voices that tell truths of our social media-fuelled hook-up culture just now reaching sensational popularity? Walker’s success might be indicative of a broader trend in female empowerment. The people have spoken, and they’re done with the dated slut-shaming tactics of society’s past. Women in all areas of the arts and of all sexual orientations have become increasingly open in their forms of expression. And you know what that means — music is just going to get better from here. Get in your feels and download Summer Walker’s Over It on Apple Music or Spotify today.