There are few things more emotionally gutting than being abandoned by a romantic partner during your first pregnancy. Well, maybe the women he cheated on you with gloating about it on social media. On 2021’s Still Over It, Summer Walker aired her dirty laundry, calling out her ex for being a liar, clout chaser, and deadbeat, sometimes over his own production. “I wanna start with your momma, she should’ve whooped your ass,” she sang. Now, some boyfriends and babies later, she’s less interested in writing about life resembling an episode of Love & Hip-Hop. She’s finding serenity.
Navigating romantic love is a hellscape for Black women; degradation and fetishization seem pre-programmed into your life script. It’s why artists like Megan Thee Stallion and City Girls adopt confrontational, borderline misandrist personas as suits of armor. Walker knows that maintaining a tough exterior gets exhausting, and the title of her latest EP, Clear 2: Soft Life, aspires to comfort and ease. On the wearied neo-soul of “Hardlife,” she longs for someone to provide for her, jealous of women “with they feet kicked up/And they glass in hand.” Black men were a source of animus in her earlier discography, but on the slow-grooving opener, collaborator J. Cole offers flattery and gratitude: “I’m sendin’ you, SZA, and Ari my love/Y’all holdin’ us down, y’all holdin’ the crowns,” he says in an “audio hug,” a bare minimum gesture that models Walker’s current bar for the men in her life.
Progress isn’t linear; Walker still indulges in some thrilling dysfunction on “New Type,” where Childish Gambino plays a lover who can barely afford dinner at McDonald’s yet still finds a way to criticize her body and choices. You can tell there’s something about a fixer-upper that she finds irresistible, but when she invokes another infamously good-for-nothing man, Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone,” it’s because this time she has the wisdom to distinguish between a worthy partner and a time-waster. She is naturally hilarious, an undeniably compelling orator. She feigns apathy to get a man to chase after her on “Pull Up”—“Stop touchin’ me, I’m gettin’ out”—but is unable to conceal that she’s a giggly romantic at heart: “You funny, I love you too.”
Trudging through her messy personal life and emerging on the other side, Walker models growth for the people who saw themselves in the jilted narrator of Still Over It. “We’re going to evolve mentally, spiritually, physically, financially, um, emotionally,” she resolves on the spoken-word closer “Agayu’s Revelation,” backed by twinkling pianos and light woodwinds courtesy of Solange, Steve Lacy, and John Caroll Kirby. For Walker, the “soft life” isn’t just poolside wine spritzers: It’s learning from your mistakes and developing self-compassion. Don’t try to spin the block on her until you’ve got clear chakras and a heavily annotated copy of all about love.