Atlanta native Summer Walker brings her raw, soulful energy to her unfiltered and vulnerable new project CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP. 

Released in May 2023, the EP serves solely as a live production sequel, without any narrative continuation, to the 2019 predecessor Clear. Leaving behind the jilted narrator we were exposed to on her debut studio album Over It (2019) and its continuation Still Over It (2021), and charting a new trajectory for her musical narrative.

With a runtime of under 30 minutes, Clear 2 explores Walker’s pursuit of finding comfort and ease in contrast to her tough exterior. Exploring her concept of the ‘soft life’, the nine-track lineup is raw and painful, yet simultaneously liberating as she captivates listeners with her ethereal vocals.

Despite being in the industry for less than a decade, her talent speaks volumes beyond her years. The ‘Girls Need Love’ singer is now certified 5x multi-platinum with over five million copies sold. Her sophomore LP, Still Over It, achieved gold certification and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making it the first R&B album by a woman to accomplish this since Solange‘s A Seat at the Table. The successes should not be viewed as an introduction to a new R&B powerhouse who has only recently emerged, instead, it demonstrates that Walker is well-versed and knowledgeable in her craft, and after listening to Clear 2, can be extended to her life experiences. Her ability to carry listeners through every line and sing on relatable concepts not exclusive to status makes her even more endearing and loveable.

In the soulful and slow-grooving opening track, J. Cole, one of the two listed features on the EP, expresses admiration and appreciation for Summer Walker. He praises her for sharing her light, her voice, and her ability to write beautiful poems. As an R&B artist in a pop and rap-dominated world, Walker is among the genre’s artistic renaissance alongside queens like SZA and Ari Lennox.

From the expression of gratitude, admiration and support from J. Cole’s audio hug, ‘Hard Life’ takes a cold turn in showcasing the raw juxtaposition between the track title and overall message of the EP. The millennial term, ‘soft life’ refers to a lifestyle of comfort and relaxation with minimal challenges or stress. That has not been the reality for Walker. She expresses her frustration in being undervalued and deceived in a relationship as men in her life want her ‘soft’ but give her a ‘hard life’. However, her discernment and self-confidence in trusting her intuition shines through as she highlights how she’s “10 steps ahead” and emphasises the consequences her partner will face in ‘How Does It Feel’.

To quote the infamous R&B trio TLC, Walker won’t put up with ‘no scrubs’ as gaslighting deadbeat men are a thing of the past for her. The song stands as a female anthem for empowerment in relationship dynamics as Walker advocates and asserts her desire for a partner who values her as an equal rather than conforming to societal norms.

In ‘Pull Up’, she delves deeper into the complexity of relationships and the fear of vulnerability, particularly when you care deeply for a potential suitor. ‘New Type’ pivots to explore the themes of her desire for intimacy, frustration with toxic relationships, and the rejection of dependency. With the notable presence of Childish Gambino, embodying the role of a struggling lover-boy who can scarcely afford a McDonald’s meal, but nevertheless still chooses to criticise her physique and decisions.

She alludes to Erykah Badu‘s 1997 hit ‘Tyrone’, a breakup anthem centred around a phone-related punchline about a boyfriend relying on his friend Tyrone to help him move out, paralleling Childish Gambino’s persona in need of assistance. She won’t put up with no “trick daddy”, through her ‘hard life’ love experiences, she now can distinguish between a ‘scrub’ and a worthwhile suitor. Finding mental clarity and self-empowerment comes at the cost of “losing people, finding peace.” Although now, she can put herself first as “loving [her] is good for [her] health.”

There is light at the end of the tunnel, ‘Agayu’s Revelation’ is the ninth and final track on Summer Walker’s CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP. Summer Walker’s spoken-word track delves into her previous romantic connections, her journey of self-improvement, and the revelation that she cannot alter others but should concentrate on her own development. She alludes to Yoruba mythology, drawing upon the figure of Agayu, the deity linked to volcanic eruptions, fire, and profound transformation.

Upon her own thorough introspectiveness, she reveals her key to breaking out of toxic bondages and maintaining a healthy life is “to evolve mentally, spiritually, financially and emotionally.” It hints at the idea that Walker’s personal journey has been catalysed by powerful and life-altering experiences, akin to the transformative forces associated with Agayu. There is a rebirth within her mental clarity as she comments on coming out of relationships “smarter, healthier, happier, richer, finer and thicker.” 

We know that healing isn’t linear, but that doesn’t stop the Grammy-nominated star from singing on clearer times and realisations she previously didn’t possess. When you strip back the limelight, her unparalleled candour and vulnerability expose the harsh truths and realities she has encountered, contributing to her growth and character development making her all the more relatable. Walker realises that life is transient and love is eternal as she is willing to sacrifice everything to find her peace, leading to claiming her soft life.

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