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By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Review: R&B artist Summer Walker‘s ‘Life on Earth’

Shortly after crushing her performance at the virtual 2020 BET Awards, R&B singer and songwriter Summer Walker released an EP that delves into the emotions in breakups.

Walker’s performance, a dulcet duet with Usher about the addictive nature of romance, marked another achievement for the artist, a treasured diarist of love pangs. Two weeks after the award show, she came out with a five-track project called “Life on Earth.”

The EP reminds listeners of her excellent songwriting and raw vocal talent that many experienced after the release of her debut album “Over It” last October, which was followed by rave reviews and record-breaking sales.

Like most of her works, Walker’s EP “Life On Earth” is succinct and reaffirms the singer’s gift of composing lyrics that illuminate the complexities of love and lust. Some records lament blind adoration while others embrace sex positivity on trap-inspired production.

Listeners locate the former sentiment in “Let It Go,” the project’s lead single, on which she confronts romantic disillusionment over unguarded guitar. She bemoans, “I thought I was changin’ you / I can’t believe I praised you.” Ultimately, she chooses to relinquish their entanglement – to use the words of actress and talk show host Jada Pinkett Smith – for the health of her lover’s heart and of hers.

The luminary is most scintillating when retreating to her pre-fame roots of acoustic intimacy. Proving this is the denuded blues of earlier ballads like “Riot” and “Session 32.” In those moments, the listener joins her on her bedroom carpet and can feel the raw vulnerability of her lyrics. She strums her post-breakup pain, inviting us into her soul. The listener clings to that quiet allure – evocative of a “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” scene in which Christina Milian and Nick Cannon loll bedside, sharing an elegant minute of unadorned artistry. That same delicate beauty is enwreathed Walker’s guitar-cradling essence.

What the EP’s three tracks do not achieve in substance, they achieve in ambience. Switching her style on “White Tee,” Walker describes the sexually empowered woman she sees herself as. Lines like “Mess up your white tee / I’ll do you dirty, yeah” and “Love on, love on me, I’ll take your money” ooze coquetry but also raise red flags. In “SWV,” Walker and twice-featured artist NO1-NOAH create a cosmos of 1990s R&B-inspired desire. The rather sensual record burns slowly like its molten lust. Likewise, the third song “My Affection,” which features Canadian singer PARTYNEXTDOOR, chimes with nostalgic longing that demands instant gratification. Though the two musicians’ collaboration does not quite replicate the honeyed hush magic of their 2019 duet, “Just Might” – a weary resignation to promiscuity appearing on “Over It” – it captures the cavorting flare of rekindled sexual curiosities.

In a brilliant bow, the singer soars on an airy closer entitled “Deeper.” It is the shortest track on the EP – two minutes and 58 seconds – but an obvious standout. Interlacing sexual innuendo and stubborn hopes, the song depicts a woman’s wish for sturdy love in a relationship riddled with frailties. Skepticism hovers over, but never beclouds, her hopeful heart. Exposing herself to future woes, she sighs away a charmer’s white lies: “Claimin’ that you’re here to stay, we’ll see how it plays, actor.” As her vocals confess the irreplaceability of her significant other and glide to a sonic sky, the audience also levitates to impossible horizons. Once the conclusion arrives, artist and art appreciator unite in a paradise of golden harmonies.

For more of Walker’s music, listen to “Girls Need Love,” the single from her 2018 mixtape “Last Day of Summer” that propelled her to stardom. Discontent with the policing of female sexuality, she whispers her frustrations into a soundscape blanketed in lush haze. Another earlier act of atmospheric prowess manifests in “Just Like Me,” an elegy to women who, because they shatter convention, are shunned by love. While plaintive strings from ‘60s soul weep their melodies, pieces of Walker’s battered heart drown in her mournful mutterings and muddled mascara.

The sonic imagery, the ability to transport listeners to worlds that twirl on axes of sound, is the pulsating heart of Walker’s music.

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