Racking up some stunning streaming numbers, it’s clear that fans have been clamouring for new material from Summer Walker – after all, she’s fit to be the soundtrack for tumultuous times, romantic or otherwise. After exploding onto the scene with her excellent debut, 2019’s Over It, elevating the alt-R&B scene with some biting, relatable lyrics and some impressive vocal talent, Walker’s newer output has been a little more inconsistent. Last year’s Life on Earth EP felt sparse and directionless in comparison, but Still Over It regains some of the greatest things about Walker’s debut. First and foremost, the lyrical content, which has already invaded scores of Instagram captions as Walker furiously and viciously details her side of a breakup with producer London on da Track, who contributed heavily to her debut. While there aren’t as many memorable tunes to be found and the hour-plus runtime can feel like it drags on, listening to Walker’s smooth vocal prowess and hearing her tell her story in a shockingly dramatic, biting and unapologetic fashion is still something that any R&B fan needs to experience.
The opening track “Bitter” gets straight to the point, as Walker addresses London by name and begins to air out her many grievances, Walker believably teetering between anger and anguish. It feels highly reminiscent of “Supermodel,” which introduced SZA to the world with a refreshing stream of consciousness that showed the R&B girls were ready to get just as candid as the guys. Underscored by a swirling soundscape, the track’s looseness plays to all of Walker’s strengths where her alt-R&B peers falter – she actually has something compelling to say, and despite the vitriol, sounds angelic while doing it. A trap beat finally appears to anchor things, but it’s clear that nobody is safe. Cardi B appears near the conclusion to console Walker before things switch gears to “Ex for a Reason,” one of the only obviously single-oriented, upbeat and traditional R&B cuts here. After the opener, the rigid structure feels slightly restrictive, Walker needing to let her voice fly more, but featured artist JT of the City Girls picks things up in a big way with an appropriately dismissive and fun verse, Walker closing the track out strong with a speedier section. SZA herself actually appears on standout track “No Love,” backing Walker up and validating her emotions as she longs to experience all of the benefits of her last relationship without the pesky feelings getting in the way, a vibe-heavy instrumental with a great bassline bringing a groove to the two famously indignant women of R&B’s duet. Some of the better tracks here often feel oddly short, like “Throw It Away,” which keeps up the same funkier energy with a memorable chorus, and “Circus,” a track with some clever lyrical flips and a distinctly nostalgic flair with some snappy 90s-inspired syncopated moments that barely cracks 2 minutes.
While many of the tracks already begin to melt into each other from a musical standpoint even in the early goings of the album, Walker’s lyrics are engaging throughout. For all of the righteous anger she throws London’s way over the course of the project, some of the most powerful moments are actually when she gets a little more vulnerable, mourning the loss, beginning to analyze what went wrong and wondering what could have been done differently – the “bargaining” part of the famous stages of grief. “Reciprocate” doesn’t have much of a tune, but hearing her ask for her lover to return – with a couple conditions, of course – adds more depth immediately to the story we begin to unravel. “You Don’t Know Me,” on the other hand, is one of the most stunning tracks on the project in all senses. Over some somber acoustics and backed up by some pristine harmonies, Walker dejectedly laments putting the extra effort and dedication into the relationship that only ended in heartbreak. It’s a truly touching vocal performance, and the pain is visceral. “Insane” continues the narrative with Walker questioning why she’s having these feelings at all, while “Constant Bulls**t” might be the catchiest melody on a project that often lacks in that department, Walker singing the title with an unexpected sweetness that makes her words sting even more as she calls out her partner’s many lies.
As the album shifts to its back half with some more spacey musings on the many feelings cropping up in the aftermath of the breakup, some more engaging instrumentals and features sporadically bring some new energy to prevent the project from getting boring. In the midst of more typical alt-R&B fare like “Switch A N***a Out” and “Closure” – although the latter features some more great little musical moments that are inexplicably cut short by a brief runtime – we get fresher tracks like “Unloyal,” which coasts on an island-inspired bossa nova flavour and features a saxophone solo that crops up in the back end to underscore feature Ari Lennox’s contributions, getting equally specific with her jabs as Walker does. Lil Durk still can’t avoid some of his typically stomach-churning lyrics when he appears on “Toxic,” but he finally offers some context from the other side – although it’s hard not to take the side of Walker when she sounds as great as she does on the chorus. Pharrell and the Neptunes bring their undeniable presence to “Dat Right There” as well, and while Summer’s style doesn’t really mesh with their jubilant and goofy production techniques, it’s still a joy to hear her team up with a legend. Speaking of which, Omarion appears on the lengthy track “Screwin” to do what he does best – that is, deliver some lyrics that would terrify grandmothers everywhere alongside Walker’s most salacious outing yet. It’s a lot to take in, but the duo sound expectedly great together.
The project concludes with a couple more bits and fragments before hitting the powerful conclusion. “Broken Promises” feels like a track that could have been cut, rehashing the musical and lyrical points after moving past that point on the album’s narrative, while three out of the final 4 tracks feel more like interludes. “Session 33” feels like an obligatory sequel to the Over It-era track that doesn’t get off the ground, while closing track “4th Baby Mama” is sandwiched between a 90s R&B boyband-style introduction from Sean Garrett and a spoken-word outro from Ciara exorcising the album’s straggling demons. The track itself is a good one, a final confident reclamation of self as Walker asserts her worth past being a forgotten “baby mama” in someone’s series, bringing back the acidity of the opening track with some of her lyrical moments.
Summer Walker did suffer from the sophomore jinx, but luckily, she got all her worst ideas out in the form of an EP and only took a minimal step back when it came to a full body of work. She’s still one of the most engaging vocalists and storytellers in her genre, and we can only imagine that with more life experiences, more great stories are going to come out later.
Favourite Tracks: You Don’t Know Me, Constant Bulls**t, No Love, Unloyal, Bitter
Least Favourite Track: Broken Promises