Clear 2 Soft Life review

Clear 2: Soft Life review | Summer Walker provides heavenly, pared-back RnB on EP follow-up

Summer Walker offers the second part of her Clear project with Clear 2: Soft Life – an emotionally weighty nine-track project that enlists the work of J. Cole and Childish Gambino.

Unapologetically laying her feelings and thoughts bare once again, Summer Walker has made her return with the stripped-back, introspective EP, Clear 2: Soft Life. The nine track project pairs with her same-titled 2019 EP Clear, which delivered a blend of songs that demonstrated the range of Summer’s capabilities and helped put Walker on the map as one of today’s most alluring RnB artists. With the driving power of the former EP, this sequel indulges in an undeniably maturer sound.

The four years between the Clear projects has seen the singer exploring a far more commercial RnB, trap-influenced approach, particularly on her debut studio album, 2019’s Over It (Last Day of Summer, released a year prior, was technically deemed a mixtape).. This was, of course, by nature with the predominant production credits going to her former partner London On Da Track, whose producer tag became synonymous with every Summer track during this era.

Clear 2 sees Summer coming clean out of a messy breakup with London, which has been well-exhibited on their social media accounts over the past couple of years. Although Walker’s sophomore album ‘Still Over It’ delves into this subject with more self-assured themes, this EP explores these feelings with greater intimacy, as she packages every song with honest revelations.

Clear 2 Soft Life

Summer’s vulnerability is particularly prevalent on the stunning ‘How Does it Feel’, as her fragile voice sounds as though she’s teetering on the verge of tears, as she questions why she is so under-appreciated, with the melancholic line, “You treat my love like an option”.

A huge amount of her lyrics on this EP address her frustration with the patriarchy, especially as a black woman, with the chorus of ‘Mind Yo Mouth’ confronting the unfair double standards when it comes to the  expectations of women; “They say, ‘Hush girl, mind your mouth / You don’t wanna harm his ego’”, she sings, echoing the earlier sentiment on ‘Hardlife’, “You say you want me soft / but give me your hard life”.

Summer then doubles back with the sultry ‘Pull Up’, as she flirts over the phone with the same lover that causes her so much grief, and on the following ‘New Type’ as she confesses her desires, “Wish I had a man to make me whole”. An explanation to her change of tune, is offered on the spoken word closer ‘Agayu’s Revelation’, as she confesses, akin to the adage of ‘love is blind, “The dick do something a little different to you… make you think you got superpowers and shit”.

Regardless of her emotional standpoint on men, Summer delivers every line with her trademark nonchalance, each flowing into the next as an unfiltered stream of consciousness.

Summer Walker

Photo: Derek White

Although Summer has previously indulged in more commercial RnB production, aside from the forgettable acoustic track ‘Set Up’, this project is completely 90s neo-soul coded. ‘Finding Peace’ exemplifies this as the singer preaches the importance of putting herself first with the line, “Loving me is good for my health”, over a nostalgic, soulful blend of glossy electric piano chords, groovy bass plucks and a marching snare drum.  Without Summer’s recognisable vocals, this track could easily be mistaken as a deep cut from the likes of any of the greats such as India Arie, Jill Scott or Lauryn Hill.

The sultry ‘New Type’, meanwhile, is an evident ode to Erykah Badu, who Walker has previously labeled as her ‘idol’, indulging in this same instrumental composition, and mixing her beautiful voice with effortless rap cadence, as she makes reference to Badu’s ‘Tyrone’ with the line “Have your stuff out on the street / Won’t you go and call Tyrone”. Childish Gambino features with a slurring verse of deep, seductive vocals, reminiscent of Andre 3000’s feature on Badu’s 2015 track ‘Hello’.

Gambino isn’t the only A-lister to rally behind Summer on this EP.  Solange and Steve Lacy lend their musical brilliance to the production of ‘Agayu’s Revelation’, whilst ultimate big brother J.Cole introduces the project with ‘To Summer, From Cole’. Although the track only features back up vocals from Walker, this “audio hug” is a standout as Cole confesses his admiration for her, both as an artist and as a mother – a shared love all of her fans will attest to.

Ultimately, Clear 2 takes a refreshed approach from Summer Walker. Despite lacking in the catchier bangers pervading the rest of her discography, these nine tracks see the singer cohesively stripping back her work to her primary influences, as she attempts to reinvent both her sound and her independence.

Leave a Reply

More like this