Atlanta's Summer Walker has long been one of the hallmark voices in R&B. Depicting the complex realities of Black romance, her sound walks a tightrope between sensuality and grim toxicity. She released her last studio album, Still Over It, back in 2021 to critical and commercial success. The project takes the listener through a complicated relationship, featuring production from The Neptunes and vocals from SZA. Essentially, Summer Walker has mastered the process of converting her pain and drama into a luscious sound over the course of her career.
However, Clear 2: Soft Life isn't necessarily focused on that pain and trauma. Summer Walker is finally in a spot of mental clarity and contentedness, which can be heard throughout the EP. "I'm really loving life right now, enjoying this new outlook on life, loving the new me, loving my kids, and not letting life pass me by anymore," she told Apple Music. She may still be a work in progress (aren't all of us?), but she's embracing the process on Clear 2: Soft Life.
Clear 2: Soft Life is eyebrow-raising before the EP even begins. The sequel to Clear features a star-studded list of contributors, including J. Cole and Childish Gambino. The Gambino feature is especially notable, considering his lack of presence in the music world over the past half-decade. However, it speaks volumes to Summer Walker's notoriety in music spaces beyond R&B. J. Cole states, "I'm sendin' you, SZA and Ari my love / Y'all holdin' us down, y'all holdin' the crowns." The co-sign from J. Cole is in direct reference to Still Over It, which featured all three of the female artists he references. In addition, Clear 2: Soft Life gets support on the production end from Steve Lacy and Solange Knowles.
Clear 2: Soft Life Features J. Cole and Childish Gambino
Clear 2: Soft Life is at its best when Summer Walker is stretching her vocal harmonies to the max, which is in on full display with tracks such as "How Does It Feel?" and "Pull Up." Pleasantly enough, the EP isn't a redundant copy-and-paste effort of her past albums. Summer Walker attacks new sonic territory. Throughout the project, she opts for sensual, subdued guitar strings rather than the heavily produced nature of her previous projects. The move lets her tranquil vocals take the forefront to an even greater extent than in the past. To mirror this sound, we even get live vocals such as on the glowing "Mind Yo Mouth." In essence, the sonic experience of Clear 2: Soft Life feels like a warm hug. As a result, the EP has already garnered comparisons to the likes of Erykah Badu.
Summer Walker expresses a great deal of personal growth through the intimate songwriting on Clear 2: Soft Life. On past projects, she's been self-deprecating when it comes to harmonizing past failed relationships. Approaching her most recent release with a greater level of maturity, she opts for "audacity" and "defiance" on tracks such as "Hardlife." By the EP's end, she deduces that the men in her life haven't been able to handle her energy. "Stop working with people who are made of glass if you are made of steel," she says on spoken-word closer, "Agayu's Revelation."
Clear 2: Soft Life Highlights Summer Walker's Maturity
Clear 2: Soft Life sees her playing the persona of the old version of herself in order to exemplify her personal growth. On the Childish Gambino-aided, "New Type," she states, "Oh, I'm feelin' so alone / Wish I had a man to make me whole." Gambino then plays the role of the inadequate man in her life, rapping in a forcibly somber tone in an up-close and personal manner. He states, "I show up with a happy meal, your attitude ain't happy / You tell my son his daddy broke, he hear you laughin' at me." "New Type" is an engaging reflection of her past relationships.
At its core, Clear 2: Soft Life is about finding inner peace rather than within others. The project sees her accept her loneliness rather than demonize it. Throughout much of the EP, she compares and contrasts the old versions of herself. However, Clear 2: Soft Life doesn't just depict her overcoming struggles regarding broken relationships - it's a triumphant reflection on her rise to fame. In "Set Up (2017)," she sings, "But I know when I'm done, I'll get what I want / I'll be in my crib, I'll be ridin' in my Benz." Well, here she is. Now garnering over 20 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, she's cementing her iconic R&B status. While fans still look forward to a full-length studio album in the near future, Summer Walks fills Clear 2: Soft Life with purpose and direction as the successor to Clear.