Music Moment: Summer Walker

11 hours ago

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, singer Summer Walker made history this week. Her debut studio album called "Over It" became the most-streamed album by a woman R&B artist ever, breaking Beyonce's record for the album "Lemonade." Summer Walker is 23 years old. She's from Atlanta, Ga., and she is notoriously shy and doesn't give many interviews. But we wanted to hear more about her breakout album and why it's been getting so much buzz lately, so we've called music editor at The New Yorker Briana Younger to walk us through some of the album's standouts.

BRIANA YOUNGER: Well, I think you have to start with "Girls Need Love," which was kind of her breakout hit last year, and it's kind of the reason we're all here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS NEED LOVE")

SUMMER WALKER: (Singing) Honestly, I'm trying to stay focused. You must think I've got to be joking when I say I don't think I can wait. I just need it now. Better swing my way.

WALKER: It's super-modern r&b. She definitely has the nods to older, more traditional r&b. But it's definitely super of-this-moment in terms of the aesthetic. It just feels kind of, like, informed by hip-hop in terms of the language, in terms of the style. But it's also very r&b in that she's singing, and she's singing low, and she's singing soulfully.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS NEED LOVE")

WALKER: (Singing) Girls can't never say they need it. Girls can't never say now. Girls can't never say they want it. Girls can't never say now.

YOUNGER: I think the biggest thing about that song was kind of what she was saying and this idea that women can't ever really express their sexual desires. It's not necessarily a new thought, obviously, but kind of doing it in this sensual, like, sexy production. Her voice is kind of just spreading over the beat. It's, like, buttery. People were just drawn to it. It felt like a moment in that she was critiquing society while also making this, like, fire r&b.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS NEED LOVE")

WALKER: (Singing) I need some love.

YOUNGER: And next, there's "Drunk Dialing."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRUNK DIALING...LODT")

WALKER: (Singing) Boy, you know I, I, I love you, oh, and everything you do.

YOUNGER: So the whole setup of drunk-dialing is the first half of the song is her just trying to talk herself out of drunk-dialing an ex, which is obviously a distinctly millennial sentiment. And then we flash back to her covering Lenny Williams, who's a super-old-school r&b singer. And I think that just speaks to her r&b sensibilities and the way she bridges old with new.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRUNK DIALING...LOTD")

WALKER: (Singing) And I'd love for you, do, do, do...

YOUNGER: "I'll Kill You" comes towards the end of the album, and it's the ultimate bait-and-switch.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL KILL YOU")

WALKER: (Singing) I've been waiting so long for a love like this.

YOUNGER: She spent parts of the album dealing with these, like, volatile emotions and rebuffing men and using them and whatever else. And so we get to the song called "I'll Kill You," and no, it's a love song (laughter) about how she has become essentially overwhelmed by her love for this person and wants to be the last person who loves him - very possessive but very honest. I think the thing we love most about Summer Walker is her frankness.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL KILL YOU")

WALKER: (Singing) Even when s*** looking bad for you, I been waiting so long for a love like this. It's a feeling so strong, I don't want to resist. Like you can't do no wrong, got me losing my - got to loosen my grip, no.

YOUNGER: I think what makes Summer so special is there are through-lines to hip-hop. There are through-lines to pop. There's kind of something for everyone's sensibilities. Like, if you just like slow-burning, sexy r&b, she has something for you. But if you like the more upbeat, super polished poppy sounds, she has something for you as well. And it's not your mother's r&b for sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL KILL YOU")

WALKER: (Singing) Choose a lover, you got me all tied up.

MARTIN: That Briana Younger, music editor at The New Yorker, telling us about Summer Walker's record-breaking new album, "Over It."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL KILL YOU")

WALKER: (Singing) I've been waiting so long for a love like this. I've been waiting so long for a love like this. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.