Seconds before the cameras started to roll, Summer Walker showed just how much she was willing to sacrifice for her day at the Tiny Desk: She clipped her nails. It wasn't an aesthetic choice but a pragmatic one. Not even her love for a fresh set of bedazzled acrylics would get in the way of her strumming the soul out of her six-string Fender electric. The guitar wasn't the only thing she'd brought with her from Atlanta. In her lap sat "Friend," the pink stuffed animal who no doubt provided a bit of emotional support during a five-song set that forced the shy enigma out of her creative shell.
"Look, I'm really freaking excited to be here but I have social anxiety like a mother******," Walker told the NPR crowd at the end of her set, barely mumbling the expletive in an attempt to censor herself. "I'm freaked the hell out, I'm sweating, but this is so exciting for me."
A 23-year old singer-songwriter with an uncensored pen and brown-liquor vocals, Walker has become something of a patron saint for colored girls who've considered bossing up when heartbreak is too much. With the release of her official studio debut Over It, she made history last week by racking up the biggest streaming week of any female R&B artist ever. Meanwhile, the first lady of upstart label Love Renaissance (LVRN) is lowkey leading a sonic revolution in Atlanta that's turning the trap capital back into an R&B town. Her team was equally insistent on tricking out the Tiny Desk space by hanging lights that brought a diffuse glow to Walker's creative set.
For an artist who rarely grants interviews and admittedly dreads the public spotlight — despite an Instagram feed that clearly shows off her humorous, exhibitionist flair — Walker's Tiny Desk is revealing. In the span of 15 minutes, she performs fan favorites ("Session 32," "Wasted," "Riot") and the song that made Drake hop in her DMs, "Girls Need Love," before ending with current single "Playing Games." Even behind the bright lights and oversized eyeglass frames, her unadorned soul shines through.
- "Session 32"
- "Girls Need Love"
- "Playing Games"
Summer Walker: vocals, guitar; Elijah Whittingham: guitar; Angel White: vocals; Autumn Tuesdae: vocals; Slim.wav: keys; Stox: bass; Remey Williams: drums
Producers: Rodney Carmichael, Bobby Carter, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Niki Walker, Maia Stern, Beck Harlan, Jack Corbett; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR