Summer Walker is one of the more recent guests on NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” series. With studio lights set up pointed directly into the camera, Walker softly sings into tiny boom mic set up in front of her at that tiny, tiny desk. Sporting glasses and adorable space buns, the singer begins her set strumming on an electric guitar to the chords of her acoustic-heavy track, “Session 32.” As the chimes signal the end of the “Session 32” and the beginning of another fan-favorite, “Wasted.” After putting the guitar is put down, she nervously grabs the hot pink stuff monkey and looks at her pianist signaling the start of the song.
She then performs “Girls Need Love,” on which Drake did a remix for recently. As the song comes to a close, looking down, she timidly says, “Look, I’m really freaking excited to be here but I have social anxiety like a mother******.” Regardless of saying this, Twitter did it’s thing and critiqued her performance to no end.
Look everyone is clowning Summer Walker’s tiny desk performance. Meanwhile I’ve been telling y’all her live performances are horrible for months. pic.twitter.com/kRkg3Kwn0r
— 👀 K. (@AllofKandi) October 20, 2019
And I love Summer Walker. I clicked on this like, “Ooh Summer did a tiny desk concert?”
I got 3 seconds into this sad shit before I couldn’t take it anymore.
If I was filming this I would’ve cut the mf cameras on that girl and sent her home.
— 👽 (@briyaass) October 19, 2019
Some came to her defense:
Summer Walker gave the disclaimer that she has social anxiety before her performance on Tiny Desk. She’s spoken about it in multiple interviews. So why are people conflating laziness or lack of care with a health issue?
— Natelegé Whaley (@natelege_) October 19, 2019
Ppl really are really judging Summer Walker’s NPR tiny desk performance but like…. she still sounds amazing and she has social anxiety…like this girl is freaking out inside and still managed to sing the fuck out of that set … big kudos
— ximena (@ximenalopez) October 25, 2019
One thing that came out of Summer Walker, besides her undeniable talent, is the discourse people have around not only mental health, but specifically black women’s mental health. Here’s what she had to say after a 47-second clip of her Tiny Desk Concert went viral on Twitter.
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Natalegé Whaley, a writer for BET wrote about the unhealthy dialogue people are having around Walker’s mental health. She writes, “With Black women’s bodies, behaviors and emotions policed more than that of any other group, if Walker’s struggles with social anxiety aren’t already chronic, the stressors of the music industry are bound to create an environment in which they’re at least persistent.”
Whaley also writes, “Filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu also chimed in adding, ‘Our Blackness does not make us inherent wind-up dolls, perpetually boisterous for your consumption.’ She continued, ‘We are allowed to be meek, anxious, subdued… I just rarely see the default projection of ‘attitude’ placed on lethargic white/white proximal singers.'”
In conversation with another upcoming R&B star, Ari Lennox, Lennox asked Walker why she named her album, “Over It.”
To which she replied, “I’m so over it, I’m over it all. I’m over performing.” Ari then gives her words of encouragement saying, “I don’t think you should quit, you’re phenomenal, you’re amazing and I just want you to know that I’ve been there.”
In agreement with Ari, we hope Summer continues to do music and bless us with her beautiful vocals.
Moises is a full-time freelance writer based in New York City. He graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He reports mainly on arts and culture.