Normani is back with ‘Wild Side’

It’s been a while…

“Wild Side (feat. Cardi B”) – Normani; Keep Cool/RCA Records

Two years after what once was thought of as her breakthrough single “Motivation,” R&B princess Normani has returned to claim the throne that has been waiting her since the aforementioned single’s live performance at the 2019 VMAs.

Finally free from the artistic and personal constraints placed on the singer in her time with girl group Fifth Harmony, Normani spent a lot of time honing in on her sound. Collaborating with names across the Pop music landscape from Khalid to Calvin Harris, Sam Smith to Megan thee Stallion, the singer has released soft to smash hits. Sonically, they were all over the map. “Love Lies” adopted collaborator Khalid’s blend of youthful R&B while songs like “Checklist” and “Dancing With a Stranger” with Harris and Smith, respectively, leaned heavily into the EDM space. Where sonics were scattered, the streamline was Normani’s obvious talent.

“Motivation” was a further complication in the direction the singer would ultimately take. A strong debut solo single, the song was more bubblegum than bass. Its throwback qualities were an exciting taste of what would become of the singer, but fans would have to wait years before they heard new music from the rising star.

Now returning more assured, powerful and daring, Normani leaps from the gate with her latest single that showcases an artist who patiently took the time to develop. “Wild Side” presents a more matured, darker R&B trap pop sound, sampling Aaliyah and placing what will become Normani’s undeniable charisma at center stage.

A simple idea, “Wild Side” spotlights Normani as she invites the song’s subject to unleash themselves and show her their best. Its both an invitation to the subject and those listening. Fully in control, Normani invites anyone who dares to match her energy.

The song’s lyricism and sonics reflect where the artist is in her career. She calmly yet powerfully asserts herself. Normani demands for a seat at the contemporary pop table. The results are astounding, with the artist releasing a single so powerful it instantly guts the listener. Don’t expect to escape this song over the course of the next few months.

The single features the latest Rap Queen Cardi B with a solid guest verse. Nothing more than a deft marketing play to get more ears on the single and eyes on Normani’s new persona, the verse comes much later in the track. With this play, the songwriting team allows Normani plenty of room to express herself independently. She doesn’t waste a bar, insisting listeners focus on her and only her.

Cardi B’s verse, while an afterthought, enriches the song with an added level of credibility. It expertly incorporates the unbridled sex appeal Cardi B has spent the past few years of her career cultivating for herself and the women rising the ranks of pop today (“WAP,” “Up”).

To cement Normani’s return even further is the single’s accompanying video. The video is helmed by Ukranian director Tanu Muino who has been responsible for some of the biggest hits in the last year (“Up” and Lil Nas X’s “Montero”).

Featuring a simple treatment, the clip allows Normani to stand front and center in single room, often muted backdrops. Her multifaceted talent as a performer can’t be missed, with choreography that simultaneously pays homage to yesterday’s R&B while forging new ground from an artist only at the tip of the iceberg that her career will become.

Now that “Wild Side” is out into the world, Normani’s artistry has officially been unleashed. An undeniable track, the single is already a pop highlight of the year and will drive conversation for weeks to come.

Author: Kieran Sweeney

Writing about entertainment for the better part of a decade and consuming it twice as much, Kieran Sweeney is "the" pop culture aficionado. A connoisseur of the intersection of art and commercialism, the USC Annenberg graduate has earned his reputation as an empathetic and thoughtful writer with his insightful and challenging analyses of entertainment and pop culture. His resume includes USC's The Daily Trojan, USC Viterbi News, and personal assistance for publicity and marketing companies from Drill Down Media to This Fiction Management both based in Los Angeles. His intersectional experience in the industry has helped inform the writer's quick wit and sharp perspectives.

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