We all know Normani. If you don’t, she is the female vocalist on such duets as “Love Lies” (review here) and “Dancing with a Stranger” (review here), and one of the more popular members of the now-defunct American girl group Fifth Harmony.
Only one member of Fifth Harmony (Camila Cabello) has released a solo album so far, and she left the group before they officially disbanded. Normani has been slowly dropping music, touring, and exploring her sound before the release of her album. She released a sultry R&B jam with 6LACK entitled “Waves” (review here) and two-pack of dance-pop leaning tracks with Calvin Harris and Wizkid. She even guested on a remix of Jessie Reyez’s “Body Count” (review here) and on “Swing” a track on Quavo’s debut album. Each song has introduced Normani to a different section of the broader music-listening audience and explored a different sound and genre.
On the performance side, Normani had a breakout moment with her performance of “Love Lies” with Khalid at the Billboard Music Awards (read more). In addition, she was one of the opening acts (along with Social House) at Ariana Grande’s Sweetener World Tour. Normani’s performance style features intense choreography and medleys/covers that usually include some combination of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Aaliyah, Ciara, and Janet Jackson. Normani’s dancing has drawn as much criticism as it has praise, with various viral videos showing uncanny similarities between Normani’s and Beyoncé’s choreography and stage mannerisms. Normani has been heavily critiqued and called an “imitator”; in fact, on Twitter, one New York Times writer said “Every time I see Normani perform I feel like she hasn’t graduated Beyoncé school yet.”
The constant criticism of Normani is part of a larger issue of how we deal with new music artists. It is important to note that this “criticism” is almost never constructive and is almost always intended to hurt or devalue the artist. We’ve all read and conversed about our society of “instant gratification.” Our incessant need to instantly get something fully-formed is creating impossible standards for new artists. Normani is young. She hasn’t even released a solo single yet and people are already expecting her to have fully figured out and cultivated her artistry. We need to give these artists time to grow. Yes, some of Normani’s choreography is similar to Beyoncé’s, but it’s okay to be inspired and want to pay homage to an influential artist. Let Normani, and all of these new artists, find their sound and explore different avenues. I’m talking about Normani, Megan Thee Stallion, Ava Max, Zara Larsson, all of these new artists that are being unfairly judged when they’re still trying to find themselves.
Many would argue that Beyoncé hadn’t fully formed her artistry until 4, and that was after three solo albums and four Destiny’s Child albums. People would argue the same about Ariana Grande and Sweetener, and that was Grande’s fourth album as well. Better yet, people debate whether or not Rihanna fully came into her own as an artist with Rated R (her fourth album) or ANTI (her eighth album). Hell, Janet Jackson didn’t find the sound that led her to be the legend that we all know and love until Control (her third album). This can be found for virtually any artist in music’s mainstream. We, as a culture, have got to allow these artists room and time to grow and experience life before expecting to them to deliver music on the level of people who are decades into their careers. It’s not realistic and it’s not fair to those new artists who are just trying to be true to themselves and please their fans. Let new artists be new; let them revel in their newness and organically grow into the artists of tomorrow.