Review: Normani Stakes Her Claim for the Pop Crown with Motivation

If you feel like you’ve seen a lot of Normani coverage on this website, you would be absolutely right. From her sultry collaborations with Khalid (review here), Sam Smith (review here) and 6LACK (review here) to her show-stealing performances (read more) and guest verses (read here), Normani’s obvious star power and potential simply cannot be ignored.

On her proper debut single, “Motivation,” Normani looks to the past to remind us why she is such a special talent in today’s pop scene. “Motivation,” which includes writing credits from Ariana Grande and Ilya, is a fun and flirty R&B-influenced pop track. While, lyrically, the song lacks the substance of “Waves,” it is the perfect template to showcase Normani’s personality. The song is stacked with background harmonies that sound straight out of the 2000s, and the production, especially that brass breakdown on the bridge, is a shameless and welcome throwback. The melody is the song’s biggest stretch, it’s very catchy especially for lyrics that aren’t memorable at all.

It’s tough to admit and tough to say, but without its spectacular video, “Motivation” would be a tough sell. As Normani’s official debut as a solo artist, the song is weak. Then again, the solo debut single isn’t the end-all-be-all of an artist’s career. Camila Cabello underwhelmed with “Crying in the Club” but then eventually launched her album off of the strength of one of the biggest songs of the decade, “Havana.”

In the music video, Normani references classic videos like Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”; Ciara and Missy Elliott’s “1, 2 Step”; and Britney Spear’s “…Baby One More Time.” The video heavily leans into early 2000s nostalgia, but it’s done so well, you can’t help but love it. Normani’s dancing is absolutely incredible, and immediately puts her up with Ciara and Beyoncé, in terms of singers who can dance their asses off. The video really sells the vibe and sound of “Motivation” which saves the song from feeling lackluster. Regardless of whether you like the song or not, Normani has finally arrived, and with this new song and video, she’s not going anywhere.

Score: 60

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