Whether you were introduced to Normani through her time in Fifth Harmony, her performance of “Love Lies” at the Billboard Music Awards, or “Motivation,” her destiny has always been clear. Normani becoming a dominant force in music was really a question of when, not if. With her new Cardi B-assisted single, “Wild Side,” Normani lets us know that her time is now.
If “Motivation,” was Normani’s reminder that she can effortlessly reign in the pure pop realm, then “Wild Side” is further proof that she can just as easily run the R&B game. Over an interpolation of Aaliyah’s classic “One In A Million,” Normani coos invitations for some next-level nighttime activities. “Wild Side” smartly paces its lyrical and vocal intensity to balance the relatively stagnant production. There isn’t much major change in the instrumental throughout the song, but when you’re interpolating Aaliyah, there’s no need for all that. The first verse of “Wild Side,” is relatively sparse; there’s a lot of silence that’s used to punctuate Normani’s suggestive introduction to this affair. Just from the first verse, she makes it clear that she is in control. She’s “ready to do what [she] do,” and she leaves the ball in her man’s court for him to shoot his shot because she’s “bulletproof.” The sparseness of this first verse holds space to appreciate the Aaliyah sample, and give the song a sensible starting place as it begins to build until the very last second. Normani’s layered background harmonies help flesh out the song in the sultry pre-chorus and sublime chorus. The first verse also sets up an interesting contrast to the second verse which trades sparseness for a quick rap cadence. Normani shifts from smooth crooning to melodic rap-singing with startling ease.
What makes “Wild Side” so great is how Normani combines different genre tropes to show off the new shades of her artistry. The hook and Aaliyah sample show off her R&B foundation, quirky lyrics like “fuckin’ it up like oopsie-daisy” recall the more left-of-center strokes of mainstream pop genius, and the repeated “doo doo doo” (as well as the song’s outro) show off her penchant for hip-hop. In fact, the outro to “Wild Side,” is essentially a symphony of ad-libs and wordless vocalizations. On “Wild Side,” Normani displays not just her versatility, but also her ability to blend all of her artistic influences into one seamless song. As for Cardi B, initially, her verse may feel brash or out-of-place. After a few more listens, however, her verse is the perfect complement to what Normani is doing elsewhere on the song. With aggressive lines like “it’s my dick and I want it now,” Cardi offers up a nice contrast to the more subliminal sensuality of Normani’s parts. Cardi’s energy comes in at the perfect time on “Wild Side.” Furthermore, when she joins Normani in singing the final chorus and changes one of the lines to “I want you comin’ inside it,” it’s the perfect blend of both ladies’ styles.
Rumored to be the lead single from her highly anticipated debut album, “Wild Side” is a very strong track… with or without its incredible music video.