If you come at the king, you best not miss. Normani may be one of the last artists you ever associate with the gritty street tales of The Wire, but the 25-year-old singer's new video for her Cardi B collaboration "Wild Side" has her back on track to become the next Queen of R&B.
Outside of the song sampling the sparse drums and airy ambiance of Aaliyah's classic "One in a Million," the video is an ode to a time when R&B artists put out daring visuals. In the first 70 seconds, Normani contorts her body all over a crimson red living room in ways no human body should be able to bend, lays majestically unbothered on the ground while the tilting camera sends men sliding around her, and finally elevates into an afrofuturistic land where black leather is the uniform and choreography is just as coordinated. This is before her interlocking leg dance with a mirror version of herself and Cardi B's mostly nude embrace. It did more in the time it takes to send a text than most artists do in multiple music videos.
The video has racked up 1.5 million views in its first 10 hours and is in the Top 30 list of trending searches on Google for entertainment by the time of this publication. Lil Nas X called the video "next level," attesting how it provided powerful inspiration. Halle Berry, JT from City Girls, and Cardi B herself fawned over the creativity and sexual tension of the video. It's no wonder "Normani" was one of the top five trending topics on Twitter for hours after the video's release.
The sensual "Wild Side" marks Normani's first new song since her "Diamonds" collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion from 2020's Birds of Prey soundtrack, and only her second song released since her breakout hit "Motivation" from August 2019. She also has yet to release her debut album, which went from being slated for an early 2019 release to a 2020 drop coming and going. The former Fifth Harmony member has been often compared to Beyoncé — and if that's accurate, then her stardom is inevitable.
To her credit, Normani doesn't shy away from the Beyonce comparisons. She recognizes that she's "another African-American female who has the capabilities of singing and dancing," but she also knows that her name showing up in such company raises the stakes. "I definitely think it puts pressure on me," she said in the same interview with Wonderland magazine. But, that's the thing about pressure: it's as visible in a polished product as it is in a cracked one.
The intricate choreography, meticulously detailed art design, and abstract directing are results of a generational talent understanding the assignment her precociousness has bestowed upon her. The video could've easily just been Normani seductively singing in a bedroom to her lover as Cardi B demands sex from hers, with both displayed as just eye candy. But Normani, who has repeatedly spoke of being influenced by R&B greats like TLC and Aaliyah, felt the pressure weighing on her, and matched its intensity instead of buckle under it. You don't get a music video with this veteran-level execution unless you have an artist who can feel the pressure molding them into a superstra.
Likening a music video release to a "culture reset," is the level of grandiose talk from someone not only ready to claim the throne, but also take the pressure and use it to crush expectations. The world is waiting, Normani.