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.

BLACKPINK lights up the sky in new doc

When it comes to BLACKPINK, the four woman K-pop group that infiltrated 2019’s Coachella with a disciplined mix of cuteness and absolute savagery, many of these details couldn’t be further from the truth. With BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky, the group is introduced and their story of endless effort, constant evolution, and developmental frenzy is revealed.

Director Caroline Suh introduces each member with a rhythm reflective of the group’s easy swagger, swiftly breezing through their impressively dissimilar upbringings. There’s lead singer Jisoo, born and raised in South Korea; Jennie, singer/rapper who spent much of her childhood in New Zealand before returning to her birthplace of Seol; Lisa, rapper and lead dancer from Thailand; and Rosé, a lead vocalist born in Auckland to South Korean immigrants before moving to Melbourne where she grew up.

The four met throughout their shockingly long stint as trainees in YG Entertainment’s song and dance program. American Idol with no off switch, the program saw the girls spend years mastering their craft, testing their chemistry with fellow trainees until they joined one another to become something entirely new to the K-pop genre, BLACKPINK.

Flashforward through years of touring and smash hit global singles comes their history making Coachella performance. The documentary details the group’s shock and awe in exceeding the bounds of their already multicultural backgrounds to break onto perhaps the most mainstream festival stage in music today.

The documentary drops viewers into the group and their already long established dynamic well into their global success, with noticeably more quietly outgoing Jennie appearing as the evident leader of the group. The first to release her own work in single “SOLO,” she explains that the group is deep into work on their first full length LP; what would become October 2020’s release of THE ALBUM, a record that would skyrocket to the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 charts higher than any female K-pop group has ever gone.

The group then introduces songwriter/producer Teddy Park, a K-pop performer turned producer who helped the group find their sound and become what they are today. He describes the group’s initial release strategy favored singles before leaning more heavily into the personal storytelling of their latest project.

The film is so interesting for its multifaceted nature, outlining the similarly atypical group of women and their worldly experiences. They each possess such specific personalities that, when blended together, shine the light on why the group has become so universally resonant among audiences around the world.

Emotional, revealing, and eye opening for a corner of a massive genre constantly evolving, BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky is nearly impossible to look away from, and soon after audiences will find themselves digging through the group’s growing discography.