“Motivation” was easily one of the best pop releases of 2019. Normani’s solo debut single channeled the charisma and verve of a mid-2000s Beyoncé song as it paid visual homage to late-’90s dance videos. The song and choreography—including a viral move where she bounced a basketball off her knee and butt—solidified her star status and left fans eagerly awaiting a follow-up. Two years later, she’s finally back with “Wild Side,” an Aaliyah-esque R&B track that swaps her earlier exuberance for slow-burning desire.
Normani’s sinuous vocals are on full display as she urges a lover to initiate their romance. “This type shit have you wylin’/Last-minute trips to the islands,” she croons over a pulsing drum beat, her voice dripping with casual confidence. Cardi B’s verse slows things down, but when Starrah’s fast-paced delivery is layered with Normani’s falsetto in the outro, the momentum is restored. In the accompanying video, Normani cycles through impeccable looks and sets—a velvet dress in a mod red room, an all-leather outfit in a futuristic chrome building, and a rhinestone bodysuit that matches Cardi’s. If “Motivation” was her jubilant breakthrough, “Wild Side” is the meticulously crafted showpiece that proves she’s here to stay.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this review stated that “Wild Side” samples Aaliyah; it does not.