Pop princess Normani makes her return in fabulous company with Cardi B for her new single, “Wild Side.” With sultry vocals and melodies, the track is a milestone in Normani’s newfound solo career, moving away from her past making teenage radio station pop with the group Fifth Harmony. Her last single, “Motivation,” released in 2019, which was fun, catchy and proved her dazzling ability as a solo artist, still didn’t feel as personal. “Wild Side” undoubtedly establishes her as a more serious artist with a smoother, more mature sound.
With more influence of R&B than pop (fans have suggested it even interpolates Aaliyah’s 1996 hit “One in a Million”) the sensual composition and lyrics of “Wild Side” go beyond the surface level of a generic pop song. Oftentimes pop music is critiqued for its lack of substance; while the single leans more on the R&B side, Normani shows she can do both, mixing the catchy effortlessness of pop with her own unique sound that isn’t yet defined. Even though Normani’s career as a solo artist is still in its early stages, Cardi B’s feature adds experience. Lyrics from her verses such as, “Every other day, new wig, new hair/ Come take me out this Mugler,” while raunchy in theory, are more elegant in practice.
All in perfect timing, the song arrives in the midst of a summer currently being defined as the end of a grueling past year, filled with a yearning for the outside world and those in it. Lyrics such as, “We can’t just keep talking about it,” and “Show me your wild side, boy/ Know it’s been a while, boy,” allude to plunging into the excitement waiting on the other side of lockdown and isolation — and doing so with confidence. Cardi B usually dominates features, making them more her own, yet Normani reigns supreme on the single while she takes a back seat. The song has a slower tempo and Cardi’s verse perfectly interrupts the slow jam while still flattering Normani’s softer and lower vocals.
The music video for the song illuminates Normani in her truest form — a performer who is able to showcase her music more personally through different forms of expression in style. Through different scenes, full of vibrant colors and choreography that exudes confidence and sensuality, the video puts Normani’s solo star power front and center. Even with a flurry of backup dancers, Normani steals the spotlight and doesn’t miss a single beat. The over-the-top looks, alongside the charisma shown by Normani and Cardi B, bring the video to life and add dimension to the single. Its energy is that of a hot girl summer anthem (Think of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Shit”) yet the song and video are poised and earnest in their approach.
“Wild Side” is the definition of a confident yet cool summer anthem that — while slow in its approach — is still catchy and confident in its lyrics and melodies. Normani’s path as a solo artist isn’t yet carved, and while the new single is starkly different from her 2019 release, her future potential is undeniable.