After Fifth Harmony disbanded in 2018, Camila Cabello, armed with her chart-topping single "Havana," seemed to be the group's breakout solo artist. However, the now-defunct group has another star on the rise in Normani. For the past two years, the 24-year-old singer has made waves in the pop music scene by collaborating with artists like Sam Smith, Khalid, and 6lack, but the singer's new video for her first solo single "Motivation," which dropped Thursday night, is proof that Normani is pop's next best thing.
The dance-heavy video opens with a young Normani glued to the television while watching BET's 106 & Park, dreaming of the day her own video tops the countdown. She spends the rest of the video turning those dreams into a reality as a grown-up Normani pays homage 2000's pop and R&B favorites while making the streets of Los Angeles her personal stage. Normani twerks and shows off her unparalleled dance moves throughout the video while mainly wearing a graffiti crop top with "1996"—the year the singer was born—written across the chest.
Early 2000s nostalgia shines in the video. In its second scene, Normani, wearing a white crop top and blue jeans, walks in an alley, ostensibly referencing Beyoncé's iconic "Crazy in Love" video opening. Later in the video, Normani heads to the basketball court and dances with different guys in a scene that's reminiscent of videos for both JLo and Ja Rule's "I'm Real" and Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time." Elsewhere, Normani pulls off a rain-soaking, hip-rolling aesthetic that has the video for Ciara's "Gimme Dat'" written all over it.
Normani is honoring icons that came before her, but "Motivation" is also her warning that she's the rightful heir to pop's throne. It's a shift for an industry that tends to favor light-skinned Black women artists. It's rare that a dark-skinned Black woman is the center of contemporary pop music's attention. Although the success of lighter-skinned artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj was groundbreaking, dark-skinned Black women still had a hard time truly seeing themselves represented in music. But Normani is proving there's space for them, too.
"Motivation," which was co-written by Ariana Grande, is an instantly loveable summer bop that has all the elements of a perfect pop song: a catchy chorus and a bouncy percussion beat that'll make anyone want to dance along. The single also has the production backing of contemporary hitmaker Ilyah Salmanzahdeh, who's worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande. It's hard for new artists to make a strong debut, especially one that alludes to a promising future. But Normani makes the task seem effortless as her unmatched choreography and confident attitude prove that the music world is hers for the taking. The world is ready for a dark-skinned Black woman pop sensation, and her name is Normani.