Black Girls Can Be Pop Stars
Since being put together by Simon Cowell in the second season of X factor USA, I’ve been a massive fan of Fifth Harmony; not because I believed they were the best thing to ever happen but because I believed they were the best thing to ever happen. During the season former member Camila Cabello was quickly made the star of the group mainly because her voice was apparently the most unique (laughs in Dinah Jane & Lauren), which left the rest of the group very little wiggle room to showcase their talents as their careers took off. So much so that Dinah herself has admitted to being vocally left off of two of their hit singles entirely because her voice wasn’t considered ‘pop’ enough? Anyways needless to say that although I was and always will be a ride or die fan for those girls, I couldn’t help but be a little relieved when they disbanded because finally, they could each get their chance to shine. Especially Normani. Being the only black girl left her subject to a ridiculous amount of racist cyberbullying her time in the group. But even in all of this, it was clear to most people who knew of them how much of a star she was. She always (and I mean always) out danced and quite frankly out performed her band mates during their live shows and there was just something about her that screamed ‘it girl’ to me that I could never quite put my finger on.
Her solo career began with a duet with Khalid that did amazingly on the charts which brought a lot of attention her way. She then followed this with a series of collaborations with huge industry names like Calvin Harris, Wizkid (you guys slept on checklist, this song is a banger), Sam Smith & 6LACK that although were all very good songs in my opinion, never really quite grabbed the attention of the masses the way Love Lies did & this had me worried. Then the music video for ‘Motivation’ dropped and I quickly realised that I had no reason to be concerned about her future in the industry.
The song is a nostalgic pop & rnb blend that co-writer Ariana Grande is very well known for and the music video to put it simply is sensational. Drawing inspiration from the early 2000s pop & rnb queens Beyoncé, Ciara, Britney & many more while Normani dances the shitttttt out the choreography, all I could do is watch in awe. For the first time in so long, I was watching an actual music video. The ones that had the masses sitting in front of MTV and 106 & Park for hours just so we could learn the choreography to show our friends at school. I’m talking Missy Elliot level of music video entertainment, from start to finish and it’s such a relief to see a rising star genuinely put in effort into making her video interesting to look at.
The only thing that could have made it any better is if Hype Williams himself directed it but Dave Meyers is a very close second for directorial expertise so I’m not mad at all. We get a twerk on the fence, a basketball bounced off her booty, three outfit changes, a dance in the rain AND shirtless men? I almost fainted. It’s catchy, sexy, fun and apparently this is an issue. You see the thing is people seem to have a problem with new school dark skin black women doing music outside of the typical ‘I’m burning sage to align my chakra’ neo-soul or the heart wrenching vocal gymnastics r&b. And if they’re doing neither of these things, then they obviously have to be a rapper. Don’t get me wrong I love Ari Lennox, Summer Walker and Megan Thee Stallion as much as all of you trust me. But Normani doesn’t have to be any of that.
If we’re being honest, apart from Kelly Rowland’s small pop era, Kandi’s cute but short moment and Alexandra Burke’s 10 seconds, dark skin black women don’t get to be singing dancing pop singers without being looked down on by their own community. It has been an entire minute since I’ve seen a music video and song like this one with someone like Normani as the star. Black women don’t always have to sing deep vocal renditions about the newest way a man has done them wrong. They can just sing. The few that have been afforded the room to do so recently have been of a specific complexion & of course we should support them all the same but Normani isn’t ambiguous in the way the media seems to find just about palatable. She is black, she is extremely talented and she’s the world’s next big pop star. Get used to it.