Since disbanding, each member of Fifth Harmony has gone on to create solo careers for themselves and Normani has probably made the biggest splash so far.
But she wasn’t always so confident being in the spotlight. Speaking with Cosmo for her December cover story, she said,
“I’m not sure what that turning point was but I was like, Normani is enough. You can be on stage and perform and you can be enough.”
Normani wanted to make music that was fun and upbeat, but most importantly, she wanted to bring some melanin to pop music, a genre which for decades has been overwhelmingly… white. Her music video for her hit single “Motivation” was the perfect way to take the music world by storm.
The video paid homage to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” video and the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” basketball court scene had everybody talking. She even introduced a new generation to the BET video countdown show 106 & Park, which was a staple in black households from the 90s to the early 2000s. “Motivation” oozed with blackness, and it was, and continues to be, revolutionary.
“I told the director, ‘I want this to be as black as possible,’ I was like, let’s show black culture. Why does pop music have to be so white? Why don’t we make it a little more me?”
Recently, a tweet showing the Billboard‘s Woman of the Year recipient list over the past decade went viral, with people pointing out that every single artist named was white. Pop icons like Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, and Nicki Minaj were absent from the list, and while it’s infuriating, it’s not surprising.
Normani wondering why pop music has to be so white brings up an issue that’s been an underlying problem in the music community for a while: the mainstream erasure of black women in pop music.
When it comes to music genres, black singers are usually put into the R&B genre by default. But white artists like Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande can jump from genre to genre with no problem. Why aren’t black artists afforded that same luxury? Pop music saw contributions from artists like Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, and Rihanna, but it’s doubtful that people will include these artists in genres outside of the “urban” landscape.
Normani wants to make sure that she makes the greats that came before her proud, and she’s been vocal that she’s not going to be beholden to one genre.
“Those women before me, I wanna finish what they started. I’m gonna make whatever I do black. You’ll know that I’m a black girl, even if it’s on the quote-unquote whitest record ever…You’ll hear me more when I’m dancing than if we’re sitting here having a conversation. You’ll be able to see me.”
Make no mistake, 2020 is going to be Normani’s year. On top of being a brand ambassador for Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage, Queen Bey and Jay-Z are apparently fans of her music. Her vision is already giving her a seat at the table with the greats, including Beyonce and Jay-Z.
“The specifics of it I like to keep to myself because it’s just so special. But Bey and Jay-Z have definitely been vocal about how much they want me to win.”