Normani’s pop-stardom ambitions are made quite clear in the opening seconds of her latest music video, “Motivation.”
A young girl races through her grandmother’s house to catch the last seconds of BET’s “106 & Park.”
Perched on the floor, inches away from the television, she imagines a world in which she has the No. 1 video on the countdown show that was essential after-school viewing in the early aughts. The young girl transforms into Normani and the rest of the clip sees her paying tribute to the idols she fell in love with as a child watching “106.”
“Motivation” is a bouncy, horn-filled R&B-pop confection reminiscent of the sweaty bangers that made Rich Harrison an in-demand producer in the early aughts when his sound took off with the gems he made for Amerie, Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé.
It’s a sticky bop perfectly primed to get us through the rest of the summer, but it’s the video that will push the former Fifth Harmony member further into solo stardom.
Nineties and 2000s R&B nostalgia has been the pulse of the genre’s resurgence in the past two years, but where many young artists are mining the past through sampling or interpolation (just listen to recent jams from Ella Mai, Chris Brown and Normani’s former band member Dinah Jane), Normani used her love of the early 2000s to pay direct tribute to her idols. The references are abundant in the Dave Meyers- and Daniel Russell-directed clip.
Early in the video, Normani offers her own twist on Beyoncé’s iconic “Crazy in Love” strut. A basketball court scene conjures Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real” and Britney Spears “… Baby One More Time” (because Normani was like a lot of us who flipped between BET’s “106” and MTV’s “Total Request Live” to get our pop vibes) with just a little bit of Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up” for good measure.
But those are just the overt references. Buried deep are subtle nods to Ciara’s “1, 2 Step,” Janet Jackson’s “All For You,” Omarion’s “Touch” and 3LW’s “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right),” and her background dancers are dressed in looks that recall Aaliyah and TLC.
Normani was only 4 when “106 & Park” hit the airwaves. But she came of age in an era when black girls of all shades were captivating pop audiences. To see her pay direct tribute to that is sweeter than any dose of nostalgia.