Normani Explains Why She Hasn’t Released Her Album Yet & It Makes Perfect Sense
The 26-year-old pop star dreams of collaborating with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Doja Cat, and Rosalía.
Before Normani even hears the question, she laughs. “God, I already know,” she tells Bustle when the topic of her long-awaited debut album is broached. “Status of the album? Summer for sure. Tour? Coming.” It’s the most direct and concrete answer the “Motivation” and “Fair” singer has given since she began her solo career four years ago apart from Fifth Harmony, her girl group that formed on The X Factor in 2012. The 26-year-old singer quickly elaborated on the years-long wait.
“I understand that [waiting] might not be the easiest in regards to supporting me, but I think that people really don’t understand, especially coming out of a girl group, what most may have thought was the perfect time for me to release — during ‘Motivation’ — was not it at all because I would’ve put out a body of the work that I wasn’t confident in,” Normani adds, referring to her popular 2019 single that she co-wrote with Ariana Grande and Max Martin.
While Normani has delivered catchy radio hits over the years — including 2018’s “Love Lies” with Khalid, 2019’s “Dancing With a Stranger” with Sam Smith, 2020’s “Diamonds” with Megan Thee Stallion, and 2021’s “Wild Side” with Cardi B — there’s one glaring omission in her discography: an album. Despite industry support and high expectations from avid fans, her debut album has been pushed back several times, and now in 2022, Normani is OK with the delay.
“I had a lot of growing to do,” Normani explains. “I had a lot of artist development, which I feel like people don’t take seriously. They throw artists on stage completely unprepared. And for me, that mentality was very important. Now, I’ve also been very critical on myself. So I think it’s been a combination of things, but it’s definitely going to be worth the wait.”
Normani On Her Album & Dream Collabs
As summer 2022 approaches (it begins on June 21), fans are still waiting on Normani, her management, or her label to update them on an official release date for the debut album.
What will your debut album sound like? And what would you like to say to fans who maybe don’t understand why it hasn’t come out yet?
I needed to go through my process to figure out sonically, OK, what means something to me? What do I want my sound to sound like? Let me actually live these real experiences so I have something to talk about. I’m very, very prideful of what I do and the art. It means a lot to me and I’m heavily involved in literally every single aspect. Anything that you can think of, my hand is in. I’m very competitive with myself. ... So I’m always wanting to strive for the best quality.
For me, I like quality over quantity for sure, but I also know that it’s a game and the way that people digest music is so different than it was back in the day. So it’s having to adapt to that, but also making sure that you put out something that’s authentic to you.
To my fans, I’m appreciative because they’ve walked with me and they have been patient, and I know that it’s frustrating, but I would ask them to trust me.
And then personal life stuff, taking place. A lot of people still don’t know my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to go home, but the reason I was able to push through was because me being in the studio, and me working toward finishing this album, got her through her chemo and got her through that whole process, which was very, very devastating for our family. People are so quick to speak, but don’t know. To my fans, I’m appreciative because they’ve walked with me and they have been patient, and I know that it’s frustrating, but I would ask them to trust me.
“Fair” is so different from your past singles. Why’d you choose to release that as a single?
“Fair” actually chose me. It’s crazy because I didn’t know that this would be the record I needed during this time. I was going through a really tough breakup after two years, and I’m still feeling it even now, but I’m allowing myself to just kind of go through the process, just taking it day by day. It was very therapeutic, and in a sense, triggering every time I hear it, because it takes me back. But it also allowed me to be vulnerable, and that for me was really a breakthrough because I’ve never been comfortable with being vulnerable and not being OK in front of people. I feel like black women in particular, we’ve always been taught because of society and historic events, we’ve always had to suck it up and be strong and pull through and be perfect just to even get a little bit of credit.
So for me, this was definitely a game changer and a reflection of all the things to come in terms of just letting go and letting God. I think that it was definitely a ballsy move because I know what everybody wants for me, but for me to be like, no, this is what means something to me. This is important to me. I’m also capable of much more than just getting on stage and dancing, the performance of it all. I’ll always do what’s important to me.
What has been the most terrifying part about navigating a solo career?
All eyes are on you, whether it’s bad or good. And I would also say, not just even in terms of my solo endeavors, but I think being an artist in general is really hard, especially being in the public eye since I was 15. The last 10 years of my life have been really, really tough. Being a teenager and not being able to make the mistakes that teenagers typically would … in a sense [I was] not normal, from that point on to the rest of my life, honestly. So the sacrifice of it all I would definitely say. And knowing that it’s so easy for people to be like, well, you signed up for this, but it’s like, never in a million years could we have prepared ourselves for half the shit that we go through. But it’s also a blessing. As ugly as it can be, it’s also just as beautiful. Not complaining, but it is hard.
I know you love collaborating and working with women. Are there any women who you would love to work with, either on this album or in the future?
I mean, the queen herself: Miss Beyoncé. That for me is like a dream. Between her and Rihanna, I would love to at some point in my career, obviously when the time is right. But those would be my two biggest dream wishlist collaborations. But also I’d love to do something with Doja [Cat], I think that she’s really dope, and I think that she’s a hard worker. Rosalía is another person that I’ve looked up to for a really long time, and I’ve enjoyed her journey. Her latest album was fire and inspires me actually so much, like even just sonically.
Speaking of women, I saw your video from Cracker Jack’s “Cracker Jill” campaign [which celebrates women in sports]. What made you want to get involved with this?
It was a no-brainer when the opportunity came, because it’s not every day that you get to partner with a brand that aligns so well with everything that you believe in morally. I’m such a girl’s girl. I love women. I love speaking on women empowerment in everything that I do. So the fact that I was also able to be vocal with such a massive brand, an iconic brand that we’ve all loved for many, many years that represents so many women, means a lot to me, and it was really exciting, the whole process. The brand’s trust in me really just encouraged me and made me feel confident and good.