Reintroducing Normani

In her new album, Dopamine, the former Fifth Harmony singer kicks off a much-anticipated solo career.

A woman in a black outfit with shiny knee-high boots and a fur wrap, posing on a gray background.
Marcus Cooper/Bustle

Normani is on the cusp of one of the biggest moments of her career — and she’s a tad exhausted. Her debut album, Dopamine, drops on June 14, and the singer is admittedly “overwhelmed” as she’s been putting the final touches on the long-anticipated LP. “I’m just ready for the finish line, honestly,” she tells Bustle over Zoom. “It’s been a very extensive and long process.”

“Long” is a bit of an understatement here. The singer embarked on a solo career in 2018, when Fifth Harmony, the girl group that shot her to fame, went on indefinite hiatus. She quickly collaborated with Khalid on “Love Lies,” which marked her first song under her own name, and in 2019 released her first solo single, “Motivation,” which came with a nostalgic 2000s R&B-inspired video and a dance-heavy VMAs performance. But when the world stopped in 2020, so did the music.

Out of the spotlight, her parents had each received cancer diagnoses, and she was struggling with some career challenges as well. “I’ve gone through so many changes behind the scenes that everybody doesn’t even know the half of,” she says now.

Even though she’d teased a solo album in 2018, the wait became so drawn out that her social media posts about it became memes.

It’s been a roller coaster for me, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I still go in and out of that, but I’ve gotten a better grip of who I am, and with that comes confidence.

“I can’t post anything without hearing about music. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, but I think it definitely stifles me being able to live,” says the artist, who’s 28. “There’s a misconception that I don’t care, but I care a lot actually.”

When Dopamine was finally ready, she joined in on the joke, teasing it on a website called

The album is chock-full of high-energy bangers, like the hooky “Candy Paint” and Southern hip-hop-inspired “Big Boy,” as well as silky, dynamic R&B that’s slowly becoming her signature, like “1:59” and the Cardi B-assisted “Wild Side.”

“I’m just trying to stay steadfast and remain positive and optimistic,” she says of her current mentality. “I’ve dedicated my whole life for this very moment. Everything happens for a reason.”

Below, she opens up about recording Dopamine, the pitfalls of social media, and building back her confidence.

Marcus Cooper

When you first started thinking about this album years ago, what message did you want to send?

It’s evolved. The record I’ve had the longest that made the album was probably done before COVID. So me, then and now, have been merged, which I think is cool.

Can you tell me about that song, and why it’s stuck with you?

“Insomnia” is a very beautiful song. At one point, it was actually taken off and put back on, and I’m glad it was. It feels nostalgic of what I grew up listening to. One of my favorite artists is also on the record, and she actually inspired it. As relevant as it felt then, it feels just as relevant now. And anytime you get that with a record, that means you have something special.

Who’s the featured artist?

It’s Brandy. She’s such a light and so encouraging. It was a full-circle moment, because it was inspired by her record “[A Capella] (Something Is Missing).” I wanted a lot of beautiful vocal production, layers, backgrounds, harmonies, countermelodies, and I think we did a good job of capturing that.

You’ve said that your time in Fifth Harmony was a low point for your self-confidence. How did you start to rebuild that?

Honestly, just being forced to trust my instincts. If everyone is telling me that a song feels done, but I’m like, “No, let me at least challenge it,” it ends up being better. I’ve been able to wear a lot of different hats I didn’t know I could. I’ve realized I’m great at producing. That’s actually my favorite part of the process.

But I wouldn’t say confidence has been constant since the group split. It’s been a roller coaster for me, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I still go in and out of that, but I’ve gotten a better grip of who I am, and with that comes confidence.

You’ve talked about cyberbullying a lot. Can you give me an example of how you’re able to block the noise and focus?

I don’t have social media, and I’m mindful of what I consume. I try not to allow myself to be consumed with everybody else’s opinion, because I owe it to myself to enjoy the moment and be present. I’ve worked my ass off for this, and I don’t want anything to jade it. If I love a song, I don’t want people’s comments to take away from me loving it. But I won’t say I never see what everybody’s saying.

Normani performs “Motivation” at the 2019 VMAs.Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

How do you feel about interacting with Stan culture on Twitter today?

I mean, I love my fans so much, but Twitter specifically is tough. I still have trauma from that experience. But I try my best to focus on the people who have been there and genuinely love me. But it’s just unpredictable. I’m still trying, honestly.

You’ve spoken before about not wanting to release “Motivation” as your first debut solo single. What did that experience teach you about the music industry and creating this album?

It taught me that I’m enough — in spite of the record, in spite of the circumstances, in spite of the budget for a video, in spite of the creative, in spite of everything. I didn’t love that record, and I remember crying my eyes out about having to put it out, because I didn’t have a choice. But I made light of a situation that felt very uncomfortable, and I ended up being proud of the video.

Beyoncé has had a huge influence on your career, and I’m literally wearing a Beyoncé shirt right now. What did you think of Cowboy Carter? Would you ever do a genre pivot like that?

She doesn’t get the flowers she deserves. She makes decisions that help change the trajectory of music. She’s a pioneer. That album was really important, especially for women that look like me who don’t get the recognition they necessarily deserve. Black artists are at the core of so many genres. It’s not new information. But it takes somebody like her to put them out there and give them the exposure and credit they deserve.

Now that Dopamine is almost here, what message do you think it sends?

I hope people learn a little bit more about me. More than anything, it’s a testament to my resilience and endurance. I’ve been trying to get this project out for so long, so for it to finally happen, I pray that’s the focus. I hope that people love and appreciate it, but I don’t have control over that.

Have you started thinking about your next move?

I’m excited to tour. Hopefully [there will be] international dates, festivals, and putting together a show. I’m looking forward to that most out of everything, to just be able to see my fans. I haven’t seen them in so long.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.