Everyone has high expectations for Normani. The last of the Fifth Harmony members to go solo, she has made quite the name for herself in the year and a half since “Love Lies,” a collaboration with Khalid for the Love, Simon soundtrack that ended up peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Steadily dropping one-offs with artists like 6LACK, Calvin Harris, and Sam Smith as she developed her as-of-yet untitled debut album, the singer had yet to release a completely solo track — until now. Hearkening back to the beloved sounds of mid-2000s R&B-pop that demanded listeners get off their asses and reenact their favorite music video choreography, “Motivation” thrusts listeners into an era in which Normani begins her reign as a pop princess.
Squeaky synths open the track, the singer teasing us with a taste of the chorus lyric “I’mma break you off, let me be your motivation” to a potential lover; layering the production with militant drums and a brass-like beat, the song all but challenges listeners to defy its power. Describing just how much better her would-be suitor is than all the other men in her peripheral in verses one and two, things begin to heat up in the pre-chorus with a “why would we ever do somethin’ instead of/fallin’ into the bed right now?” that sounds more like a statement than an actual question. The chorus explodes into everything that’s great about 2000s music — with vocal runs and staccato rhythms that recall Beyoncé’s “Check on It” — proving Normani has a stranglehold on just what kind of artist she is and wants to be; “Motivation” is merely an exceptional appetizer before what is sure to be a phenomenal main course.