Normani (finally) announces debut album DOPAMINE after years of delays

Her time is now.

They said it would never happen...but last night, Normani finally announced the release of her debut album, DOPAMINE, after years of delays and setbacks. 

Half a decade (if not more!) in the making, DOPAMINE should hopefully finally signal Normani's arrival as a chart force in her own right. We've waited long enough!

Teased by Normani herself through a cheeky URL - literally, - DOPAMINE sadly does not yet have a solid release date, but we do know it's coming this year...sometime. 

Storied photographer Hugo Comte - responsible for the acclaimed images from Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia campaign, as well as Caroline Polachek's PANG - shot the DOPAMINE artwork, which sees Normani astride a huge, black rocket. It's great.

SEE the (very good) cover for Normani's debut album DOPAMINE below

Normani DOPAMINE album cover

It's been a tough and rocky road for the former Fifth Harmony member, whose efforts to break out into a viable solo career outside of the band started in 2018, which doesn't seem that long ago, sure, but it was actually nearly 6 years ago (!). Since then, Normani has released buzzy singles with the likes of Khalid (the slinky Love Lies), Calvin Harris (the very underrated Checklist) and Sam Smith (Dancing With A Stranger remains Normani's first and so far only UK Top 10 single to date).

Things really got going in 2019 with her proper launch single Motivation signalling the arrival of what pop fans assumed at the time to be an artist on the verge of pop superstardom. Produced by Max Martin and co-written by Ariana Grande, Motivation was about as high-profile and high-budget an artist launch as we've seen in recent memory. The hooks were bright, loud and memorable, while the Dave Meyers-directed video clearly sought to position Normani in the same league as her idol, Beyoncé, when she came straight out of the gate with Crazy In Love. 

But after Motivation's launch - the song did serviceably well for a solo debut single, reaching Number 27 in the UK and Number 33 in the US - promo was short-lived. Despite an eye-catching VMAs performance, Normani cancelled her only UK promo on The Graham Norton Show, and with the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, it seemed ongoing plans for new singles and a touted tour were shuttered. 

When Normani did emerge from her cocoon again in 2021, you could argue the material she gave us was even more impressive, and certainly more singular, than Motivation. Wild Side, a slinky, futuristic R&B tune clearly inspired by the partnership of Aaliyah and Timbaland, was the sound of a singer who had come to understand her artistry more. It's no easy feat to match Cardi B's star power on the same song. 

And while it's clear that Normani may not quite be as interested in becoming a pop queen in the vibe of, say, Ariana - she's given several interviews basically admitting to the fact that her hand was forced to release Motivation, an expensive single, as her debut - DOPAMINE still represents the start of something new, and potentially something great for one of our greatest students of stardom. 

When Normani performs, you can see her so clearly channeling, and learning, from those who came before her; Beyoncé, of course, but also Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Britney Spears. It is hard - very hard! - for any new artist to sustain hype. Given the fact that Normani's solo launch has taken six years even to reach the stage of an album announcement, the amount of eyes on the announcement and online chatter suggests that despite a slim discography, there is something about Normani that keeps people engaged and still wanting more. 

Normani has made it clear that she cares about the visual aspects of her work dearly; Motivation was so clearly linked to a Y2K-aesthetic to give her solo career the sense of lingering greatness from the past, while Wild Side went one step further in melding the sonics from a 1999 Timbaland project with costumes from 2099. So, we must pay attention to the messaging behind the DOPAMINE artwork by Hugo Comte. 

In Dua Lipa's cover for Future Nostalgia - also shot by Comte - she's positioned in the driver seat of a car, eyes looking to the horizon, one hand on the wheel, ready to take us on a journey. Similarly, we can see Normani astride a magnificent black rocket, her eyes not looking at us, but up high, to the sky. Dopamine, is a reaction in the brain that sets off chemicals to give us pleasure and satisfaction. It makes sense, then, that on the cover for her debut album, Normani is (finally) ready to blast off into the stratosphere. 

Nothing would give us greater pleasure. Sometimes, just sometimes, things are worth the wait. 

Normani's debut album DOPAMINE arrives this year via RCA/Sony.

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