Since going solo in 2018 after Fifth Harmony’s hiatus, Normani has charted several pop hits including “Love Lies” and “Dancing with a Stranger,” her respective duets with Khalid and Sam Smith and “Motivation.” But with her latest single, “Wild Side” featuring Cardi B, Normani is establishing her foothold in a new arena with her first major R&B/hip-hop success as the song scales to the highest ranks of mainstream urban radio airplay.
Released in July through Keep Cool/RCA Records, “Wild Side” cracked the charts on what had been Normani’s home format – pop – with nine weeks on Billboard’s Pop Airplay list. But it peaked at No. 28 in late August, the lowest rank of the singer’s four solo entries to date. Prior to that, Love Lies” reigned at No. 1 for two weeks on Pop Airplay while “Stranger” peaked at No. 2. Her last solo single, 2019’s “Motivation,” reached No. 15.
However, on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, “Wild Side” made a strong initial impact with a No. 28 entrance in early August and has continually pushed upward in the weeks thereafter. It broke into the chart’s top 10 in early October and on the latest published chart (Nov. 6), climbed three spots to a new peak of No. 3. Interest isn’t leveling off – in the latest available tracking week (Oct. 25-31), “Wild Side” improved by more plays on monitored U.S. mainstream R&B/hip-hop radio stations compared to the week of Oct. 18-24 than any other song on the 40-position list.
After having reached No. 20 on the Rhythmic Airplay chart in September, “Wild Side” fell in subsequent weeks. But now the single is reviving on that radio format — a middle ground that mixes pop fare and R&B/hip-hop tracks — with a 31-25 rebound in the latest ranking.
“[‘Wild Side’] is a real moment for Normani to show a different side,” says her manager Brandon Silverstein, founder and CEO of S10 Entertainment. “She wants to show her roots, where she came from and the music that inspired her while she was growing up. We’re certainly seeing those results on TikTok, in clubs and now in introducing herself to a radio format we’ve never impacted before.”
Aiding the singer-songwriter’s transition to R&B/hip-hop radio, in part, is the nostalgic vibe of the track itself, reminiscent of the 1996 hit “One in a Million” by Aaliyah — whom Normani has cited as a favorite inspiration growing up. Samantha Selolwane, RCA’s co-head of promotion (R&B, hip-hop, mixshow) also notes that the song’s visual is a nod and ode to Aaliyah, Janet Jackson and Ciara.
But those aren’t the only elements contributing to the song’s airplay success at mainstream urban radio.“’Wild Side’ is in line with what R&B/hip-hop stations are playing,” explains Selolwane. “It has the grimy grittiness of Cardi B. Normani was also in Cardi’s ‘WAP’ video [with Megan Thee Stallion] so there’s a real relationship there — it’s not a label maneuver. Normani has always had Black girl magic. And Black girls want to see her win.”
WGZB in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the mainstream urban radio stations where Normani is winning. The outlet posted the most plays for “Wild Side” in the past week. Additional mainstream urban stations playing the song in high rotation include WJLB in Detroit, WRNB in Philadelphia and WQNC in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Hearing what Cardi B was going to be doing with Normani on this particular single and how the song was going to pull up on the charts sparked my interest,” says WGZB radio content director Armand “DJ Q” Flowers. “What’s really standing out aside from the vibe is the content of the lyrics. Everything is more direct and upfront. It really reflects this generation and how they deal with relationships.”
Growing radio reach may also be helping the song in other sectors, namely streaming. Though “Wild Side” debuted at No. 1 on the R&B Streaming Songs chart upon release, it slipped from the perch in the ensuing weeks and briefly dipped out of the top 10 in September. As the song has lodged itself in the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay top 10, however, it has likewise secured a consistent run in R&B Streaming Songs’ upper tier.
“We’re breaking Normani into a new format,” says Selolwane, “But her star power is not new. She’s got R&B roots and I think she’s going to continue down this path.”
Between Normani’s show-stopping performance of “Wild Side” with Teyana Taylor on the MTV Video Music Awards in September, her Allure cover that same month and increased R&B/hip-hop airplay momentum, Silverstein says the perfect storm has resulted in “getting exposure for Normani in a world that she hasn’t spent a lot of time in. The community is becoming aware of who she is. She’s creating her sound right now; not trying to alienate any audiences or genres. She’s just going to create Normani — a triple threat able to live on urban, rhythm and pop radio.”
Additional reporting by Trevor Anderson.