Was Normani’s Debut Album “Dopamine” Worth the Wait?

Normani at the Fourth annual TIDAL X: Brooklyn benefit concert in October 2018
Normani at the Fourth annual TIDAL X: Brooklyn benefit concert in 2018. Photo by William Volcov/Shutterstock (9943118al)

Normani has come a long way since Fifth Harmony went on a hiatus in 2018, but she still hasn’t given us a studio album for years to come. Her long-awaited debut Dopamine finally hit the shelves this Friday, but does it live up to its name and was it worth the wait?

It was clear that Normani was destined for R&B greatness when she dropped her breakout hit “Motivation” in 2019. It felt like a perfect launchpad for her debut album, but the record her fans were expecting never came and her fans spent the next five years waiting for what she’s promised.

Dopamine is finally here, with no “Motivation” in sight, after Normani decided to scrap it in pursuit of a new sound. It kicks off with a groovy, rap-influenced “Bad Boy” and gives us 13 tracks that allow Normani to reintroduce herself and show us what she’s been working on for such a long time.

Dopamine kicks off rather slow, and the songs from the first half of the album pretty much blend together and they’re not catchy enough to be memorable. Normani shows a lot of promise with “All Yours” and “Take My Time”, true love letters to the classic R&B sound that inspired this album.

She finally picks up the pace with “Insomnia” and “Canty Paint” and things get much better from there. The second half also gives us several A-list collaborations, including “1:59” ft. Gunna, “Tantrums” ft. James Blake, and “Wild Side” ft. Cardi B, which dates all the way back to 2021 and serves as a reminder of what Normani was capable of long before Dopamine.

She previously described her debut album as a representation of her evolution and “everything [she had] gone through to get to this moment”, but Dopamine feels too impersonal to live up to these words. Despite being Normani’s first foray into solo music, it feels more like a homage to her idols than a personal statement, but it’s still a pretty good R&B record that makes us excited to see her growth.