Normani doesn't release just anything. In a time when artists have such a constant output, Normani has shown an extraordinary amount of restraint. The result is that she's yet to release a single that doesn't feel essential.
That's what makes her decision to release Fair simultaneously impressive and confusing. Fair is a sleek, vulnerable R&B song with a spectacular vocal performance. On first listen, it doesn't sound like a single. It's not punchy enough - how have we waited this long for something that doesn't sound like a blockbuster?
Wild Side was a major move, with a Cardi B-feature and a big-budget video. Fair, while sonically consistent with its predecessor, isn't that. It's small and contained but that may be the genius of it. Normani is an artist who cares about her career at large rather than grabbing a cheap hit. Fair peels back a layer without feeling forced. It's the most vulnerable she's ever been, completely exposed over a beat that leaves space for her to be the star. And she takes that moment.
Her vocal performance paired with lyrics that vividly depict heartache is something few could do so masterfully right now. Her runs are velvety and her timing is expert. It takes something that could've easily been middle-of-the-road and makes it a moment to behold. Think the intimacy of Alicia Keys' Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart with the vocal delicacy of Beyoncé's I Miss You.
Normani is taking her time, that's for sure. What Fair shows is that she's committed to properly laying the groundwork, giving us everything layer-by-layer.