We can credit James Corden for this one.
Before they formally split up, Fifth Harmony (sans Camilla Cabello) made a surprise appearance during Sam Smith’s Carpool Karaoke segment back in 2017, where they performed an impromptu duet of “Work From Home”. Apparently the spin in James Corden’s car had an impact, because less than two years later he has dropped a new single with one of the girl group’s most popular ex-pats, Normani.
Thankfully, “Dancing with a Stranger” leans closer to Sam’s smash hit Calvin Harris collaboration “Promises” than The Thrill of It All, the album he was promoting when they first met. The single is an elegant, mellow affair, but with a sharp, thumping beat that belies its dance floor ambitions. Sam’s rich, yearning tone has always been a welcome complement to the EDM stylings of previous collaborators like Naughty Boy, Disclosure and Harris, so it’s a delight to hear him back on a track with a higher BPM. The true revelation here, however, is Normani. She gives the song its edge, with a sultry, sophisticated vocal that immediately calls to mind 90s-era Toni Braxton in the best way. She and Sam sound great together, each offering a side of the melancholic coin. The song itself doesn’t quite live up to the talents of its vocalists. Clocking in at under 3 minutes, it’s in desperate need of a bridge or another chorus, or at least a full club mix to fatten it up. It’s quite sparse on the lyrical side too; the theme of dancing with someone who isn’t your top choice is well-worn pop territory (that Robyn has near-exclusive ownership of at this point). When you have two voices like these that have this much chemistry, it deserves a full blaze, not a few embers.
While not the most explosive track you’ll hear this year, “Dancing with a Stranger” has more than enough going for it to carry playlists through the winter months. If you’ve managed to escape the Top 40 ubiquity of her Khalid duet “Love Lies” (guilty as charged), then this song is a great introduction to Normani’s potential. If you’ve been clamoring for more classic heartbreak disco from Sam, than this song is for you. Hopefully this one-off single (there’s been no indication this is a lead for either of their upcoming albums) is just a taste of what’s to come.
You can stream “Dancing with a Stranger” below: