With deferential ballads and a McDonald's sponsorship, Destiny's Child goes out with a purr, not a roar
In the mid 1970s, a young lady from East Texas named Tina Beyonce met Mathew Knowles, a singer from Alabama, at a Houston party. The musically inclined couple married in 1979 and two years later their first child was born, a girl they named Beyoncé. Her talents would ultimately yield more than 45 million records sold worldwide (and counting).
Those talents began to surface in the mid-'80s when young Beyoncé began wowing audiences across Houston by belting out Beatles covers. After her losing appearance on Star Search as part of the rapping trio Girl Tyme, Beyoncé's parents regrouped and decided to play a greater role in their daughter's developing career. Tina, already a successful salon owner, became the singing group's full-time stylist, and Mathew left his high six-figure salary as a Xerox medical-equipment salesman to become their manager. Beyoncé, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson, and Kelendria (Kelly) Rowland took the name Destiny's Child from a passage that Tina found in the book of Isaiah.
|Destiny's Child: They'll cater to you, and sell you a Big Mac.|
If you believe the hype, Mathew is Joseph Jackson, Earl Woods, and Richard Williams rolled into one commanding, svengali presence. His recollections from the group's early days help fuel the myth. "The way you manage a 10-year-old is different from the way you manage a 20-year old," Knowles recalled in Ebony magazine. "A 12-year-old kid is not going to tell me that she is going to do something that is detrimental and I just say 'okay.'
"I remember when I had Columbia Records come in and see them audition when they were 12. The day before, I told the girls not to get in the swimming pool, that they would get congested. They didn't listen to me. In the middle of the audition, I stopped and told them: 'This is exactly what I was talking about. You guys decided to go swimming, and now you are not sounding good.' Knowles added that his lecture encouraged the label to sign Destiny's Child, because it demonstrated that the group had guidance.
Under the Knowles' Gordy-esque guidance, the quartet released its eponymously titled debut album in 1998 and, with the help of Fugee Wyclef Jean, scored a monster single in "No, No, No Pt.2." The disc would go platinum, but it wasn't until the group's sophomore effort, The Writing's On The Wall, that Beyoncé became the voice for a generation of fed-up young sisters. Take "Bills, Bills, Bills," the harpsichord-driven number that picked up where TLC's rousing anthem "No Scrubs" left off: "And now you ask to use my car/drive it all day and don't fill up the tank/and you have the audacity/to even come and step to me/and ask to hold some money from me/until you get your check next week."
Infectious cuts such as "So Good" and "Bug-a-Boo" connected with young women in the 'hood, which turned heads considering the lead singer's upbringing. "I grew up in a very nice house in Houston, went to private school all my life and I've never even been to the 'hood," Beyoncé said in a 2001 interview. "Not that there's anything wrong with the 'hood, but just to assume that I grew up there because of my color. Even now, getting covers of magazines or getting respect at the label is totally different for us `as women of color`."
| Destiny's Child
Fri, Aug 19
One SBC Center Parkway
By the time the group's third album, Survivor, was released, Destiny's Child was a trio consisting of Knowles, Rowland, and new addition Tenitra (Michelle) Williams. As a result, comparisons to the Supremes abounded. Consider author Lucy O' Brien's take on Diana Ross and the legendary girl group: "The Supremes were the fairy-tale ideal, role models for the aspiring female fans who made up a large proportion of their record buyers," she wrote in She-Bop. "Ross in particular was adept at ladies' talk exuding the appeal of the girl in the class who dressed the best, knew the best make-up tips, how to get your man, how to get the best man."
After Survivor, each member of the trio released solo projects, with Beyoncé's Dangerously In Love predictably overshadowing the efforts of her cohorts. From its inception, the new Destiny Fulfilled album and tour was intended as a kisses-and-hugs swan song, a kind of girl-group Last Waltz. Either because the group has mellowed with age or adjusted to changes in the market, much of the old spunkiness is gone.
In concert, DC's latest single "Cater 2 U" is accompanied by simulated lap-dances from each member to the following lyric: "I promise you/ I'll keep myself up/remain the same chick/ you fell in love with/I'll keep it tight, I'll keep my figure right/I'll keep my hair fixed, keep rocking the hottest outfits/when you come home late tap me on my shoulder, I'll roll over/baby I heard you, I'm here to serve you/if it's love you need, to give it is my joy/all I want to do, is cater to you boy."
In addition, the group's tour is sponsored by McDonald's, which incongruously attached its "and lovin' it" slogan to the tour name. In case you had any doubts, the members of Destiny's Child won't have any trouble with those bills, bills, bills for a long time to come. •
By M. Solis