Destiny's Child
PERSONNEL: Beyoncé Knowles / Kelly Rowland / Michelle Williams
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Destiny's Child

#67 / BILLBOARD 200


Take a small chunk of the EnVogue legend and everything commercial about ‘90's girl groups and and cram it into the debut disc of Destiny's Child. Plus there's Mary J. Blige slow jams (see “Second Nature”), Aaliyah soul (“Birthday”) and Brandy-inspired beats (“No, No, No”) all over the place. The Tim & Bob ballad “Tell Me” gives Beyoncé Knowles enough room to become the group's chief madam, even if her voice is in its early stages of development. They also pivot their way towards hip-hop swag, thanks to “Illusion,” which samples an underground Isaac Hayes's blaxplotation groove and using Fugees' talent. Besides the sloppy disjointed assembly of the Brandy-inspired “No, No, No” remixes, the Master P-toilet noises on "With Me Part II," and the half-baked “Sail On” – an estrogen-pumped version of the Commodores' hit, the album's a decent piece of contemporary R&B, better than most debuts from girl groups of that era.

TRACK LISTING : Second Nature / No, No, No, Pt. 2 / With Me / Tell Me / Bridges / No, No, No, Pt. 1 / With Me, Pt. 2 / Show Me the Way / Killing Time / Illusion / Birthday / Sail On / My Time Has Come



The Writing's on the Wall

#5 / BILLBOARD 200


Not sure what the writing on the wall signified, but what was most apparent was that Beyoncé Knowles was in total control of the DC arc and that the foursome was now a threesome. They also beefed up their urban jams using more rhythmic club enhancers (“Bug a Boo,” “Jumpin' Jumpin',” “Say My Name”). Big producers like Missy Elliot and Rodney Jerkins are also a part of the sophomore affair, bringing their B-game to the table. The results here are still uneven; most of the blame falls on the album's lengthiness, Bey's apparent need to oversoul her ad-libs and the oddball nature of tracks like “She Can't Love You” and the whispery “Temptation,” which slyly mimics “This Old Man” on the verses. Although the lyrics tend to lean heavily on ghetto-fab lingo, the girls are perfectly aware of their commercial potential and just how effective a good melody sounds on bragging beats. Hey, not everyone's a fan of boogie gold diggers living in a world of denial. This would be the first and last time the world would see DC as a quartet. Farewell, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson.

TRACK LISTING : Writing's on the Wall (Intro) / So Good / Bills, Bills, Bills, Confessions / Bug a Boo / Temptation / Now That She's Gone / Where'd You Go / Hey Ladies / If You Leave / Jumpin, Jumpin / Say My Name / She Can't Love You / Stay / Sweet Sixteen / Amazing Grace (Outro)




#1 / BILLBOARD 200


Survivor is a better trip than Writing On the Wall. The girls all take their turns and the songwriting departs the extremely-repetitive “la-la-la-no-no-no-yes-yes-yes-bills-bills-bills” gimmicks of the past. Trying not to copy the mistakes of yesterday, DC puts womanhood on a pedestal. drops the “Respect” of their generation (“Independent Women”), even referencing the super coolness of Charlie's Angels. “Survivor” keeps Even when the girls portray the flirty seducer on “Bootylicious,” they are in total control of their sex. Acting like Lyn Collins offspring, Beyoncé dominates the booty jam: “I don't think you're ready for this jelly.” Delectable ballads like “Dangerously in Love” and the acoustic take on the Bee Gees' “Emotion” are there, just not entirely obvious. But don't get too excited, folks; Survivor isn't invincible. Avoid “Sexy Daddy” and “Happy Face” at all costs.

TRACK LISTING : Independent Women Part I / Survivor / Bootylicious / Nasty Girl / Fancy / Apple Pie a La Mode / Sexy Daddy / Perfect Man / Independent Women Part II / Happy Face / Dance With Me / My Heart Still Beats / Emotion / Brown Eyes / Dangerously in Love / The Story of beauty / Gospel Medley / Outro (DC-3)



8 Days of Christmas

#34 / BILLBOARD 200
#117 / UK ALBUMS


Not everyone should pop out holiday albums. Destiny's Child proved that theory best when they dropped 8 Days of Christmas just in time for the holiday rush of 2001, while their career was at a glowing zenith. Their family and religious values aren't total surprises; check out their gospel outros on the back end of their previous discs. And they pull out the familiar hymns and carols, even playing with the arrangements to make them all their own. Bey's acoustic rendering on “Silent Night” proves to be warm enough for the cozy fireplace, while Kelly Rowland ushers a Brandy-esque sweetness unto “Do You Hear What I Hear.” But there's honestly nothing festive decorating this disc. The title track reacquaints them with their “bills bills bills” motif , as they sing, "On the eighth day of Christmas my baby gave to me/ A pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring.” And if that's not enough, “Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day” brings God into the bedroom. The one-minute and twenty-five seconds of “Platinum Bells” isn't short enough: “Ring-a-ling-aling, hear DC sing”). “The Little Drummer Boy” murders the original melody underneath the mistletoe, while the “DC Christmas Medley” forcefully squeezes every childhood favorite into a dangerous cocktail of Bloody Mary's. “Opera of the Bells” may be the album's best moment.

TRACK LISTING : 8 Days of Christmas / Winter Paradise / A "DC" Christmas Medley / Silent Night / Little Drummer Boy / Do You Hear What I Hear / White Christmas / Platinum Bells / O Holy Night / Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day / This Christmas / Carol of the Bells a.k.a. Opera of the Bells



Destiny Fulfilled

#2 / BILLBOARD 200


With a three-year hiatus linger over them (and solo albums loading the market), Destiny's Child culls out Destiny Fulfilled. It's their best effort in terms of balance: All three contribute to the songwriting process, and spend a good deal of time on lead vocals. If you're looking for the highlights, they are perched towards the front. On the perfect opening track “Lose My Breath,” the Drumline beats and perfectly-placed synths sounds utterly delicious. With “Soldier,” DC journeys to the VIP section inside a dim-lit hip-hop lounge, as T.I. and Lil Wayne take turns showing off their guns. But as the album travels onward, it proves to be overloaded with ballads, tending to pull the girls into a sleepy state of unconsciousness. Lyrically, “Cater 2 U” oddly dresses DC up as slaves in the boudoir, while “T Shirt” goes hard on Chippendale worship. The notion gets your attention, especially when you think about how “independent” they were on Survivor. Knowles, on the other hand, managed to land a number of co-producing credits, hinting at her evacuation strategy. As the last full-length album in the DC catalog, Destiny Fulfilled hardly achieves its goal. It settles too easily with a long set of subpar ballads, even if some of them are actually worth checking out (see “Girl”).

TRACK LISTING : Lose My Breath / Soldier / Cater 2 U / T-Shirt / Is She the Reason / Girl / Bad Habit / If / Free / Theough With Love / Love


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Dangerously in Love

#1 / BILLBOARD 200


Possibly her love letter to future hubby Jay-Z, Beyonce Knowles breaks into solo territory with an ironclad fist. She proves her independence, her beauty and that commanding Diana Ross divadom she just couldn't get while singing with her Supremes. Nothing aboard Dangerously In Love is as addictive as “Crazy In Love.” With the mix of a strong Chi-Lites horn sample, the jubilant go-go beats and the contagious “uh-oh” chants, Hova comes in close proximity to hearing wedding bells. There's a handful of radio-ready head bangers perched in the set, including the Vanity 6/Donna Summer salute on “Naughty Girl” and the Arabic-goes-dancehall workout “Baby Boy.” She reprises the DC track “Dangerously in Love,” giving it a bit more punch over the original. Although the album is ripe with ballads, Beyoncé pulls them off with breathtaking results. The guitar solo fronting the Quiet Storm gem, “Speechless,” captures the attention of the ear. A George Clinton sample brings out the best out of “Be With You” and her surprising duet with Luther Vandross on “The Closer I Get to You” feels like a timewarp back to Vandross's pair-up with Cheryl Lynn on “If This World Were Mine.” And then there's “Gift from Virgo,” which worships her zodiac sign using Curtis Mayfield sass. There's one or two duds that puts the breaks on the album's almightiness (see “Yes”), but Knowles pulls off one of the best female r&b solo debuts in recent memory.

TRACK LISTING : Crazy in Love / Naughty Girl / Baby Boy / Hip Hop Star / Be With You / Me, Myself and I / Yes / Signs / Speechless / That's How You Like It / The Closer I Get to You (Duet with Luther Vandross) / Dangerously in Love / Beyonce Interlude / Gift from Virgo / Daddy




#1 / BILLBOARD 200


Released on Beyoncé Knowles' twenty-fifth birthday, B'Day – Bey's sophomore album – tries too hard to outshine its predecessor. And there's a lot of good to gleam about: The Jay-Z-guested “De Ja Vu” is a cool track, even if it pales in comparison to the greatness of “Crazy in Love.” Jay-Z returns on “Upgrade U,” but the track loses its melody too easily even as it tries to hammer down the “behind a good husband is a good woman” theory to its earthquake bass. And then “Green Light” flagrantly copies the “uh-oh” formula of “Crazy in Love.” Thankfully, the album is salvaged with a carefully-scripted, seasoned pop hit, “Irreplaceable.” The folks at Columbia knew the album was short of hits and overloaded with too many misses (“Ring the Alarm,” “Suga Mama”), which sparked the indulgence of deluxe editions and expanded versions. Her bilingual duet with Shakira (“Beautiful Liar”) and “Listen” – taken from the Dreamgirls motion picture soundtrack – helps even things out. “Got Me Bodied,” harnessed with the Janet Jackson countdown on the intro, serves as the precursor to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” But with the different slate of producers on deck (Neptunes, Swizz Beats, Ne-Yo) and lack of breakthrough singles, B'Day sounds more like a self-indulgent present to her, and not for the rest of the world.

TRACK LISTING : Deja Vu / Get Me Bodied / Suga Mama / Upgrade U / Ring the Alarm / Kitty Kat / Freakum Dress / Green Light / Irreplaceable / Resentment /Check on It (feat. Bun B and Slim Thug) / Encore for the Fans / Listen (from the motion picture Dreamgirls) /
Get Me Bodied (Extended Mix)



I Am...Sasha Fierce

#1 / BILLBOARD 200


Under the surface, Beyoncé's first round at culling a concept album – hence I Am…Sasha Fierce – seems like a kooky lab experiment played out in a public park. Six slow tunes only documenting the first disc, while five uptempo, club-like tracks embrace the second disc. What the fuck! There I said it. But let's go deeper into the unforgivable mistakes behind Sasha Fierce. This is clearly a marketing scheme to multiply sale units (For every five CD's sold, Nielsen Soundscan sees ten units sold). They could've easily squeezed both discs together to make one disc. And if that was to happen, I Am…Sasha Fierce – her ballsy Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde creation – would still be incomplete. But let's give Bey a break: “If I Were a Boy” sounds pretty good, even if the lyrical direction gives her an excuse to act butch; the Ryan Tedder-produced “Halo” sounds like inspirational pop; “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” is a damn good blend of jazz and gospel. The other tracks are subpar to the aforementioned. As for the icky assembled “Diva,” the verdict is still out on that one. It gives Bey a backstage pass to a Rick Ross afterparty, but it lacks the proper saleswoman. “A diva is the female version of a hust-luh” doesn't sound all that convincing.

TRACK LISTING : If I Were a Boy / Halo / Disappear / Broken-Hearted Girl / Ave Maria / Smash Into You / Satellites / That's Why You're Beautiful / Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) / Radio / Diva / Sweet Dreams / Video Phone / Hello / Ego / Scared of Lonely




#1 / BILLBOARD 200


The number 4 sounds like it could be Bey's lucky number. This happens to be her fourth solo album. But the album's ambition to experiment, to bend the rules, to rewrite 21 st century r&b, pushes her into a territory that's far removed from her good ole days with DC and what made her a solo star. It's apparent here that Knowles wanted to construct something on the lines of an urban Sgt. Pepper's, as she opens her album with a slew of sleepy, neo-Quiet Storm ballads. “1+1” uses “Purple Rain” first-half and Sam Cooke's logic (see “Beautiful World”), but it never seriously takes off. Both “I Care” and “I Miss You” prove to be her way of mimicking Drake. “Best Thing I Never Had,” co-authored by Babyface, saves the first half from failing into a coma, but when the album finally becomes alert, Bey's uptempo journey is hardly associated with the dancefloor swagger that defined most of her career. The album's poorly-selected lead single, “Girls (Run the World),” which slyly samples Major Lazer, awkwardly puts her “Independent Woman” mantra on top of a heap of underground gay club tomfoolery. Only “Love on Top,” her trip into old-school Eighties R&B, proves to be the album standout. Even Kanye West, who foolishly lambasted Taylor Swift in favor of Bey at the MTV Music Video Awards, couldn't save “Party” from becoming a party pooper. » FULL REVIEW

TRACK LISTING : 1 +1 / I Care / I Miss You / Best Thing I Never Had / Party / Rather Die Young / Start Over / Love on Top / Countdown / End of Time / I Was Here / Run the World (Girls)


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