destiny's child's debut album turns 20
On Feb. 17, 1998, Destiny's Child released their self-titled debut album to stores worldwide. After nearly a decade of hard-work, crafting their image and sound and dealing with many setbacks, it was finally their time to shine. Eight years prior, an aspiring singer-dancer Beyoncé Knowles, the oldest of two, of a hair salon owner and a Xerox manager met future bandmate LaTavia Roberson (followed by Kelly Rowland and LeToya Luckett in later years). Named initially, Girl Tyme the group performed in local circuits and practiced at Tina Knowles’ hair salon in their hometown of Houston, Texas. Record deals and financial woes came and went before Destiny's’ Child was signed to Columbia Records in 1997. Their debut album never got the stamp of the approval he quartet was hoping for from the mainstream music audiences. It stalled at No. 67 on the Billboard Top 200, only spawned two singles and went Platinum about two and a half years later.
At the time, AllMusic critic John Bush said the album was “indistinguishable from all the other female groups out there.” but also stated at Destiny’s Child “isn't quite just another debut album from an R&B girl group.” Meanwhile R&R Magazine, positively said the girls have a “successful blend of genuine vocal ability makes their music "ear friendly." No hype, no studio tricks, just God-given talent flowing through the speakers.” Of the R&B girl groups that took the scene, Destiny’s Child was undoubtedly the youngest next to 702 -- at the time known for hits like Steelo and Get It Together.
Critics even compared them to the classic girl group the Supremes, for Beyoncé’s leading role and En Vogue for their classy approach to being provocative. The foursome also had enough juice to take home three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in 1998 for Best R&B/Soul Single, Group, Band or Duo, Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist and Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year, Group, Band or Duo.
Today, it would be hard to imagine that anything Beyoncé drops wouldn’t make people "world stop (then "carry on"), at the snap of a finger. However, let's not forget some of music's most iconic artists like Nirvana, Prince, and Janet Jackson had to learn to walk before they could run -- commercially speaking. It is clear to see why the LP didn’t make its impact. Quality-wise the album was solid; I won’t take away from that. The fact that the girls were around 15 and 16 years with mature vocals and perfect-aligned harmonies is a win-win. It was the group's failure to follow the Top 40-palatable R&B blueprint that helped TLC, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa conquer both the MTV and BET worlds of the music market.
The album’s sound was a mostly neo-soul and traditional R&B (“Show Me the Way,” “Tell Me”) with some hip-hop numbers (“With Me,” “Illusion”) thanks to the help of Jermaine Dupri and Fugees’ Wyclef Jean and Pras. It wasn’t the jiggy, crunk, bouncy finger wagging numbers that made them the pop culture juggernauts of the 2000s. And the lyrical content and overflow of stretched out-slow jams which consisted of deep topics don’t mesh well with DC’s age at the time. Beyoncé was even woke to this issue admitting to The Guardian in 2006, "It was a neo-soul record and we were 15 years old. It was way too mature for us." Although their debut is comparable to their last LP Destiny’s Fulfilled, the 2004 album feels more authentic in its messages while Destiny's Child feels forced.
Take “With Me (Part 1),” their second single, where Destiny’s Child takes on the role of the side-chick.
Do you ever wonder when he don't come who he goes to see? And why in the middle of the night he leaves you alone, leaves you alone? Do you ever wonder when he don't come home who he goes to see And why in the middle of the night he leaves you alone Everything he likes is with meIf I was in your shoes I would've had to let him know From the first sign of him tryin' to play If you want me to stay you gotta let all that go
It may sound strange as DC’s career and the signature sound was about self-empowerment (among women) and unapologetic confidence. (Not to mention, I doubt Matthew Knowles would allow his daughter to be out with a man "in the middle of the night" at 15.) The most transparent track was the tribute to their late manager Andretta Tillman “My Time Has Time,” a gospel-lite piano ballad that is a soundtrack to Destiny’s Child’s years of sacrifice, hard-work and defeats to get where they are now.
Where Destiny’s Child made right is noted in their debut single “No, No, No,” where they demand mutual respect from their bae and that he stop acting brand new when his friends roll around. We saw the same sentiment on their sophomore album -- The Writing’s on The Wall -- and its chart-topping singles “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Bug-A-Boo” and “Say My Name.” By the summer of 2000, the group switched it up with a string of anthems with about being carefree, braggadocio or empowering like “Jumpin, Jumpin,” “Survivor” and “Bootylicious,” rivaling TLC on the charts.
DC MEMBERS: PRESENT-DAY 2018
In retrospect, Destiny’s Child’s road to pop supremacy was still under construction when their eponymous debut dropped. It was a few years before DC found their musical (and fashion) identity but not without any setbacks which included lineup changes to messy lawsuits to lead singer Beyoncé being labeled a diva by the media.
While Destiny’s Child was moderately successful critically and commercially, it showed four young women who had an idea of where they want to go musically. Also, this was the first introduction of Queen B who would go on to spend the next two-decades becoming the world’s most sought-after pop star, and she didn’t disappoint. Now, how about a reunion tour?