Like the female vocal group with whom it’s often compared, the Supremes, Destiny’s Child has experienced volatile shifts in its lineup while earning and retaining tremendous popularity for the group’s blending of musical styles, social commentary, physical beauty, and fashion statements. Initially a quartet comprised of Houston, Texas, natives Beyoncé Knowles, LaToya Luckett, Kelly Rowland, and LaTavia Roberson, Destiny’s Child began in the early 1990s as a group of preteen women singing rhythm-and-blues, gospel, and hip-hop harmonies in such acts as Something Fresh, Cliché, the Dolls, and Destiny, before becoming Destiny’s Child in 1995. Knowles’ father, Mathew, became the group’s manager. Tina Knowles, Mathew’s wife and Beyoncé’s mother, became the group’s stylist. The Knowleses met Rowland when she belonged to one of the musical groups that Beyoncé was a member of as a preteen. Rowland’s mother, Doris Lovett, was a nanny who often lived in other families’ homes and brought her daughter along. She wanted a more stable home for Rowland, so the Knowleses took her in when she was nine years old.
The group began to attract a loyal local following performing around the Houston area. The women
Members include Farrah Franklin (joined group, 2000; left group, 2000); Beyoncé Knowles (daughter of Mathew and Tina Knowles); LaToya Luckett (left group, 1999); LaTavia Roberson (left group, 1999); Kelly Rowland (born Kelendria Rowland; daughter of Doris Lovett); Michelle Williams (joined group, 2000).
Group formed in Houston, TX, c. 1990; signed with Columbia Records, 1996; contributed to Men in Black film soundtrack, 1997; released Destiny’s Child, 1998; contributed to Why Do Fools Fall in Love? and Life soundtracks, released The Writing’s on the Wall, 1999; contributed to Romeo Must Die and Charlie’s Angels soundtracks, 2000; released Survivor, 2001.
Awards: Best R&B Soul Single (Group), “Say My Name” and Best R&B Soul Album of the Year (Group), The Writing’s on the Wall, 6th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards; NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Duo or Group, The Writing’s on the Wall, 2000; Hot 100 Singles Artist Of The Year and Hot 100 Singles Duo/Group Of The Year, Billboard Music Awards, 2000; Favorite Band, Duo or Group (Soul/Rhythm & Blues Music) Award, American Music Awards, 2001; Grammy Award, Best R&B Song for “Say My Name”, 2000; Grammy Award, Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group for “Say My Name”, 2000; U.S. platinum certification for The Writing’s on the Wall, 2000; Sammy Davis, Jr. Award for Entertainer Of The Year, Soul Train Awards, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —Columbia Records, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022–3211. Management —Mathew Knowles, Houston, TX. Website —Destiny’s Child Official Website: http://www.destinyschild.com.
gained prominence from an appearance on the television show Star Search when they were ten-and eleven-year-olds. Although they did not win, the appearance won them opening stints for such acts as Dru Hill and Immature. Signed to Columbia Records in 1996, the quartet released the song “Killing Time” on the soundtrack for the film Men in Black, which was released in 1997. The song also appears on the group’s self-titled debut release, which features their first hit single, “No, No, No,” produced by Wyclef Jean. Similarly, the group recorded the Timbaland-produced “Get on the Bus” for the Why Do Fools Fall in Love? film soundtrack. The song became one of the group’s biggest European hits. In Europe, they headlined to sold-out arenas, at one point performing 18 shows in 17 days.
The group toured extensively throughout 1998 to promote Destiny’s Child, supporting such acts as Boyz II Men, K-Ci & Jo Jo, and Uncle Sam. But their breakthrough success came after the group’s 1999 release, The Writing’s on the Wall. Debuting at number six on the Billboard 200 album chart, the group’s sophomore effort sold more than nine million copies worldwide. For the remainder of 1999, Destiny’s Child enjoyed sales and chart success. Nine months after its release, the album advanced to number five on the Billboard 200 album chart, and the song “Bills, Bills, Bills” spent nine weeks as the number one single on the Billboard singles chart. Featuring production and writing contributions from Rodney Jenkins and Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs, the latter who performed similar duties for TLC’s hit single, “No Scrubs,” The Writing’s on the Wall generated three top ten hits on the Billboard R&B singles chart. Two other singles from The Writing’s on the Wall, “Jumpin Jumpin” and “Say My Name,” became radio staples, topping the Hot 100 and the R&B singles charts. The song “Say My Name,” Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield noted, “was a hypnotic loop of sex and dread, twitching with unbearable lust while the lyrics spilled near-psychotic paranoia, and the whole song simmered until you didn’t think you’d ever get out of it alive—no wonder Elvis Costello was a fan.” The group also guest-starred on the television situation comedy The Smart Guy The success of their first two efforts resulted in Destiny’s Child being awarded a total of 13 gold, platinum, and multiplatinum certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America for “No, No, No” (gold, platinum), Destiny’s Child (gold, platinum), “Bills, Bills, Bills” (gold), “Say My Name” (gold) and The Writing’s on the Wall (gold, six-times platinum).
In March of 2000, however, Destiny’s Child was wracked with personnel shifts that sometimes caused journalists and listeners to focus on the group’s lineup more than their music. Mathew Knowles was considered by Roberson and Luckett to be more concerned with advancing his daughter’s career than in the group’s future. When the pair reached the age of 18, they exercised their legal right to acquire new management, which resulted in their dismissal from the group. Luckett told Teen People that she knew she and Roberson were no longer in the group when she heard that the “Say My Name” video was filmed without their participation. Luckett and Roberson filed suit against Destiny’s Child, claiming a breach in the group’s partnership agreement. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and Luckett and Roberson subsequently formed another group, Angel. Knowles and Rowland, on the other hand, drafted Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin the following February to replace Luckett and Roberson. Williams, who had previously sung backup with R&B singer Monica, debuted with Destiny’s Child in the “Say My Name” video. Franklin had danced in the group’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” video. Within five months, however, Franklin also was out of the group. She had reportedly missed several live performances with the group, which is known for their dedication to long, arduous work schedules. Franklin told Teen People: “I never quit Destiny’s Child. I actually found out that I was no longer in the group on MTV. No one contacted me and told me that I was out of Destiny’s Child.” Knowles countered: “It wasn’t a management decision; it was a group decision.” The group decided to go forward as a trio comprised of Knowles, Rowland, and Williams.
Despite the controversies of the revolving lineup, Destiny’s Child continued to promote The Writing’s on the Wall throughout 2000, touring as a supporting act for Christina Aguilera’s summer tour and appearing on the VH1 Divas 2000 Tribute to Diana Ross. The trio also recorded “Independent Women, Part I” which appeared on the film soundtrack of Charlie’s Angels. The song became one of the act’s biggest hits, garnering extensive airplay well after the film left theater screens.
Co-opting the title of the Genesis album And Then There Were Three (named after the departures of several founding members in the mid 1970s, including lead vocalist Peter Gabriel), the press focused on Destiny’s Child’s new status as a trio. The threesome performed at the inauguration ceremony for fellow Texan George W. Bush in January of 2001. In the meantime, nearly nonstop touring combined with immense radio and video airplay kept the group’s name and faces familiar with music fans. The youth and physical attractiveness of its remaining members also made the group mainstays of youthful fashion and lifestyle magazines. In May of 2001, Destiny’s Child released their third full-length musical recording, Survivor, to speculation that the recording’s title referred to the CBS television series where contestants competing in a remote location vote off other contestants until only one “survivor” remains. Rolling Stone’s Jancee Dunn wrote that the album’s title was “named after Beyoncé heard a radio DJ chortling that Destiny’s Child was just like the TV show.” “The lyrics to the single ‘Survivor’ are Destiny’s Child’s story, because we’ve been through a lot,” Knowles told Dunn. “We went through a lot of drama with the members, and everybody was like, ‘Oh, well, no more Destiny’s Child.’ Well, we sold even more records after all the changes. Any complications we’ve had in our ten-year period of time have made us closer and tighter and better.”
Acknowledging its three-woman lineup, Survivor features a song entitled “DC-3,” which is how the remaining members refer to the group. As if to emphasize the trio’s solidarity and downplay rumors that Knowles was preparing for a solo career, the album also features lead vocals performed by all three remaining members. These songs include light-hearted excursions into accepting aspects of an individual’s physique, such as “Bootylicious,” a song Williams told Dunn is about “If you’ve got a big booty, then it’s OK.” “Apple Pie a la Mode” is a female appreciation of a physically attractive young man. On a more serious note, Survivor includes a song, “Story of Beauty,” that advises the victim of childhood sexual abuse that she is not at fault and can go on with her life. The trio’s acknowledged Christian faith is confirmed by the album’s inclusion of “Gospel Medley.”
Detroit Free Press music critic Kelley L. Carter noted that Survivor makes numerous references to the lineup changes: “The title track chronicles the turmoil, struggle and eventual success the group had [in 2000]…. The wise listener will easily notice that the lyrics of several of the songs, including ‘Happy Face, ’ ‘Fancy, ’ and ‘Gospel Medley, ’ focus on that DC-3 talent shake-up of 2000. Founding members Knowles and Kelly Rowland have said they felt as if they came out of a bad ten-year marriage.” Carter concluded: “It’s still music that you can shake to and throw your hands up with.” Rolling Stone critic Sheffield concurred: “But nobody would care about the backstage drama if the music didn’t rock, and as Survivor proves, Destiny’s Child are the great pop group of the moment, ruling the radio with fluid R&B harmonies, exotic techno beats and more floss than the American Dental Association.” Co-production responsibilities for Survivor were handled by Beyoncé Knowles, who appropriated the Bee Gee-written, Samantha Sang disco hit “Emotion” and the guitar lead from the Stevie Nicks song “Edge of Seventeen.” The recording features another version of the group’s hit, “Independent Women, Part I” from Charlie’s Angels, the new version entitled “Independent Women, Part II.” In May of 2001, Knowles also debuted as the lead character in MTV’s Hip Hopera: Carmen, based on Bizet’s opera Carmen. Destiny’s Child also confirmed their stature as a popular culture phenomenon when Rolling Stone magazine selected the group to adorn their May 2001 cover. The group also released a DVD, The Platinum’s on the Wall, in 2001, featuring six music videos. Revolver critic Cheryl Tan acknowledged that all of the videos could have been taped from television and faulted the release for failing to provide live footage, biographical documentary, “or at least one juicy behind-the-scenes morsel.”
Plans are under way for the members of Destiny’s Child to release solo albums. Knowles told Teen People, “We sat down and agreed on what would be best for Destiny’s Child, which is to [release the works] all at the same time.” Besides her solo album, Knowles planned to write and produce for other musicians.
(Contributor) Men in Black (soundtrack), Sony/Columbia, 1997.
Destiny’s Child, Columbia, 1998.
(Contributor) Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (soundtrack), Elektra, 1998.
The Writing’s on the Wall, Columbia, 1999.
(Contributor) Life (soundtrack), Interscope, 1999.
(Contributor) Romeo Must Die (soundtrack), EMD/Virgin, 2000.
(Contributor) Charlie’s Angels (soundtrack), Sony/Columbia, 2000.
Survivor, Columbia, 2001.
Detroit Free Press, April 29, 2001, p. 5G.
Revolver, May/June 2001, p. 118.
Rolling Stone, May 10, 2001, p. 83; May 24, 2001, p. 52.
Teen People, October 2000, p. 120.
"Destiny’s Child." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/destinys-child
"Destiny’s Child." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved May 27, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/destinys-child
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Members: Beyoncé Knowles (born Houston, Texas, 4 September 1981); Kelly Rowland (born Atlanta, Georgia, 11 February 1981); Michelle Williams (born Rockford, Illinois, 23 July 1980). Former members: Farrah Franklin (born Los Angeles, California, 3 May 1981); LeToya Luckett (born Houston, Texas, 11 March 1981); LaTavia Roberson (born Houston, Texas, 1 November 1981).
Genre: R&B, Pop
Best-selling album since 1990: Survivor (2001)
Hit songs since 1990: "Say My Name," "Independent Women, Pt. 1," "Emotion"
The hip, flashy vocal ensemble Destiny's Child became one of the most successful groups of the late 1990s and beyond, maintaining fame despite frequent turnover and internal strife. Building on pop and R&B's long tradition of "girl groups"—from the Supremes in the 1960s to En Vogue in the early 1990s—Destiny's Child performs sweet harmony vocals and a kinetic, well-oiled stage act, adding a contemporary sheen with hits proclaiming female independence and assertiveness. With revealing costumes and
songs of romantic one-upmanship Destiny's Child emphasizes sex to an extent unheard of by their genteel girl group predecessors in the 1960s. At the same time the group has preserved its image of wholesomeness and Christianity, never crossing the line into explicitness.
Beginnings and Stardom
Formed in 1990 by two Texas girls after meeting at an audition for a children's singing group, Destiny's Child initially consisted of LaTavia Roberson and Beyoncé Knowles. By 1993 the group had added LeToya Luckett and Knowles's cousin Kelly Rowland, forming a quartet. Managed under the watchful eye of Beyoncé's father, Matthew Knowles, the group of preteens spent hours practicing and studying performance style through videotapes of famed vocal groups the Supremes and the Jackson 5. Named after a passage from the Book of Isaiah in the Bible, Destiny's Child gradually developed a tight act combining singing and rapping. After an appearance on the television program Star Search, the group worked in local Texas clubs and signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1997. Destiny's Child's self-titled debut album, released in 1998, featured the driving hit, "No, No, No, Pt. 2" and a handful of sweet-sounding ballads, although it was otherwise unexceptional.
The next year the group released The Writing's on the Wall, a much stronger album in which songs emphasizing female respect and pride were linked through a biblically inspired "thou shalt not" passage spoken before each track. "Say My Name," featuring an off-kilter, jumpy groove supplied by hot producer Rodney Jerkins, was the album's biggest hit, reaching the number one position on the pop and R&B charts. Sporting a catchy melody and insistent, throbbing beat, the song was memorable for eighteen-year-old Knowles's rapid-fire vocals, in which she impressively squeezes a large number of words into a dense, tight rhythm. On other hits, such as the sassy "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Bug a Boo," Knowles emerges as the star of the group, punctuating her singing with long vocal runs and flamboyant gospel-styled melisma, the bending of multiple notes within a syllable. The latter song is notable for its sassy sense of humor, with the young women brushing off an annoying suitor: "You make me wanna throw my pager out the window / Tell MCI to cut the phone poles." If girl groups of the past were somewhat faceless, interchangeably pronouncing the virtues of love, Destiny's Child took a firm stance in life, finding success through a self-determinism that never crossed the line into aggression.
Trouble and Survival
A peak year for the group, 1999 ended on a sour note: Roberson and Luckett tried to break away from manager Knowles, claiming he retained an unfair share of profits and favored daughter Beyoncé and niece Rowland. Matthew Knowles retaliated by replacing the intransigent members with Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin. Roberson and Luckett, who had never wanted to actually leave the group, in turn sued Knowles. Then, in 2000, new member Franklin was jettisoned from the group, allegedly for missing appearances and concerts. By the end of the year Roberson and Luckett had settled with former manager Knowles but remained ousted from the group. Now reduced to a trio—Knowles, Rowland, and Williams—Destiny's Child struggled to overcome the months of bad press by entering the studio and recording Survivor (2001), an allusion to the group's recent history as well as the hit television "reality" program of the same name. The tabloid frenzy proved beneficial for the group, as Survivor debuted at number one on the pop and R&B charts and sold 6 million copies worldwide.
Despite solid sales, the album's artistic success is mixed. Critics faulted the album, observing that the female pride and respect of The Writing's on the Wall had given way to a cold self-righteousness. In a hypocritical contradiction of their sexy image, the group castigates the protagonist of "Nasty Girl," telling her to "put some clothes on" before asserting that, "everyone knows she's easy." Even the subtly grooving "Fancy" seems designed to leave a bad taste in the mouth, its lyrics marked by pettiness: "You're always trying to steal my shine." Fortunately, the album has its share of peak moments, including "Independent Women, Pt. 1," a hit from the soundtrack to the film Charlie's Angels (2000). Here, the group winningly recaptures its former self-sufficiency: "The shoes on my feet—I bought them . . . I depend on me." On its hit version of the 1970s pop ballad, "Emotion," the group blends voices angelically, spicing its performance with rococo vocal lines. From an artistic standpoint, "Emotion" surges with a distinct emotional current, achieving a depth of feeling absent from the group's earlier work. In 2002 Knowles's profile within the group increased even more dramatically after she starred in the hit comedy film Austin Powers in Gold-member. The same year Williams and Rowland released their first solo albums, Heart to Yours and Simply Deep respectively, under an agreement that allows the members to record individually while remaining part of the group.
Destiny's Child's hits rank among the most enjoyable of the era, combining smooth vocalizing with bold lyrics emphasizing female strength. While adulthood and internal squabbling seemed to thrust a new cynicism upon the group, they retained their hit-making power and gentle harmonic sound.
Destiny's Child (Columbia, 1998); The Writing's on the Wall (Columbia, 1999); Survivor (Columbia, 2001); 8 Days of Christmas (Columbia, 2001). Soundtrack: Charlie's Angels (Sony, 2000).
"Destiny's Child." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/destinys-child
"Destiny's Child." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved May 27, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/destinys-child