Today’s music trend goes something like this: fully saturate the market, strike while the iron is hot, capitalize on others’ success and exploit your own. It’s the basic blueprint for acts like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, and R&B is apparently no exception. Destiny’s Child has been omnipresent for more than two years, and it’s with good reason. Their second album, The Writing’s on the Wall, spawned four hit singles and was quickly followed up with the Charlie’s Angels theme “Independent Women Part I.” Without a moment’s break (for the group or us) the girls are back with their new hit, “Survivor,” and its accompanying album. Destiny’s Child isn’t willing to take a chance on fate; in fact, they are creating their own destiny before the music climate changes. “Independent Women” and “Survivor” aren’t the only songs on Survivor with huge hit potential. The light and airy pop/dance number “Happy Face” is crammed with an ineffable amount of cheer, bursting at the seams with an infectious optimism. “Bootylicious” boldly samples Stevie Nicks’s staple-song “Edge of Seventeen,” stamping it with Destiny’s Child trademark attitude and Michael Jackson-inspired vocal stylings.
Other ’80s throw-downs can be found in “Nasty Girl” and “Sexy Daddy,” the latter borrowing from Gloria Estefan’s “Conga.” “Nasty Girl” features undeniably contagious hooks, breaking out into Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy.” The track begs a “stank” girl to put on some clothes and quit acting so trashy (“Booty all out/Tongue out her mouth/Cleavage from here to Mexico”). But one can’t help but find all the preaching just a bit hypocritical, with Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle often clad in nothing more than dazy-dukes and skin-tight tank-tops. The trio never comes close to the class of En Vogue, but that’s not to say they don’t try. A cover of the Bee-Gee’s “Emotion,” with its classic arrangement and vocal harmonies, injects some much-needed sophistication into Survivor. The sugary “Brown Eyes,” on the other hand, is typical R&B balladry with an uninspired take on how relationships work: “We apologized and then we compromised/And we haven’t argued since.”
Beyoncé must be given some credit, however, for co-writing and producing every track. She has become the Miss Ross of Destiny’s Child, interjecting her Mariah-like vocal acrobatics and exerting creative control everywhere she can. But the group aims to prove they’re no Supremes, with continual references to all three Destiny’s Child members throughout the album. Vocal parts are divided diplomatically in what seems like an attempt to distinguish the group from its turbulent past of musical chairs. “Apple Pie a la Mode” even makes reference to newest member Michelle’s home state: “I’m from Texas/My girl is from Illinois.”
For those unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding Destiny’s Child’s former members, one need look no further than “Fancy.” While the music is relatively uninteresting, it’s chock-full of tabloid fodder: “You always tried to compete with me, girl…Find your own identity.” In the end, Beyoncé sings, “I won’t say no names,” but it’s probably because there’s no need to. The album’s lowest point is “The Story of Beauty,” an asinine attempt at socially conscious subject matter: “He touched her places/That he shouldn’t have touched/He did some things to her/That he shouldn’t have done.” But for the most part Survivor rises to the occasion, and while the album isn’t groundbreaking, it at least shows the new trio breaking out on their own.