Album Review: Destiny’s Child, “The Writing’s On The Wall” (1999)

It seems as though Beyonce has always been successful in some way or another. Before Knowles was a Grammy-award winning solo artist, she was the lead singer of the world’s best-selling female group of all time, Destiny’s Child.

The R&B group got their start in 1997, and though now defunct (the trio split in 2005), they still hold plenty of album and singles records. In 1999, the group released their second album The Writings On The Wall which, along with Knowles, featured Destiny’s Child member, Kelly Rowland and former members Letoya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson.

The album is a decent collection of R&B, and despite being poorly written and a bit contrived at times, boasts tight production (Rodney Jerkins, Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs) and great vocals from the girls.

The album starts off with an intro, which I usually wouldn’t bother reviewing, but this time around is actually a good mood setter for the rest of the album. The girls engage in a Godfather-esque “meeting” in which they discuss their relationship commandments. Sure, it’s extremely corny, but also a bit cute, and works well to open the album.

The first actual song is the bouncy So Good. The track actually sounds like something that would’ve been released by R&B singer, Monica, which isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. As with most of the songs, Knowles takes the lead in the singing, and the song is a pleasant, albeit unoriginal, opening track. Bills, Bills, Bills was the breakout single for both this album, and the group as a whole, and even now it’s pretty easy to see why. Knowles opens the first verse, and as she sings in her lower register, is actually a treat to listen to. An extremely catchy and singable chorus (“Can you pay my bills/Can you pay my telephone bills/Can you pay my automo’bills/Then maybe we can chill/I don’t think you do/So you and me are through”) makes the song even better, and though the lyrics aren’t extremely well-written, the melody is one that will be stuck in your head for days.

Confessions is a slower, mid-tempo track, in which Knowles and the other girls sing about cheating on their man. Again, the lyrics aren’t very profound (“Then we sat on the couch/He put his arms around my waist/Knowin’ I need lovin’ and then he grabbed my face/He kissed me like a guy could never kiss a girl before/So you know what happened baby I need to say no more”) but they admittedly get the point across, and the song is pleasant to listen to. Rapper, Missy Elliot, produced the song and makes a pretty forgettable appearance towards the end of the track.

Another hit single from the album was Bug A Boo. I’ve honestly always hated this song. First of all, the term “bug a boo” sounds so stupid to me. Basically, a bug a boo is a boyfriend/girlfriend that’s annoying, as explained in the lyrics (“I wanna put your number on the call block/Have AOL make my emails stop/’Cause you a bug a boo/You buggin what? You buggin who? You buggin me!/And don’t you see it ain’t cool?”). I mean, I definitely have known guys like this (and girls too, for that matter), but the made up term up “bug a boo” just bugs me. Secondly, the cheap sounding backing music really annoys me; it sounds like the girls just visited the R&B music factory and they handed them the “standard” upbeat R&B song mix for them to sing the lyrics over. Still, as I stated before, this song was a significant hit for the group.

Destiny's Child Tour (cropped)

The album hits a definite slump at this point. The opening bars for Now That’s She’s Gone sound like the theme from Brokeback Mountain, and that’s honestly the most interesting part about this dreary ballad. The girls sort of blend into the music here, and the song is definitely a skip on all accounts. Temptation is a far better ballad, this time about resisting the temptation to cheat (” I’m thinkin’ to myself should I even take a chance/Should I do what’s on my mind or should I stay down with my man/This boy here got me fienin’ and I’m wantin’ him so bad”), though the song as a whole is pretty forgettable.Where’d You Go is an incredibly annoying song that proves to be pretty pointless (and more annoying is the fact that all the production credits for the album have been placed on the inside of the CD case, where the CD sits, and are virtually impossible for me to read without getting a headache.) If You Leave is another mid-tempo ballad, that’s pretty boring besides its catchy chorus.

The hits return, starting with Hey Ladies. The chorus calls for women to leave their no-good men (“Hey ladies why is it that men can go do us wrong/Why is it that we just decide to keep holdin’ on/Why is it that we never seem to just have the strength to leave/But he’s got to go, he’s got to go”), and despite the constant (and at this point, boring) on going theme of “no good men”, the song is a highlight on the album (and on a side note, I think this track would be a good candidate for American Idol winner, Fantasia Barrino to remake). Jumpin’, Jumpin’ is a club-worthy song, that’s about, well…clubbing. Say My Name was another huge hit, thanks to another memorable chorus (“Say my name, say my name/If no one is around you, say ‘baby, I love you’/If you ain’t runnin’ game/Say my name, say my name/You actin’ kinda shady/Ain’t callin me baby/Why the sudden change?”) which sounds like an update to the group’s first hit, No, No, No. The song is also one of the few on the album that features lead vocals from Luckett and Roberson.

The album returns to mediocrity with She Can’t Love You. Knowles is back on all the featured vocals, though Rowland can actually be heard during the verses. Still, the song is extremely bland and brings the album down a bit. Stay is a cute ballad about begging someone to stay in a relationship, but again, lacks lyrics and even a melody, that would make it stand out. Sweet Sixteen is lyrically one of the best songs on the album. The track tells the story of Jackie, a sixteen year old girl, who fell in love with an older man that ends up taking advantage of her. Roberson even sings an entire verse at the beginning of the song, which is a nice change from Knowles’ vocals, though it still comes a little too late in the album.

The disc closes with an acapella version of Amazing Grace, which sounds reminiscent to gospel choirs at a Baptist church. All girls can be heard on this track, though Knowles still has a chance to engage in her trademark “vocal Olympics” towards the second verse. Though over the top at times, the song is still a pretty rendition of a classic piece.

The Writing’s On The Wall isn’t the best CD I’ve ever bought by any standards. Most of the songs are poorly written, and though the production is good, most of the tracks lack any content that make them truly worth listening to. Despite all their success, to me, Destiny’s Child was nothing more than another R&B group.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Intro (The Writing’s On The Wall)
2. So Good
3. Bills, Bills, Bills
4. Confessions f/ Missy Elliot
5. Bug A Boo
6. Temptation
7. Now That She’s Gone
8. Where’d You Go
9. Hey Ladies
10. If You Leave f/ Next
11. Jumpin’, Jumpin’
12. Say My Name
13. She Can’t Love You
14. Stay
15. Sweet Sixteen
16. Outro (Amazing Grace)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQgd6MccwZc]
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