Remember Destiny’s Child? Three years ago they went multi-platinum with the girl-power compilation Survivor amid drastic line-up changes and rumors of conflict within their Dallas-based camp. Back then, you might have called Destiny’s Child “Beyonce and them” since it looked like fellow group members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams were just backup singers.
DC’s lead golden girl, Beyonce Knowles, seemed itching for a solo career of her own. After Survivor, all three produced solo projects, but Beyonce hit it big enough that she doesn’t even have to use her last name anymore.
Now Destiny Fulfilled arrives, and the group that started it all reunites to remind critics of their immense collective talent and mega-star wattage.
Destiny Fulfilled cycles like a relationship, beginning on a high note with the drum-line-driven first single, “Lose My Breath.” On this pop-infused Rodney Jerkins track, the trio swoons about the excitement of a new honey. Rugged rhymes from rappers T.I. and Lil’ Wayne accompany the group’s polished harmonies on “Soldier,” an ode to the irresistible bad boy. While they swear, “If ya status ain’t hood/ I ain’t checkin’ for him,” it’s hard to believe that Beyonce, Kelly or Michelle would be caught up with any gangsta.
Gangsta or gentleman, the girls vow to pamper their deserving man and fulfill his every need on the sugary sweet “Cater 2 U.” Fans of 2001’s “Independent Women Part I” will scoff when Beyonce offers, “I’ll brush your hair/ Help you put your do-rag on,” but hey, she’s in love.
Halfway through the album, boyfriend starts acting up, and the girls have no choice but to break out. They call him out on tracks like “Bad Habit,” “Is She The Reason” and the old-school “If,” which showcases impressive lead vocals from the very underestimated Michelle.
As Destiny Fulfilled winds down, the girls are back to their old selves again on the better-without-him declaration, “Free.” Following is the scorned woman’s anthem of the year, “Through With Love” with production by P. Diddy protégé Mario Winans.
DC’s latest effort was co-written and executively produced by all three members of the team with vocal arrangements courtesy of Beyonce herself. The biggest letdown of Destiny Fulfilled is that it only features 11 tracks. The chemistry between Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce is more solid than before, but simply cut too short.
Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Hey, did you know Gwen Stefani has her own clothing line? If you didn’t, I would really recommend listening to her debut solo record because she will remind you about it ad nauseam, even going as far as to name the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. after the aforementioned LAMB clothing line. Now, all venting on that matter aside, let’s get down to the business of breaking down the actual music.
Upon first hearing of a Gwen Stefani solo record, it’s easy to imagine that the music will play like every other No Doubt record, since most people tend to think that No Doubt is Gwen Stefani. A “solo record” for her is more of a name change than it is an attempt to diversify herself as a musician. In reality, that assumption is only half true. Stefani could have released this record under the No Doubt moniker and few people would have noticed drum machines replacing Adrian Young or studio musicians filling in for bassist Tony Kanal. All they would have noticed about the record is that it’s more of a classic dance record than anything else No Doubt has done.
And therein lies the difference, Stefani uses her solo stage to seize on the progressive synth-oriented direction of her day job and runs with it full force, creating a hybrid of 80’s dance music, contemporary hip-hop and even some J-Pop. L.A.M.B. is a great dance record, full of infectious beats and confectionary lyrical topics like cars, fashion, money and guys. The woman that once sang “Just A Girl” and inspired a legion of 12 year olds to run around in tank tops and Hindu jewelry has completed her 180-degree turn. Stefani has embraced a materialistic lifestyle that makes you wonder if she even remembers her days of two-stepping in small clubs to an audience of kids in checkered suspenders and jeff caps.
Whether or not Gwen has any connection left to her ska roots, she has established a sound that is just far enough removed from what No Doubt would do to justify calling the record a solo effort. Out of L.A.M.B.’s 12 tracks, Stefani mines out about seven or eight that really stay with you. Of course, when you’re hiring collaborators like Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, Andre 3000 and Linda Perry, you would have to be a sonic leper not to come out with at least a couple decent singles. The only question that remains now is, if Gwen can find her own way outside of No Doubt, will she bother to find her way back?