It’s been ten years since Destiny’s Child swooped down and delivered a new album. Ten years, ago this month, in fact—let us never forget. A lot has occurred during this time period. Namely, Beyoncé has become the most powerful person on the planet. (Also: a lot of other stuff happened between 2004 and right this very second, but we’re absolutely not going to talk about any of it because it’s got nothing to do with this piece. Namaste.) OK, yes, Kelly's been busy too: she popped up last year with her song "Kisses Down Low" (who doesn't love a musical ode to cunnilingus?). As for Michelle, well she's been getting her musical theater on, doing her gospel thang, and as of this year, she's currently a spokesperson for the Playtex® Play On® Playbook. Thus her mission statement is "to promote its feminine care products and empower women to handle life’s curveballs with grace." I'm still unclear as to how Playtex will help me negotiate being a fine female in 2014, but it's nice to see all three continue to do their bit for the ladies at large.
So, with that being said: Does Destiny Fulfilled still hold up? The beauty of Destiny’s Child is that they never subscribed to the music techniques and trends we associate with a particular era. There’s no Auto-Tune, no mash-ups, and (largely) no samples. Destiny’s Child relied solely on their voices, those hooks, and beats so sick not even Taylor Swift could sing about them. (Raise your hands if you caught that reference, 1989 fans! Hey guys.) Destiny’s Child evoked the best parts of R&B, soul, and mainstream pop without sounding like a product of the 2000s.
Or at least that’s the argument I’m going into this with. Below, we’re going to listen to, rate, and judge Destiny Fulfilled to determine once and for all if they’re really as good as we think*.
*Spoiler alert: they are. I love rating shit.
1. “Lose My Breath”
Now this is how you start an album. Do you hear that drum beat? That cry of “Hit me!” as if we’re in the coolest fucking marching band on earth? Of course you hear it. You have ears, and you have a memory, and you remember how amazing it felt when this song came on at the bar, and you downed your Amaretto Sour so you could shimmy like you’d never shimmied before? (Yeah, I said “shimmy” and all of you can just get on board.)
Now, add in a catchy-as-hell hook and chorus, and how unapologetically Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle challenge their song subject. This is peak Destiny. This is why we cared so much about their Super Bowl reunion last year.
The only reason I’m not rating this 10 is because I just rated the above song a 10 and I enjoy variety and also not getting yelled at in the comments. But this—and Destiny Fulfilled as a whole—is the best example of how to arrange an album. One minute, we’re dancing hard and sweating vodka coolers everywhere (see: what 2004 looked like), the next, we’re dancing in the “Partition” sense of the word, singing along with the lyrics as if they made up our personal manifestos. Where “Lose My Breath” was 40 percent about daring a dude to catch up (and 60 percent about how the song sounded), “Soldier” flipped those numbers, letting us catch our breaths (eh?) without getting bogged down and bored. You can still move, you can still listen and sing, but it’s an empowering reprieve.
3. “Cater 2 U”
I’m sorry but I hate this song. I blame it on listening to Beyoncé all day, every day even now, but the Beyoncé (and probably Michelle and Kelly) of 2014 would in no way, shape, or form sing a song about “catering” to any guy. I mean, cater all you want, cool. Order catering for all I care. I get it: if you love someone, you want to do nice things for them because, well, duh. But unlike the rest of their catalogue (specifically Beyoncé’s), “Cater 2 U” hints towards an imbalance of power. Yes, they say “This is my love letter” but then “Your wish is my command” happens and… I mean, you do you. Maybe it’s a one-night thing. Perhaps it’s the wording I don’t like. I love you, Destiny’s Child, but this song is SKIP. Side note: This video is totally unintentionally hilarious, from the dudes wearing full winter-wear chilling on the rocks in the desert, to the weird metal monoliths that no one pays any attention, to Kelly writhing around on that car like a flea-ridden cat rubbing up on a scratching post. DAMN IT, GIRL YOU CAN DANCE. Just, what?
Sexy time! Sexy like TLC’s “Let’s Do It Again” from CrazySexyCool which, for the record, is very sexy. So, this is a song about sleeping with and sometimes in a guy’s t-shirt when he’s not around. And sex. It is a song about sex. Good sex. Great sex—you hope. (Though as much as I love this song, I would love if the video was about a love affair between DC and the t-shirt, and ended with the guy like, packing up and moving out. So, I would love it if this was some fucked-up Fruit of the Loom ad is what I’m saying.)
5. “Is She the Reason”
This song is fine. It’s not bad, and it’s not great, but it’s good! I mean, three talented singers sing about a relationship on the brink of collapse, and then they ask if it’s because of another woman. Hey, they do a good job. If their job was to sing this, then congratulations: that paycheck was earned. It’s no, “If I Were a Boy,” but what is? Exactly. Nothing.
Rating: UH, 10 OBVIOUSLY
AHHHHHH! Ever wanted to know what it’d be like for your life to go to shit and instead of sitting in your car crying to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” on repeat (I would make a joke to cover up doing that, but I have done that and I will do it again IDGAF), Michelle, Kelly, and Beyoncé invite you to sit down and talk about your day? Can you imagine? This song is a literal pep talk from the three most powerful women on this planet, and in it they tell you to lose the tool you’ve been dating and to stand on your own two feet like a champion. Scared? Of course you are. But that’s fine because after dealing you harsh truths they promise to have your back because they’ve been you since they were ten.
Like, we can talk about sisterhood in 2014 until the cows come home, but this—this—is pure, strong-ass, feminist support. This is the manual for how to keep people you love in your life. This is how to tell a friend that her boyfriend is the worst. Or more specifically, how to tell someone, “I love you and I’m here for you, but oh my God please get your shit together. Don’t worry, I’ll help.”
Side note: You too could do your fellow friend a favor and tell Bey to bin that shiny lime green trench she cinches over that tie-dye circle skirt. She's full on channeling Tina Knowles here and that look has gots to go.
7. “Bad Habit”
Anything after “Girl” is anti-climactic but especially a song about the kind of shitty boyfriend they just told the subject of “Girl” to kick to the curb. I know these songs aren’t particularly autobiographical, but like, guys, come on, take your own advice. Let’s hang out again like we did in song six.
Here’s a song we never talk about because well, there are a lot of songs in the world and the fourth-last on a Destiny’s Child album isn’t exactly a major priority normally. Today, however, we are going to give it its due. CONFIRMED: skipping over this track many a-year back was a colossal fucking mistake. Why? Because it’s a great track! It’s subtle, and it’s in the “Yeah, I’m doing me so go fuck yourself” realm—a realm founded and curated by Destiny’s Child, and for that we must give thanks—plus this song it showcases their voices beautifully. The Holy Trinity worked well together for a reason, and songs like this showed that work off like woah.
How this song doesn’t accompany every “I’ve broken up with an idiot and now I am making my life wonderful” movie montage, I have no idea. Also, it is 75 percent Beyoncé, so thanks to that and the smoothness of the melody; we have a song that could’ve easily sustained itself in her solo repertoire, too. Anyway, think “Me Myself and I,” 2004 edition. Because they may take our R&B groups, but they’ll never take our freedom.
10. “Through With Love”
Presenting: a piano, bold declarations, and serious vocal range. Anything less than a seven would be sad and embarrassing for all of us, but anything more than seven would be confusing because the song is about God, I think… which is the thing: it’s not clear. “I found a new love / I found a new love, found a new love / I found it in God." Like, nothing against God here, I do not judge songs on their religious convictions, thanks, but what confuses me is that the first half of the song reads like a breakup anthem, and the second half is, “I met somebody else and guess what? You know Him.” Is that the point? It this a gospel jam? If so, that’s cool, the group has never shied away from their gospel roots. But if not, well I don’t know what to tell you. Probably that this song isn’t “Lose My Breath” which all songs should be.
Not with a whistle, but also not with a bang. “Love”—a song about finding love and thanking God for said love—is the musical equivalent of a gentle hug goodnight. It’s pleasant and it’s not going to cause a stir and we don’t need to write 500 words about what it means. We know what “Love” means: it’s a song about falling in love again, which is important because it was released around that time that Beyoncé and Jay Z were just becoming a thing.
So maybe it’s even about him. But also: probably not.
Now has this album, their final album [sob], stood the test of time? How dare you. Destiny's Child changed the game. They were pioneers. They gave us "Bootylicious" and sampled Stevie Nicks because they did and always will recognize. Their "average" songs still trump some of today's "best hits." And their message—for the most part—breeds empowerment, strength, and unfuckwithability. So yeah, I'd say it holds up.
Anne T. Donahue is unfuckwithable. She's on Twitter.