Music by VICE

Sorry, 'Don't Call Me Angel.' Destiny's Child Made the Better 'Charlie's Angels' Anthem

The new Miley Cyrus, Lana del Rey, and Ariana Grande collaboration pales in comparison to the R&B trio's 2000 song.

by Kristin Corry
Sep 13 2019, 3:40pm

Screenshot of "Don't Call Me Angel" and "Independent Women, Pt. I"

There are few soundtracks as catchy as "Lucy Liu, with my girl Drew / Cameron D, and Destiny / For Charlie's Angels, come on." You probably even read that to the beat of the song. Last year, Sony announced Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska as the stars of the new Charlie's Angels reboot. Naturally, people were wondering if another Destiny's Child reunion would be on the horizon.

Instead of "Independent Women Pt. III," however, we got "Don't Call Me Angel," a collaboration with Lana Del Rey, Ariana Grande, and Miley Cyrus. A snippet of the song appeared in the film's official trailer in June, and the visual is finally here ahead of the movie's November release. It was unlikely that the new version could beat the 2000 reboot, but was there hope for its official song? With a pop combination as massive as Lana, Ari, and Miley, the stakes were undoubtedly set high. "Don't Call Me Angel," however, is not a song that will be engrained in your head 18 years from now. You might not even remember who starred in this film. It does little to serve as a time capsule for the strange times we're living in.

"Don't Call Me Angel" is more cinematic than Destiny's Child's version, outfitted with a dark and devilish vibe. But for Charlie's Angels, a franchise that is about sisterhood as much as it's about womanhood, there's very little of that here. Lana, Ariana, and Miley spend most of the video in scenes by themselves before joining each other before a stacked dinner table. Lana Del Rey is the underrated star of the video (even next to two former child stars), because her scenes are the only ones with a semblance of a plot.

The song also feels disjointed. Ariana's parts have the most promise, while Miley's verse feels like she's cosplaying a version of pop she outgrew. By the time we get to Lana's closer, it doesn't even feel like we're in the same song.

"Don't Call Me Angel"'s best moments are when they're paying homage to the template Destiny's Child set two decades ago. "Even though you know we fly / Don't call me angel," sung on the hook by Ariana, could be plopped into "Independent Women" with ease. Miley even name-drops a DC song on her verse: "I make my money and I write the checks / So say my name with a little respect."

The women, wearing all-black angel wings, seem to be subverting the sexist subtext of calling women "angel." But Destiny's Child's version was the original middle finger to patriarchy.

It doesn't take long to figure out that when 19-year-old Beyoncé says, "Question: Tell me what you think about me," it's entirely rhetorical. She's privy to the "male-bashing" complaints about The Writing's on the Wall, along with the jokes comparing the group's disappearing members to Survivor, a reality show that votes members off an island. The show, which premiered a year before the group's third album, is partially the reason why the newly three-member group named their album Survivor. "Independent Women, Pt. I," which precedes the titular track and "Bootylicious," dripped with the same assertiveness Destiny's Child fans were used to, but the delivery was different. "I buy my own diamonds, and I buy my own rings," she sings as if she's correcting your understanding of 1999's "Bills, Bills, Bills." After all, the group never said they couldn't pay their bills. They just wanted to be sure that you could, too.

The video, directed by Hunger Games' Francis Lawrence, was centered around a futuristic Charlie's Angels leadership-summit-meets-boot-camp, with an all-women boardroom. Not only were Destiny's Child independent women, but they were eager to spread the gospel of self-sufficiency. "All the things [Beyoncé] was saying were really empowering for women at that time," Cory Rooney, co-writer and producer of the song, said in a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly. The Writing's on the Wall provided listeners with commandments, and the Charlie's Angels song was didactic in design, with lessons for the woman of the new millennium. "Bragging on that cash that he gave you is a front / If you're gonna brag make sure it's your money you flaunt / Depend on no one else to give you what you want." "Independent Women" was the blueprint on how to be a self-made woman before the commodification of women's empowerment.

Towards the end of the video, Kelly, Beyoncé, and Michelle rise from their own flames like phoenixes. The trio recreates the signature pose Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, and Kate Johnson popularized for the 70s with Charlie's Angels the television series. "It was a match made in heaven if you think about the iconic Charlie's Angels pose," John Houlihan, music supervisor for the 2001 film, said in Entertainment Weekly. "Destiny's Child could not wait to jump into that pose themselves in their music video." That pose, with the three women brandishing their hands as shields, helped immortalize Destiny's Child as a three-member group. As Liu, Barrymore, and Diaz found success at the box office, so did Destiny's Child. The song sat atop Billboard's Hot 100 for 11 weeks, making "Independent Women" the group's longest-running chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100 beating previous wins from "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name." The world might not have known "they could get down like that," but they did. Despite Lana's knife throwing, Miley's cheek-licking, and Ariana's pop dominance, "Don't Call Me Angel" is not the follow-up you hoped for.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
lana del rey
Miley Cyrus
Beyoncé
Destiny's Child
Ariana Grande
charlie's angels