Reminiscing on Destiny’s Child: The Writings on The Wall

Bold Statement: Destiny’s is the last girl group of major fame.

We know girl groups: The Supremes, TLC, Salt N Pepa. Destiny’s Child was the last one to make an impact on the world. I recently updated my iTunes with the albums I loved growing up, and as I listened to DC’s albums, I remembered how this group influenced me.

The Writing’s on The Wall and Survivor released when I was 8 and 10 respectively. I remembered my routine of playing the album whenever I took a bath or shower. I remembered my sister, cousins and I making dances to the songs. And it wasn’t just us. For my fifth grade talent show, three groups entered with dance routines to songs from Survivor. It was stiff competition. My group even had to change songs because the good ones were taken and Bootylicious was too grown for our age. Destiny’s Child sang for themselves and for women all around – like any R&B girl group does.

In the midst of my nostalgia, I decided to analyze my favorite songs from each album, starting with The Writings on the Wall. And with talk of two Destiny’s Child biopics coming out, why not take a trip down memory lane?

The Album: The Writing’s on the Wall (1999)

Destiny_S_Child-The_Writing_S_On_The_Wall-Frontal

Group Members: Latavia Roberson, LeToya Luckett, Kelly Rowland and Beyonce Knowles

Fun Fact: Kandi Burrus (of Xscape and Real Housewives of Atlanta fame) contributed her writing skills to five of the songs

This album was the second for the group but as far as recognition goes, I would say it’s the first. After their single “No, No, No”, The Writing’s On The Wall gave them rising power. The album follows the theme of commandments for romantic relationships. Each commandment stands in the woman’s perspective of love. Every situation and feeling we could experience.

The moment my nostalgia settles, I realize how so many women can relate. I’ve experienced some situations, coached my friends through some and heard cautionary tales about others.The theme is timeless Slang and music trends have changed but these commandments will resonate forever.

The Tracks

1. Sweet Sixteen – “Thou Shall Cherish Life”

Surprise! Someone other than Beyoncé starts the song off. Yup, the only verse we ever got from Latavia as a child of destiny.

What I like most about this song is that the members are barely of age, giving advice to a misguided sixteen year old girl. Which makes it feel more like sisterly advice than your mother telling you what to do. I know what I was like at 16 – I was more likely to listen to my friends than my mom lecturing me. I thought I knew it all. Now I didn’t end up alone, pregnant and living on my own – praise the universe – but you get the gist. Just think how powerful the advice would be coming from a famous R&B group.

The at-home, seemingly innocent guitars remind you of where Jackie should be – back with her family, taking life at a reasonable pace It’s the advice that many parents would want to give their teenagers – whether they’re running away or not. I imagine the group management sat down with Beyoncé, Kelly, LeToya and Latavia and reminded them of themselves. “This girl could be you, your friend, any random girl at school.” I impose my imagination on the force behind it, but I imagine Beyoncé talking to someone she knows, wanting to help her. Or even singing to save her would-be misguided self.

2. Where’d You Go? – “Thou Shall Not Leave Me Wondering”

IT. HAS. BEEN. FIVE DAYS! That opening catches me every time. What’s been happening in these five days, B?! Let us know girl.

The woman missing her man feels so distraught that she can’t be mad at him. The strength in her words says she should be, but worry has taken over. His absence plays with her sanity yet she still loves him. And if that doesn’t describe the emotional melting pot of a woman in love and distress, I don’t know what will. We all go through it, led more by our love for him than for ourselves.

And the breakdown. We get a break from the anguish for a musical moment of silence until we get to the root of her hurt. Her destiny is to have him. How does that work if he’s MIA? It seems irrational, but five days is too long to be without bae.

3. Hey Ladies – “Thou Shall Know When He’s Got To Go”

And then, in perfect track order, comes the song where the group questions themselves. Why do women decide to suffer through our own emotional turmoil when our man starts acting up? Why DO we decide to keep holding on? In the complexity of our emotions, we see the good and bad, noting the pain while embracing the good. And sometimes we don’t want to accept that it’s best to let go.

If there could have been another single off the album, I bet this would have helped Destiny’s Child break more Billboard records. So many women had that trifling ain’t-shit cheater, that no good lazy man, that anyone one of us could’ve written it. Or at least gave testimonial inspiration.

This is what furthers the feminism of the album. Not only does it hit on so many issues that women feel, but hearing it becomes an emotional release. You’re either thankful for the sense you had to let go of that ex or suddenly confident enough to fire your current. Or maybe you decided to keep him but just like to vent about his dirt. No matter what, the power of womanhood fills you. I didn’t have these experiences when I was in elementary school listening to the album, but the power of my woman ancestors filled me and I sang my heart out. I still do. But now I have some experience to go along with it.

Quick aside – I actually got in trouble in elementary for singing this song. Apparently, tenderoni is a cuss word. Go figure.

4. Confessions – “Thou Shall Confess” 

Women can play just as dirty as guys do, and sometimes we have to get it off our chest. This song brings the hard reality that some people can’t face: Women can be just as sneaky as men, sometimes even more so.

We’re not always the most loyal of partners, but complex beings who can commit the worst love sins. Like cheating. Spending your partner’s money and balling with your friends. Next thing you know, the fun is over, we’re back to reality and guilt takes over until we confess.

Funny thing – every “woman” in this group were actually teenagers at the time. So while it’s normal for teens to make mistakes, I had to think twice about the details of each sin. If their guy is the same age, how are they able to go on a trip with his money? I wish I had his job in high school.

Sidenote: It’s pure gold that Missy Elliot’s feature included her adlibs and nothing else. That’s what she contributes to the entire song, yet it’d be strange without her. She’s like a choir director, guiding these women into the confession booth of their relationship. Like, the “unh unh unh” at the end is a signature.

5. Jumpin’ Jumpin’ – “Thou Shall Get Your Party On” 

One of the radio hits of the album, the video came after Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin replaced Latavia and LeToya. Weird transition, but since Beyoncé was still the star, we didn’t notice so much until the video came out. Much like with “Say My Name”

Regardless of the quality of your relationship with boothang, sometimes you need a night away. A night to join the world and fall into turnt music and good times. Relationships are not prisons and right here Destiny’s Child makes sure you know that.

And that’s it. That’s all you need. You want to go out with your friends? You want a social life outside of your love life? Go ahead and live! We’re still individuals at the end of the day after all.

This is pretty much the only song that speaks to the male’s perspective

Honorable Mentions:

Bug A Boo

 Bills Bills Bills

Amazing Grace Outro

What are your favorite songs from this album?

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