What Millennials Should Know About… Destiny’s Child’s ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’

VIBE spotlights some of music’s most essential timepieces for Gen Y to get hip to

The Writing’s On The Wall (1999)

Most Slept On:
-“Sweet Sixteen”
On an album full of brash wailing and dance tracks, this simple ballad about a misguided teenaged girl was overlooked. One of the few tracks that doesn’t feature Beyoncé as the only lead, it’s refreshing to hear the other voices in the group equally showcased. (Listen out for expert guitar licks from Tony! Toni! Toné! group founder Dwayne Wiggins).

Most Overrated:
-“Bills Bills Bills”
T-Boz, Left-Eye and Chili were the go-to girl-group in the late ’90s and their influence can be heard just a bit too much on this joint. This entire song, from melody to vocal arrangement to lyrical content is a straight jack of TLC’s whole style. The connection between TLC and Destiny’s Child? That would be Real Housewife Kandi Burruss. After her group Xscape disbanded, Kandi focused on songwriting—for TLC and Destiny’s Child.

(Also) Most Overrated:
-“Bug a Boo”
Why? See above.

Old School References Millennials May Need Translated:
-“Tell MCI to cut the phone cord” (“Bug-A-Boo”)
See, long ago, you had to have two phone service companies, one for local service and a separate provider for long-distance calls. In the nineties, MCI was one of the biggest longest-distance service providers. The company was purchased by Verizon in 2006.

Lines Best For Status Updates [When You’re In A Man-Hating Mood]:(“Hey Ladies”)
-“Ladies leave yo’ man at home/The club is full of ballers and they pockets full grown” (“Jumpin Jumpin”)
-“Say my name/Say my name/If no is around you/Say baby I love you/If you ain’t running game” (“Say My Name”)
-“When we were together/You told me what you didn’t like/And you went out and got exactly that type” (“She Can’t Love You”)
-“I know you’ve got your things to do/But tell me what means more to you” (“Stay”)

Bet You Didn’t Know: On the song, “If You Leave,” Destiny’s Child Beyoncé duets with singer R.L. from ‘90s R&B group Next. On the song, R.L. sings out the phone number to find his love and he uses the number 612-555-2422. Why that number? Since the 1950s, ‘555’ has been used in music, films and television for fictional numbers so that regular folks don’t have people crank calling them. And area code 612 is for Minneapolis, where R.L. and the group Next hails from.

Bet You (Also) Didn’t Know: The song “Sweet Sixteen” was written and originally recorded by Grammy-Award winning entertainer Jody Watley for her album, Flower, which had just been released the year before.

Bet You Didn’t Know This Either: The last song on the album, a rendition of gospel spiritual “Amazing Grace”, is dedicated to DC’s former manager Andretta Tillman, referred to as Miss Ann at the top of the song. Tillman died of lupus in 1997, soon after things began to pick up for Destiny’s Child. Bey’s dad Mathew Knowles then took over as their manager.

Synopsis: The title of this album proved prophetic. “The writing’s on the wall” is an expression from the Old Testament that means the future is predetermined. And clearly, Beyoncé had a destiny that would leave the child(ren) behind. It’s often been said that Destiny’s Child was little more than a platform for Mathew Knowles to position his own child to solo stardom. And a close re-listen to this multi-platinum album makes that hard to deny. If you close your eyes and try real hard, you may be able to catch a few lines from Kelly here and there. But outside of spoken interludes, it’s impossible to identify any vocals from the other group members. Even the backgrounds seemed layered with just Bey’s voice.

Although the album was a runaway success, scoring several #1 hits for the group, it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as their follow up, Survivor. Many of the tracks were derivative and the overlying theme: men suck unless they have money, often overshadows the music. While this album cemented their status as superstars, it signaled the beginning of the end for the group. Six months after this album was released, two of the group members had been replaced and a new lineup was presented without a single hiccup.

The Writing’s On The Wall may not hold up as an example of stellar songwriting or innovative production. But with over 10 million in record sales, it can’t be dismissed either.

Aliya S. King’s is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, Keep The Faith, with recording artist Faith Evans. She had written for VIBE since 1998. Find her at aliyasking.com and @aliyasking. You can also cop Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s On The Wall on iTunes here.