I think Beyonce is an alien. Baby girl is out of this world. The first time I saw Destiny's Child's "No, No, No" video, I knew she was the star. LeToya was easily my No. 2. Kelly was fly, and LaTavia was cool.
I never understood why some question Beyonce's vocal talent. Maybe it's because she emerged in an era that focuses so much on image that any other female singer who looks as good as her can't sing that well. So the fact that Beyonce is beautiful, can dance and makes pop music means that like Britney, Janet and Madonna, her voice is thin.
Beyonce's bubblegum chewy lyrics are corn on the cob, but her voice is pure and impresses without music accompaniment. Don't let her sweet face fool you.
It's no surprise that Beyonce has evolved into one of the biggest music acts of the last 10 years. But she really isn't the topic. The subject is her offspring-- Destiny's Child members Kelly and Michelle and her baby sister Solange, who have been working diligently to establish themselves independent of Jay-Z's new bride. Their association and work put in alongside Bey assures that opportunities come their way. But successfully transitioning out of Beyonce's shadow hasn't been easy.
Kelly Rowland has found moderate success with minor acting roles and scored her biggest look to date on the song "Dilemma" which she recorded with Nelly. Her albums Simply Deep (2002) and Ms. Kelly (2007) were anticipated, but failed to make the impact warranted for a member of the top-selling girl group. Ms. Kelly was repackaged and released in March. It was promoted with a new single "Daylight" featuring Gym Class Heroes it-boy Travis McCoy. But unfortunately Ms. Kelly: Diva Deluxe drew less attention than the original release.
It really makes no sense that Kelly hasn't been able to establish herself as a solo artist. She can sing a lot better than Ciara, can dance, is poised and gorgeous. The problem is that she is stuck in Beyonce's shadow.
Her image always mirrors Beyonce and much of her music sounds like outtakes from Beyonce's albums. Additionally, there is limited promotion behind her records. She feels pushed on the back burner. Hopefully, one day, she will get her due.
When attending the Southern California stop of the Destiny Fulfilled...And Lovin' It tour in 2005, I come up with a nickname for Michelle Williams: "The Luckiest Girl In The World." Think about. Her intro to the limelight was walking across the backs of LeToya and LaTavia onto the set of Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" video shoot, and poof, a couple months later she was on the stage next to Beyonce and Kelly receiving a Grammy for a record she did not record. But you can't be mad at her. Anybody in her shoes would have done the same. (Well, except for that other girl Farrah Franklin, who joined D.C. at the same time as Michelle, but left soon after. I haven't even seen her on a reality show since. Her career can't be going too well.)
Even if you don't believe in karma, you have to admit that Michelle has done something good to someone at some point in this life or a past one.
So while I'm sitting at D.C. concert at the Arrowhead Pond, minutes away from Disneyland, it's time for Michelle's solo set. When Michelle's segment starts, everyone in the arena sits down, clearly expecting to be bored out of their minds.
But Michelle is one smart woman who knows how to take advantage of an opportunity. She knows that the only thing the audience knew about her was that she was the other girl in D.C. whose awkward nasal tone feels out of place on her obligatory verses on "Survivor" and "Soldier." She was the other girl in D.C. who released a couple gospel albums.
But when Michelle starts singing her gospel song "Do You Know" she puts her heart into it. Her voice is a good fit for the production. She resonates with the song's lyrics of triumph. Her five minutes of fame and then some play out as she sings. It is obvious that she has performed on Broadway, starring in the Elton John play Aida, which has previously been lead by powerhouses Toni Braxton and Heather Headley.
Michelle has been putting in the right type of artist development and has been receiving solid reviews playing Suge Avery in the traveling version of The Color Purple.
When I heard that she was planning to release a pop album, I thought that it could work, and I was curious. Her latest song "We Break The Dawn" is great and further shows her growth and comfort in her own space, garnering no comparisons to Beyonce but instead sonically feeling like old school Brandy and, in the video, taking us back to early Whitney. Michelle will definitely step from underneath the Beyonce umbrella with this release. I just hope she gets all the support from the media she needs to take off. She's earned it.
Solange, Beyonce's younger sister, probably has it the toughest. As the eldest child myself, I know how it goes with comparisons. I never had to deal with being compared to my siblings even when, for example, my brother was getting better grades. But I witnessed my brother and sister being measured up to me all the time. Pretty soon after Destiny's Child took off, Solange was also working on her music career. You can say that she accomplished what could be expected of a teenage music artist not immersed in the child-hit-making-machine called Disney. You'll find an album and dozens of old tracks on her artist page, but nothing memorable.
When I heard that Solange, now 21, would be releasing a new album, I immediately expected it to be a Beyonce Jr. project. I didn't necessarily think it would be a bad thing. That just seemed like the obvious direction. I knew she had performed with and co-written songs with the members of Destiny's Child, but my contact at Music World Music stressed that Solange had a different plan for herself. She told me that SoL-AngeL & Hadley Street Dreams was a ne-soul record as opposed to a hip hop R&B pop offering.
It turns out that Solange has recruited production from Pharrell, who did the first single "I Decided," Cee-Lo, Mark Ronson, and Q-Tip. All of these guys are excellent, and we all know how successful Mark Ronson has been with the throwback sounds from Amy Winehouse, but there are two names on Solange's list of producers/contributors that got my attention: 1) Raphael Saadiq is easily one of the most underrated producers. Plus, he has a gift for creating classic soul music in a style he calls instant vintage. 2) Lamont Dozier of the Holland-Dozier-Holland, who were responsible for writing so many early Motown hits, also contributes a song. I'm interested in hearing the rest of the record.
I like "I Decided." It's somewhat of a warm up track. It's light and feels good, and a nice way to reintroduce Solange. I'm very interested in hearing more of the album. Solange wrote a three page autobiography about her career and compared the record to music of the '60s and '70s. "I would like to think that it is as if The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Dusty Springfield and Minnie Riperton were to make the music they did with a modern touch," she said. If she can pull this off, she will easily be on the path of setting her accomplishments apart from those of her big superstar sis. I think she's made the right decision.