Everything grows bigger and better in Texas, so they say, and if Destiny's Child is anything to go by, the saying rings true. Rarely have beauty, brains and talent been served up in such generous helpings as with the Houston-based foursome. It's all on display on their stunning new sophomore album The Writing's On The Wall, which in addition to their own writing and production input, features contributions from some of the music industry's most-noted movers and shakers.
"We're not Boyz II Men, but this represents us progressing from girls to young women," says the striking caramel-complexioned Beyoncé , who along with her fellow group members -- Kelly, LaTavia and LeToya -- share an average age of 18. "Although we're still young," she adds, "we've seen quite a lot in the last year or so. We've traveled and matured personally so we wanted to reflect that in our music."
"We wanted the whole album to be a concept and into that concept we wanted to work in great songs with a new sound," says the statuesque Kelly.
The concept - that of relationships - takes on a different slant lyrically to many other albums that attempt to traverse the same terrain, veering away from just romance (although there is plenty of that) but also discussing the full gamut of personal relationships. "It's about the realness of life, the gray areas," emphasizes sassy LaTavia ."It's a story that takes you on a journey."
"We called the album The Writing's On The Wall because this album really spells out what will happen in a relationship if people treat each other a certain way," explains Beyoncé . "It really shows what's really going on."
Indeed, the album's first single, "Bills, Bills, Bills," is a riotously funky, tongue-in-cheek, poke-in-the ribs at boyfriends who start off as a knights-in-shining armor only to let the act drop exposing them for the scrubs they are. Destiny's Child is aware that the song's mature subject matter could well result in raised eyebrows considering their tender years.
"People might say, 'y'all are all gold-diggers' when they hear 'Bills, Bills, Bills," says the baby-faced LaToya in her honey-thick southern tones, "but it's totally different. This song is about a relationship where the guy starts out really nice, caring and considerate but three or four months down the line he starts slacking, borrowing your car and when he gives it back to you, the tank is on empty. He'll use your cell-phone and run it up, he'll buy you gifts with your own money."
"But we want to make one thing clear" interjects LaTavia . "It's not a man-hating song. In fact, we know probably more women do it than men. We wrote about it because I myself have been through something similar and I have a lot of older friends who are going through the exact same thing."
The single, along with other killer uptempo joints such as "So Good" and "Bug A Boo," was co-written and produced by hot newcomer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, best-known so far for masterminding TLC's "No Scrubs." He was the first name called to the table and musically and thematically set the wheels in motion for The Writing's On The Wall.
"Before we went in the studio we told the record company that we wanted to have a new producer with a brand new sound," explains Kelly , who shares lead vocal chores with Beyoncé. "That was a blessing because it really sets us apart from everyone else."
Working closely with She'kspere in their native Houston allowed the album to develop its often playful, informal feel. It was a foundation that other high flying producers -- such as Rodney Jerkins (the innovative "Say My Name"), Missy (the cheeky, "Confessing"), Daryl Simmons (lush, melancholy "Stay"), Chad Elliot (the smooth "If You Leave Her, featuring the hot male R&B trio Next), and Tony Toni Toné's Dwayne Wiggins (sultry "Temptation") -- were able to build upon admirably, helping craft together a collection of songs overflowing with both upbeat, youthful exuberance and endearing feminine sensitivity and vulnerability.
Destiny's Child's incredibly tight vocal blend, which belies their young age, begins to make sense when you discover that the four best friends have been together as a group for more than half their lives. Under the guidance of Music World Management's Mathew Knowles, also the album's executive producer, they began to attract a loyal local following performing throughout the Houston area to audiences spanning the generation gap, opening for a who's who of R&B and hip-hop acts such as Immature, Dru Hill, Das EFX and SWV prior to landing their own deal with Columbia Records.
The phenomenal success of their debut single, the irrepressible "No, No, No" (remixed by Wyclef Jean), kick-started a storybook, whirlwind year of international travel, plush hotels and sold-out concerts. That's not to say it all was glamour and glitz, however. In the U.S., the four teens toured extensively as the opening act for Boyz II Men. In Europe, they are considered superstars of the highest order thanks to the Timbaland-produced hit "Get On The Bus" from the "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" soundtrack. They also headlined to sold-out arenas, managing to cram in an amazing 18 shows in 17 grueling days on their last European visit.
In addition to recording their new album, the group also recently worked with superstar R. Kelly on the song "Stimulate Me" from the "Life" soundtrack and made their acting debut on Warner Bros. "Smart Guy" TV show. The episode featuring the group garnered one of the sitcom's highest ratings. Although close friend Wyclef Jean didn't contribute musically to The Writing's On The Wall, he did play an integral part in the album's concept.
"When we told Wyclef the album title he mentioned the Bible when the Ten Commandments were written on a wall for Moses. He suggested we try to tie that idea in with the album so that's how we came up with Destiny's Child's commandments of relationships which precede each song."
It's commonplace to compare young female R&B groups to past superstars like The Supremes, The Emotions and even En Vogue. However, as bona fide mega stardom awaits them, Destiny's Child, with their cutting edge fusion of hip-hop, soul, sass and sweetness, look to blaze a trail all of their own to the top. As Beyoncé says, "Most people don't realize that we really have dedicated our lives to this. Some people in Houston used to say we were crazy trying to get a record deal because no one's ever really done it from there before. But we are proof that whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. This is just the start for us, believe me." We do. We do.