Thursday, October 26, 2000
Destiny's Child - Independent Women

The verdict on this seems to be that it's pretty nice but not up to the standard of the singles from the Destiny album The Writing's On The Wall. I've only listened to it a couple of times, but I reckon it deserves more than just the status of "also-ran". This is a pretty freaky single, in my opinion. I'm not sure who produced it; it sounds somewhere between Timbaland's new minimalist style (the beats are spare but still quite jarring) and Rodney Jerkins' string-swept fare. It's almost irrelevant though, because the quality is all in the performance anyway.

Indeed, from the artificiality of Beyonce's first line, "Question: tell me what you think about me/I buy my own diamonds and my own rings/I own call your celly when I'm feeling lonely/so when it's all over get up and leave", you know that this is a performance. The great thing about all these male-bashing divas in R&B is that, as opposed the direct emotional dialogue of love songs, these songs demand a certain amount of sass in their delivery, and wit in their put-downs. If the singer is not simply trying to convince the listener that they're totally in love with them, there's a lot more room for playfulness and surprise. R&B is currently like the pop-music equivalent of Rent, turning what is ostensibly real life experience into larger-than-life drama, in the process denaturalising and camping up reality.

The difference between "Independent Women" and Rent though is that Beyonce and her cohorts are too badass to be corny, and too cold to be actually emotional. Their performances aren't "powerful" in that they tug on the listener's heartstrings, but rather in that they impress with their steely confidence (that's partly why the ballads on The Writing's On The Wall are all so excrutiating; the girls deliberately sound bereft and emotional, and it doesn't suit the peronality they built up on their singles).

It's because of that perception of steeliness that the girls can get away with the almost abrasive, raucous cry "To all the women making money, throw your hands up me!" in the chorus (inspired by Kelis' "Caught Out There" maybe?). No longer content to merely be at the mercy of the listener's affections anymore, Destiny's Child's message could almost be "we don't give a stuff about you because you're lower than us anyway." With no-one to impress, there's no need to aspire to a plastic perfection.

Even better is the call-and-response between Beyonce listing her possessions and the other girls sighing "I've got it." Like The Ronnetes or The Shangri Las back in the sixties, the sort of pop Destiny's Child are making is totally over the top and yet anything but cringeworthy. There's even a Pink-style choral interlude! What more could you want?


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