Beyonce Knowles of the glittery vocal trio Destiny’s Child is no dummy. She knows that as wrenching as it was to go through the acrimonious departure of two co-founding bandmates, the attendant furor sparked welcome publicity for the group.
In fact, since the spring of 2000, the reconstituted Destiny’s Child, comprising Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, has become a dominant pop music force.
Three multi-platinum albums and a string of hits – “Say My Name,” “Jumpin’, Jumpin’,” “Survivor” and the “Charlie’s Angels” film theme – have kept the threesome at the top of the charts and made them a constant presence on MTV’s popular “TRL” countdown show. They also headlined a summer “TRL” tour.
Not bad for an act that just 18 months ago was in the midst of upheaval.
“I’m happy it happened,” says Knowles, 20, the group’s principal producer and songwriter, whose father, Matthew Knowles, manages the trio.
“I think what we were missing was controversy. Nobody wanted to put us on the cover of any magazines because we had nothing interesting to talk about,” she says. “Unfortunately, the world likes to read drama. That’s terrible, but it’s true. I think now that we’ve gone through a lot and accomplished a lot, people might be interested in that.”
They are, and then some. The group’s latest album, “Survivor,” debuted in May at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and has sold more than 3 million copies. Joined by Knowles’ younger sister, Solange, the group provided the theme song for the new Disney cartoon “The Proud Family,” and Destiny’s Child will release a holiday album, “8 Days of Christmas,” on Oct. 30.
With a European tour looming, the trio also is slated to be part of “What More Can I Give,” Michael Jackson’s all-star charity single for disaster relief following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington.
The group even added a couple of words to the popular lexicon with the title of its recent hit, “Bootylicious,” and its taunt of “I don’t think you’re ready/For this jelly…”
“Jelly is like your mojo, whatever you have that makes you feel confident,” explains Knowles, who appeared in MTV’s “hip-hopera” version of “Carmen” and also is modeling for the Loreal cosmetics company. “It can be your butt. It can be your hair, your eyes, your mind, your attitude, whatever. It’s whatever makes you feel good.”
As for “Bootylicious,” Knowles says it popped into her head during an airplane flight to London. “I was too embarrassed to tell Michelle and Kelly, because I thought they might think it was dumb,” she says. “But I hummed it to them, and they were like, ‘That’s cool. We should try it.’
“Now it’s very strange. I walked into Gadzooks (retail store) and I saw a ‘Bootylicious’ T-shirt. And every magazine I pick up, they have a column that’s ‘Bootylicious,’ and it’s just like, ‘Whoa, that’s weird. This is strange.’ But I’m glad it took.”
AT FIRST THERE WERE FOUR
Destiny’s Child began as a quartet more than a decade ago in Houston, after Matthew Knowles quit his job as a medical equipment salesman to guide the obvious talents of his eldest daughter and her friend, Rowland, who moved in with the Knowles family for a time.
With LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett rounding out the original lineup, Destiny’s Child emersed themselves in voice and dance lessons and got started playing local fairs, talent shows and theme parks.
The foursome’s self-titled debut album made a modest splash in 1998, but 1999’s “Writing’s On the Wall,” powered by the hit “Say My Name,” took off about the time Roberson and Luckett left the band.
“We had a little bit of creative differences, and it was very hard for me and Beyonce to go through the changes,” Rowland says. “You’re not the same at nine or 10 as you are at 18 or 19.”
A suit filed by the departing duo against Matthew Knowles seeking unpaid fees is pending. In the meantime, Williams and another replacement, Farrah Franklin, joined the group, but Franklin, too, ended up dismissed.
Still, momentum from “Writing’s On the Wall” and a newfound chemistry among the remaining trio of Knowles, Rowland and Williams propelled them to greater glory.
Making “Survivor,” Knowles says, “was so fun. We could just do anything. It was just the three of us in the studio. We didn’t have any rules or boundaries.
“We actually worked with some other producers on the album, and the songs we did with other people just didn’t sound the same. The songs we did with just the three of us came out a lot better, because they were us.”
Along with its pop hits, “Survivor” includes an a capella gospel medley – a nod to the trio’s church roots. But Knowles dismisses the notion that it clashes with the trio’s revealing outfits, or their performance of such suggestive titles as “Sexy Daddy,” “Nasty Girl” and “Bootylicious.”
“We just write what we feel,” she says. “You can still believe in God and still be a teenager and have fun. You can still be positive and be sexy, too.”
Destiny’s Child’s next recorded move may be three solo albums, Knowles says, and the Christmas album features individual tracks from each of the singers.