The Writing's On the Wall
Released in the summer of 1999, Destiny’s Child’s breakthrough sophomore smash The Writing’s on the Wall is more than just a collection of radio-conquering singles. It’s also the album that would reshape modern pop and R&B, while catapulting the career of the group’s lead-singer-turned-superstar, Beyoncé Knowles. The members of Destiny’s Child—which, in addition to Knowles, include LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson, and Kelly Rowland—were between 16 and 18 years old during the making of The Writing’s on the Wall. But the songs here—many of which were inspired by stories Knowles heard at her mother’s beauty salon—are decidedly grown-up, tackling such themes as heartbreak, infidelity, and financial ruin. These were, clearly, relatable topics for millions of listeners, as evidenced by the success of tracks like “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name.” Still, it’s the sound of The Writing’s on the Wall that would make the album so influential. While the group’s debut had coasted on a neo-soul vibe, The Writing’s on the Wall takes a futuristic, pop-centric approach, thanks in no small part to producers like Rodney Jerkins and Kevin Briggs. The live instrumentation that had been a staple of mid-1990s R&B was gone, replaced by harpsichord-synthesizers and booming 808s. This was the sound of Y2K R&B, one that would dominate clubs and FM playlists in the early 2000s and beyond, and make The Writing’s on the Wall one of the most pivotal pop releases of all time.