Destiny's Child: Destiny Fulfilled

Destiny's Child: Destiny Fulfilled

However stoic a face they put on it, the idea of Destiny's Child stands as a curious anachronism after Beyoncé ditched her groupmates for a solo turn that made her star shine bigger and brighter. An underrated album with a deep bench of singles, Beyoncé's Dangerously In Love showed the singer at home in bangers and ballads, both of which benefited from extra breathing room around the microphone. Going back to the group format would make sense if it resurrected what made Destiny's Child the most compelling R&B act of the '90s: twisty call-and-response hooks, darting harmony lines, and blasts of vocal personality that worked in tandem and in tension. Instead, Destiny Fulfilled sounds distant and detached, and its pronounced ballad-fancy only occasionally raises a flag for the group dynamic it serves to restore.

It's never good policy to make much of liner notes (least of all a thank-you in which Beyoncé likens herself and a friend to "Romy and Michelle"), but lyric sheets with individually labeled verse credits signal the start of musical separation. The single "Lose My Breath" gives Destiny Fulfilled an opening charge by way of a raucous marching-band beat and panting attempts to squeeze a lot of words into closing musical corners. From there, though, the album takes a fateful turn into mid-tempo ballads that sound uninterrupted at best, uninspired at worst.

"Soldier" and "Cater 2 U" make sassy end-runs around notions of womanly subservience, but their best musical moments hide in tiny melismatic twirls instead of hooks. Michelle Williams sounds especially strange in her isolation tank: With her high, warbling coo, she comes off like a sample on a Kanye West record more than a potential stage-stealer. She might have sounded at home in a mix full of voices, but Destiny Fulfilled chooses to pull back the layers rather than bunch them up.

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