By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Whoever it was who first said bad things come in threes--it was probably Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Younger, that poor, stoic sap--had obviously never met Beyoncé Knowles. She's the undisputed focal point of Houston's Destiny's Child, but she knows better than to pass herself off as a solo act. It helps to have others flanking her onstage. They're Knowles' own personal entourage. She can dress them anyway she sees fit, and they can sing and dance behind her. She started with three cohorts, but four wasn't the magic number. Soon one left--thus beginning her use-them-and-lose-them saga--but Beyoncé quickly learned that a trio of young women worked best. One on each side provides the moving and shaking horizontal lines that call attention to the starlet in the middle.
It's the stone-cold truth: Destiny's Child is about as much of a group as the current administration is environmentally concerned. Sure, Beyoncé admits that there are other women out there who are just as fabulous as she is. There's Lucy Liu, her girl Drew and Cameron D. But as far as the Destiny three is concerned, there's just one: Lady Miss Knowles, the real Queen B.
Still, she needed to find a way to work her witchcraft in song as well. The terrible twos served her well for "Jumpin' Jumpin'" as did the "say my name, say my name" refrain from last summer's smash. But it's the ticklish tongue tangos of triplicate found in "No, No, No (Pt. 2)" (off 1998's self-titled debut) and "Bills, Bills, Bills" (off 1999's The Writing's on the Wall) that really, really, really turn it on. The Gloria Gaynor rip-off "Survivor"--though enduring "group" members leaving because they're sick of your crap doesn't actually count--didn't have much going for it, but the she-do-use-jelly boogie woogie woogie till you just can't boogie no more of "Bootylicious" is a different matter altogether.
It seems that Beyoncé took Mystikal literally when he told all ladies to "shake ya ass, watch yourself." With a banging beat and sporting more hooks than a title fight, Beyoncé's latest bid for world domination lands her firmly in divaland. Plus, she shares production credit on it (as well as most of the songs on Survivor), causing a few beat heads to lament that a woman who looks like that shouldn't be able to program like that. (Personally, I'm all for programmers to look like women of any stripe--I'm sick of them all looking like Moby.) And as anybody can tell in their movie theater Target ads, this song actually translates into "Bootylicious, Bootylicious, Bootylicious."
Even so, there's something a little fishy about her headstrong lust for fame. Even an ego as mammoth as Madonna's acknowledges others' roles in her success. Beyoncé wants it all for herself. And it brings to mind an idea that Seneca did get right so many years ago: Bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem. "It is not goodness to be better than the worst."