Manifest Destiny: Why bills and bug-a-boos meant so much this year 

Although the single "Bills, Bills, Bills" was released in the summer of 1999, the full impact of Destiny's Child's second album, The Writing's on the Wall, wasn't felt on mainstream radio until "Say My Name" blew up the charts in the spring of 2000. The group's story of a busted boyfriend who wouldn't say his girlfriend's name in the presence of another lover was followed up by an ode to club-hopping ("Jumpin' Jumpin'") and a paean to financial security, "Independent Women" (the theme from the campy girl-power flick, Charlie's Angels; as of this writing, the song sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100). Destiny's Child spent most of 2000 on one chart or another, but the group's cultural relevance goes way beyond record sales.

The funky, syncopated beats provided by Atlanta producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs were easily a breed apart from most of the 4/4 schlock on the pop radio this year, but Destiny's Child gave us more: a real glimpse into the everyday lives of young, middle-class, single working women. Though DC offered up some of the most frank girl-gab since Salt 'n' Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex," for the most part, singer Beyonce Knowles and her revolving crew of Destiny's Child members weren't talking about sex, and that's precisely what was so refreshing in a year otherwise marked by Madonna's raunchy "Music" video and Britney Spears' soft-porn striptease at the MTV awards.

The group has been criticized for defining female empowerment as financial freedom; only in a gangbusters economy would women have nothing more pressing to sing about than a man who leaves the gas tank on empty when he takes the car out. But how else could a girl work her way up the charts if not by lowering her bra straps? By earning her own paycheck, according to "Independent Women": "The car I'm driving/I bought it /The house I live in/I bought it." If Wall Street seeks warning of economic downturn, Destiny's Child's spending habits might prove a useful indicator of the financial climate.

Making a living and catching a cheating boyfriend aren't new territory for pop. But DC's simple, almost childlike, anthems of power-through-wealth have been transported to the masses without homogenizing the African-American colloquialisms that give songs like "Bug A Boo" flavor -- and that's real progress for Top-40 radio.

"Independent Women" may continue its reign well into 2001; the song has already hit No. 1 in the U.K. While listening to Destiny's Child probably won't get anyone off the dole, it might provide some inspiration for upward mobility. And, if the world's stock markets continue to undulate, who couldn't use a bit of that?

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