Destiny's Child's mixture of impeccably crafted image and undeniably catchy songs has made it a prime contender for longevity among the current pack of glossy teen idols and disposable pop stars. Even lineup changes and inter-group squabbling couldn't stop the trio's commercial winning streak, but a massive shot of independence just might. Brilliantly crafted songs from some of pop music's top songwriting ringers have played a key role in Destiny's Child's success, but Survivor finds frontwoman Beyoncé Knowles taking over the reins, co-writing and co-producing nearly every track. While Knowles may be roughly the same age as songwriting prodigy Rodney Jerkins, there's a world of difference between Jerkins' pop perfectionism and Knowles' bratty adventures in cut-rate divadom. Survivor starts off with the two worst singles in the group's history, "Independent Women, Part 1" (unfortunately, there is a Part 2, and it's on the album) and "Survivor." But those glib exercises in tinny self-empowerment sound like lost collaborations between Phil Spector and Brian Wilson compared to the rest of the album. The wan would-be sex-funk of "Bootylicious" manages the nearly impossible feat of being far worse than its title would suggest, while "Nasty Girl" finds the trio hurling insults at a hip-hop harlot. Just what pop music needs: self-righteous prudery from a group that wears camouflage bikinis in its videos. Nobody expects Leonard Cohen-like profundity from Knowles, but the words to "Nasty Girl"—"Nasty, put some clothes on, I told ya / Don't walk out your house without your clothes on, I told ya / Girl, whatcha thinking 'bout looking that tore-down?"—never rise above the level of schoolyard bullying. The album's remainder continues in a similar vein, alternating quasi-sexy neo-funk ("Apple Pie A La Mode") with flaccid gospel ("Gospel Medley") and snooze-inducing easy-listening tripe ("Dangerously In Love," "Brown Eyes") before ending with an insufferable, self-congratulatory tribute to its own greatness ("Outro [DC-3] Thank You"). The success of "Independent Women, Part 1" and "Survivor" suggests that Destiny's Child hasn't yet worn out its welcome. But if the group wants to survive the stormy seas of the pop world for more than a few years, it should call its stable of songwriting wizards ASAP.
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