The tremendous amount of maturity and artistic growth displayed (especially over a 3 year period) was staggering. Knocking down the proverbial “fourth wall,” they wrote their most guttural and connected album yet, telling a progressing story of the deterioration and reconstruction of a woman’s spirit while loving another person more than herself. It was therapy on wax, as most of the songs described the psychology of a woman whose acquisition of love is unhealthy. It boldly confronted the backwards practice of using the heart, mind and body as a bargaining chip; offering it all instantly in a hopeful exchange for affection, instead of a gift given after it is earned. The various layers of this are explored—1) rejection and competition, 2) bitterness, 3) susceptibility to emotional manipulations, 4) forfeiting trueness to and development of the self to become someone else’s ideal, 5) rationalizing mistreatment and abuse and 6) forcing yourself to accept things you honestly dislike to get whatever attachment you can from a potential mate. A few of the tracks tackle multiple layers; “Through with Love” nearly took on the whole enchilada: “I gave up my friends…threw out my dreams if you said you didn't approve…compromised my life just to see I'd find you were trying hold me back, slowly throwing me off my track…there you go comparing me to every little model on the TV screen…my esteem has gone down…you make me feel dumb and alone…paralyzed my growth for you, I gave you control, felt so helpless without you…I have given so much in the past for a love I never had…through with love, I'm finally giving it up.”
“Is She the Reason” bluntly hits layer 6 on the nail while addressing the epidemic of ‘giving the milk for free:’ “…remember we were different…I was cool with no commitment, let me take that back, it was you, so I was with it.” “Reason,” along with the Japanese bonus track “Why You Actin’,” tells what usually happens after the milk’s been taken. With no titles, you’re not entitled. The person has the freedom to leave, so they do and you’re left feeling inadequate, foolish and emotionally bankrupt after a bad investment into someone with no credit.
Concession is discussed even to the point of spiritual confliction and revelation. Rumored eliminated song “Have Your Way” was likely on the chopping block for its melodic dryness, but its saddening tale was a familiar one and a powerful statement: “I changed my life for you and all that you could do is betray me…Lord I'm trying to do what pleasing in your sight, but I'm in love; right now I'm caught up. Instead of leaving, I know you’ll be right by my side and you'll make a way… I've spent too much time playing wife...O Lord forgive me, I thought by now we'd be married… you've shown no commitment to me… I cannot blame you for using me if I continue to let this be, ‘cause shacking with a man just ain't me.” Faith-based values are rarely approached in secular music; it shows how much DC looked within to make this album (the members have a religious background). Lines in “Bad Habit” and “Through” compensate in “Way’s” absence. In fact, “Through’s” conclusion is finding resolve in spiritual love. It completes Fulfilled’s closing “reconstruction” trifecta that includes my favorites, “If” and the inner peace anthem “Free.” I love “If” partly for the same reason I love Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable:” they musically seem sweet and gentle, but have a feisty message.
Destiny Fulfilled’s sensitive and inspiring narrative, classic appeal and vocal performance made it an enduring R&B record and Destiny’s Child’s best. With just 11 songs on the standard edition, it left you wanting more. I remember thinking “Hey! This is your last album and we only got 11 songs? Not fair!” Haha. The trio got together for “You Changed,” featured on Rowland’s Talk a Good Game last year. I was like Rose from Titanic; I could still smell the fresh paint. It sounded like it came right off of Fulfilled! It was as if no time had passed; the chemistry was still intact. It made me crave a reunion that much more. If Destiny Fulfilled is what was they came up with after some independent life experience, a project now would be complete slayage.
I’ve had some new observations about this decade old (I really can’t believe it’s been that long) CD. I wonder if “Cater 2 U” was secretly about over-extending yourself to be the perfect mate. Kelly’s verse always stuck out to me: “I know whatever I'm not fulfilling another woman is willing...I'll keep it tight, I'll keep my figure right, I'll keep my hair fixed, keep rocking the hottest outfits. When you come home late, tap me on my shoulder, I'll roll over, baby I heard you, I'm here to serve you.” Given the themes in the rest of the songs, I just wonder, particularly since we end up at “This time is for me, you’ve been doing you, I'm going to do me…I lived and breathed you and all your needs, let me speak, it's best I do what's best for me” on “Free.” I wasn’t the only 1 who thought about this; a friend said: “The entire project was cyclical. It starts with the vanity of finding a sexual partner [“Lose My Breath], then looking for a bad-boy [“Soldier”] and by “Cater 2 U,” she’s saying “My life would be purposeless without you” and over-investing in this man she barely knows.”
“Bad Habit” is where the central character finally finds the strength to leave the careening relationship, but seems to feel remorseful about it: “It's not the fact that I don't love you no more, but I got to break this bad habit.” Again, the lyrics get into psychology. It wasn’t until my own bad habit that I understood how you can still care about sparing the feelings of someone who has damaged you. Some actually thought Fulfilled was too vulnerable; but I think its depictions of healing through self-love, bonds and divinity after brokenness made it complete and empowering. The 1 observation fans collectively had was that the video for “Girl” may literally have been about, Kelly, its lead. Rowland detailed on Game single “Dirty Laundry” that she was in an abusive relationship “Post-Survivor…almost been a decade” with someone who tried to drive a wedge between her and Beyonce`: “He said, ‘Don't nobody love you but me, not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey.’ He turned me against my sister; I missed you.” Clearly, homeboy wasn’t successful, thank goodness. Maybe the whole album was about Kelly’s experience…maybe not. Nevertheless, the lessons of Destiny Fulfilled are abundant and play on.
Thank you, Destiny’s Child.
Shout out to “Gots My Own” (Japanese edition); it goes. “You’re heavy in your game, but I’m saturated; tryna’ figure me out, but you just can’t figure me out.”