After kicking off in comic book kitsch style with Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, our new feature ‘Rrramble retrospectives’ is back with a slightly different (but no less opinion dividing) piece of ~art~ Destiny’s Child’s seminal album ‘Survivor’.
But has the album lived up to its name and stood the test of time, or does it belong back in our tweenage bedrooms? Some of our writers dug out their proverbial ipod shuffles to find out…
I adore nostalgia. I get drunk on it. I spend my days watching reruns of old British sitcoms from the early 2000s and reliving my emo phase by blasting My Chemical Romance and Paramore. I look at the past with rose tinted lenses and to me the Survivor album by Destiny’s child is just another shade of rose gold on my noughties-vision glasses. It encompasses my youth. Being born in the late nineties, I was starting to get to the age where music really made an impression on me when this album dropped.
Though, until listening to it recently, I hadn’t realised how enjoyable the album was. A much younger version of myself was perhaps simply invested in how well I could dance to a track, therefore not as behind the strong independent woman vibes the whole album has – mostly because the age I was when I first encountered this album I didn’t know what the patriarchy was let alone how to overthrow it.
That being said, as a woman in my twenties I greatly enjoyed blasting Independent Woman and Sexy Daddy at full volume and screeching the lyrics along. Because much like the lyrics suggest, the girls just want to have fun. And have fun I did.
But… as much as listening to this album now in my twenties brings a sense of nostalgia and even a genuine enjoyment for what, in my opinion, are still bops, there are a few tracks I could do without. I’m not so much of a fan of Nasty Girl. I’m not sure if that’s because in this day and age I am not so fond of the ‘put some clothes on’ rhetoric, and the kind of, very subtle slut shaming that may or may not be hidden in the lyrics. ‘These men don’t want no hot female that’s
been around the block female, you nasty girl” is not as enjoyable to sing along to as a song about embracing your femininity and your need to not have a man validate your experience ala independent woman, but again, baby Jayne was a lot less versed in the ways of the patriarchy and daresay, internalised misogyny. These days I’m much more aware of the content I’m consuming.
Overall, Destiny’s Child album Survivor is an excellent musical choice for nineties babies who still want to feel that thrill of pre-teen confidence. Quite literally an album that you can dance your socks off too and feel invigorated for it. But that being said, there are one or two choice sentiments found woven between the lyrics that should perhaps be left back in the early 2000s where they belong. But if I could lift those songs right out of there? Then I’d happily add this to my Spotify ‘throwback’ playlists.
Destiny’s Child’s 2001 album Survivor is not simply an album, it is a manifesto, it is a way of life. At the ripe old age of 3 I would’ve heard the opening bars of the title track echoing out from the radio for the first time. Unfortunately, I do not remember that far back, but I imagine it was like this-
I wake up, I sit up in bed. I hear the low silky smooth voice of Beyonce Knowles call out ‘KELLY can you handle this?’. I sit there in silence, I think to myself, dear lord I hope Kelly can handle whatever this beautifully-voiced woman is about to throw at her. Then, again, ‘MICHELLE, can you handle this?’- what is happening over there, are they about to get their eyebrows threaded for the first time? Are they about to do cross country on year 8 sports day? Then another ‘BEYONCE can you handle this?’ Who is this Beyonce? Is she the one asking all the questions? Are they about to go into some sort of conflict and are ill prepared hence them not being able to handle it? What is going on? And then, ‘I DON’T THINK THEY CAN HANDLE THIS’ Yeah you’re DAMN RIGHT I can’t handle this sisters, please explain yourselves.
Then finally, there are less questions and instead I hear, for the first time, the absolute banger that is Bootylcious. And in that moment, in those few seconds my life flashed before my eyes and I decided that whatever these three women tell me to do, I’ll do it, and that’s how my love for Destiny’s Child, and a truly deeply rooted adoration for Beyonce, began.
I would listen to Survivor before exams, I still listen to that song after every breakup- even if I’m not that bothered about whatever troll has decided he’s too good for me this time (they never are, right Beyonce?). I listened to Independent Women pt1 (as good as this album is, unfortunately, Independent Women pt2 does fall a bit short, sorry girls) when I got my job, when I graduated.
There’s a song on this album for every mood, a pick-me girl is irritating you? Nasty Girl will remind you that everyone else thinks they’re gross too so don’t worry. You’re in your feels? Emotion will make you cry, mainly because Beyonce fully takes over this song vocally and you end up crying on behalf of Kelly and Michelle because they never stood a chance.
The thing that I love about this album is everything that surrounds it. It’s not just a fun little album that you put on at parties and forget about. The songs can genuinely lift you up and make you feel like the bad bitch you are. These three women teach us about standing up for yourself, not relying on anybody else, that you can cry, have fun and do all of these things while still being hot.
The album’s cover is a delight to the eyes, conjuring flashbacks of their many outstanding matching attires throughout the noughties. That same level of reminiscence continues with lyrics to the first three songs flooding back! First up with Independent Woman: Pt. I, this song sets the narrative for an energy I have long since attributed to the group – one of fierce female empowerment. In the first few seconds, points are already awarded for its overt nod to being part of the iconic film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. Listening to this song almost makes me wish I was a fellow female so I can stick it to the male species; each time I belt it out on a dancefloor gets an accompaniment of shame for being a man. With lyrics that talk of relationships requiring 50/50 effort and everything owned coming out of one’s own bank balance, you can’t not get hyped up! It’s a call to womankind everywhere to remember they don’t need to rely on anyone else but themselves…and the call roars on.
From the first hiss of instrumental in ‘Survivor’, I instantly alter to steely conviction in both body and mind. Though it is inspired by a radio host likening staying in the group to the reality game show Survivor, the song has become a clapback anthem to us all, no matter the doubters. Bursting with lyrics that reference success in the face of haters, its power to enhance self-esteem is still as potent now as it was 20 years ago. Now, Bootylicious might not usher in quite the same ferocity…but the message continues, with one owning their sexual power. Not to mention, blessing the world with one of the most iconic mantras to live by – ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’.
Now, here is where the shame sets in on my part. Once these three songs were done, I quickly realised that I have never heard the rest of the album in my life, nor do I have much desire to do so again. Songs like Nasty Girl and Fancy act as contradictions; the former calling out “classless” women whilst the latter battles women tearing one another down… by dragging your fellow woman. Independent Women Pt. II pales in comparison to its Pt. I, offering lyrics of the same intent, but to a tune and energy of far less impact.
As the rest of Survivor appears to wind down from its initial height, I wonder if I am missing the overall intention. In showing a balance of softness, perhaps the album indicates the complex balance of harnessing power and embracing vulnerability in equal measure? However, to me it just feels anticlimactic. The most disconcerting thought though, is that my life as a Destiny’s Child supporter might be a lie. Finding the gospel I preach to be based on only the bangers that have graced every DJ’s turntable throughout the nation, is it the album itself that is at fault, or…am I merely basic?
I imagine it must take a lot of guts to open up your album with your first two singles. What if people find the rest of the album too boring? Or too slow? Or too rushed? It must take even more guts then to open your album with two of the most iconic R&B singles of the early 2000s, “Independent Women, Pt I” and “Survivor”. Yet, for Destiny’s Child, there seems no other way to begin their journey on Survivor. In fact, you may find the same level of cool coolness and confidence that the group are known for on many of the songs in the first half of the album, with “Apple Pie À La Mode” being a personal standout.
However, to a modern listener, this album may also start off on the wrong foot in many places. Dread sunk in as “Nasty Girl”, the album’s fourth track, began the chanting of “You’s a nasty (Nasty), trashy (Nasty), sleazy (Nasty), classless (Nasty)” and proceeds to describe a woman with her “Booty all out, tongue out her mouth / Cleavage from here to Mexico” and who “make[s] it hard / For girls like myself, who respect themselves / And have dignity”. It’s a big shock as it’s hard to imagine this slut-shaming language coming out of the mouth of the three women who built their careers of empowerment and sisterhood. I can’t also help but feel like it’s slightly hypocritical of them too. On ‘Sexy Daddy’, Beyoncé tells her partner: “Sweetie pie, I think it’s your lucky night / I’m getting buck-wild tonight / I’m gonna have fun, fun, fun, fun,” meanwhile, Kelly chimes in with “Come on baby, I’m about to put it on you / I don’t think I can resist it any longer.”
The second half of the album, following on from “Independent Women, Pt II”, shows a more emotional and raw side to the girls, full of ballads about their partners. Some particular gems in this half are “Dangerously In Love” and “Brown Eyes” (although personally, I find the latter goes on for half a minute too long). However, the emotional intensity of these songs muddies the waters of “Nasty Girl” and “Sexy Daddy” even more, as the message seems to be that it’s fine for these girls to have sex because they’re in love. But girls who have casual sex outside of relationships? Oh, there could be nothing worse for them.
It would be natural then, with all it’s outdated ideas about sex and love, for me to hate this album. But even looking past some of the lyrics, I still loved it. The production still feels slick and fresh, and not quite like anything else we’ve heard before or since, and yet I can see a lot of this album in modern pop music. Ariana Grande’s “fake smile” seems to be direct descendant of “Happy Face”, Katy Perry’s “Bon Appetit” seems to be the fast food equivalent of the gourmet hook of “Apple Pie À La Mode”, and Beyoncé even included a remix of “Dangerously In Love on her own debut solo album. It seems that despite everything that suggests we should perhaps stop listening to Survivor, it’s still hard to walk away from entirely. As Beyoncé says herself, “Even in my years to come, I’m still gon’ be here.”
You can revisit Survivor yourself on all streaming sites including Spotify (but then you knew that).