By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“Bootylicious” is Beyonce’s combination of “Wanna Be Startin‘ Something” and “Baby Got Back,” a pro-flesh anthem riding a Stevie Nicks sample. If the racial specificity of the song escapes you on the first few listens, try to imagine any white woman in Christendom singing, “I don’t think you‘re ready for this jellyis my body too bootylicious for you, babe?” Not exactly Burn, Hollywood, Burn, but it’s an anthem if you want it to be.
Oh, anthems. The title track blinks like an APPLAUSE sign while Beyonce does her victory lap, the helicopter circles and the ladies stand at attention. For every potential failure she can think of -- “thought I‘d be helpless without you” -- Beyonce comes back with a reason she’s going to make it -- “but I‘m smarter.” She sings it like she’s astride some big, hairy horse, heading for the ramparts. Kelly plays specific to Beyonce‘s archetypal, promising not to attack the nameless person who has dared to doubt D.C. on the radio or in the magazines. Kelly sings, “You know I’m not gon‘ diss you on the Internet,” and the ladies bring home the harmony with “’Cause my mama taught me better than that.” It‘s masterful pop songwriting, bringing common emotions to boil by using simple words in unexpected combination.
Their Mama-centric, church-steeped Southern upbringing runs through their songs like DNA. When they strike back, they do it in character. “Nasty Girl” is addressed to a “nasty,” “trashy,” “sleazy,” “classless” girl, whom Beyonce repeatedly instructs, “Don’t walk out your house without your clothes on, I told you,” and warns, “Everyone knows she‘s easy,” and if that seems puritanical to you, give the song credit for being contra the trend for women in R&B to roll over and show their tummies at the first Ruff Ryder’s bark.
The only thing holding Beyonce back from her Off the Wall may be the current standard ops for R&B and pop record making, and Team Destiny‘s practice of selling before producing. (D.C.’s steroid promo schedule hasn‘t included a lot of woodshedding time.) And as impressive as many of the songs are, a little face time with collaborators might take the crew further, even into Thriller territory. For example, Destiny’s most musical and emotionally complex tune to date, “Say My Name,” was a product of D.C. and Rodney Jerkins‘ team sitting in a room together and writing. The fact that Survivor could stand so tall without that kind of help makes one a little anxious for another, more gently birthed album. (Beyonce’s solo album is tentatively slated for 2002, so dream on.)
Beyonce transforms cliches like goodness, the church and your parents into the cool impenetrability that millions are looking for in transgressive Goth and thug rap. While wearing a silver bikini. The Michael Jackson parallel looks better and better: wholesome impulses, virtuosic artistry and fierce commerce merged into a seamless bundle that only the insensate or fatally grouchy could deny. Ching!