Call Of The Child

  • To paraphrase the Supremes, where does the love go? After tabloidy squabbles, Spice Girls went from a quintet to a quartet and lost their audience; En Vogue shrank from a quartet to a trio and went out of style. It's tough for any group of divas to stay on top--they're often in 3-in. heels, after all--and just a few months ago, Destiny's Child, an R.-and-B. quartet that's now a trio, seemed to be tottering. But late last year, its single, Independent Women Part I, went to No. 1. And last week the group received four Grammy nominations. Lead singer Beyonce Knowles earned a fifth nod for songwriting, tying with veteran rap producer Dr. Dre as this year's most nominated act.

    The honors confirm Beyonce's status--she has earned the right to go by a single name--as a major star. They are also welcome proof that although the group may have lost members, it hasn't lost its way. "It is definitely tough," says Beyonce, 19. "A lot of people don't have any concept of how many sacrifices we have to make. You have to accept it, because if you don't, you won't last."

    The group got its start around 1990 in Houston, with Beyonce and LaTavia Roberson, who were soon joined by Kelendria ("Kelly") Rowland and LeToya Luckett. Mathew Knowles, Beyonce's father, took over as manager, eventually quitting his job selling MRI and CT scanners. Although based in the Lone Star State, the group turned to Motown for inspiration.

    "I love and respect the Supremes because they were glamorous, and whenever they walked into a room they lit up the room," says Beyonce. "That's what Destiny's Child tries to do." It's been a bumpy journey, including a nationally televised loss on Star Search in 1992 ("The song we did was not good," admits Beyonce). But a breakthrough finally came in 1998, when Destiny's Child's self-titled debut album became a hit, eventually selling more than 1 million copies. The 1999 follow-up, The Writing's on the Wall, has sold more than 7 million--and counting.

    But by December 1999, the sweet harmonies had turned sour. Luckett and Roberson delivered letters to Knowles "disaffirming" him as their manager and filed a suit charging that his "greed, insistence on control, self-dealing and promotion of his daughter's interests at the expense of Plaintiffs, became the dominant forces in Destiny's Child." Knowles, who disputes the charges, says Luckett's and Roberson's roles in Destiny's Child were "imaging more so than talent." He replaced them with Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams. Luckett and Roberson's lawyer, Randy Bowman, defends them: "My clients' talent has been validated by people in the industry with a more substantial record by far than Mathew's."

    Beyonce says the split was about values: "Kelly and I and the former members were two different groups with two different goals and two different work ethics. Either Destiny's Child would self-destruct, or we would find two new members. And we decided to find two new members. And it worked." Not for long. Five months after joining, Franklin was dropped. "She didn't come to work for two weeks," says Beyonce. "She couldn't handle it. And so she had to go."

    Destiny's Child is in the studio working on its third album, aptly titled Survivor. Says Rowland: "What excites me the most about the new album is that this time with Destiny's Child, everyone in the group can sing." Beyonce is also set to star in mtv's Carmen Brown, a hip-hop update of the movie Carmen Jones.

    The current and former members of Destiny's Child may soon come face to face again. Luckett told TIME that she plans to attend the Grammys. "I hope to bring my running partner LaTavia with me," she says. What will she do if she runs into her former bandmates? "I'll hug them and tell them I love them," she says. Still, a reunion tour is not in the cards. Says Beyonce: "I think the best Destiny's Child is the Destiny's Child now." As another Supremes song once said, you can't hurry love.