Keep on Surviving: The enduring legacy of Destiny’s Child’s defining album, ‘Survivor’

May 1, 2001.
Long before Kelly aired her “Dirty Laundry,” before Michelle had a Journey to Freedom, and before Beyoncé turned her lemons into lemonade, Destiny’s Child at just 19 and 20 years old stepped out as voices of empowerment for our generation.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Destiny’s Child released their iconic Survivor album. It is amazing to think back to that time, and that album, as a fan and reflect upon how much has changed since.

When the group released Survivor, they were hot off the success of their biggest hit to date, “Independent Women Part 1” (the soundtrack to the hit movie Charlie’s Angels), the massively successful The Writing’s on the Wall era, and had cemented their second and final lineup: a trio, consisting of Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle, rebranded as DC3.

The drama surrounding the group only added to public interest in them, and the Survivor era had a phenomenal start. Prefaced by an 11 week long #1 in “Independent women,” the set was lead off by its title track which hit #1 on Airlay chart and #2 on the Hot 100, fended off by Janet Jackson’s “All For You.” However, redemption came quickly and in competition with yet another diva who inspired the trio: Mariah Carey. The Stevie Nicks sampling “Bootylicious” hit the pole position, edging out Mariah’s “Loverboy” (we won’t go into the nasty details on how Mariah’s ex made this event swing in DC3’s favor). Subsequently, Survivor debuted at number one with over 663,000 copies sold. For its final single in the US, the trio chose a cover of The Bee Gees-penned “Emotion,” which peaked at a modest #10.

While it was a bit of a short-lived era in its present, Survivor has endured as a defining moment in the ladies’ careers. The Writing’s on the Wall opened the door to their “male bashing” songs, Survivor took a turn in a different direction instead. The album was empowering rather than shady like its predecessor. It marked the beginning of a career of empowerment for the ladies of Destiny’s Child.

While the album itself was by no means an innovative artistic masterpiece, it is still a pristine example of pop perfection. It unbiasedly melds R&B inspirations and hip-hop nuances into an unique brand of pop that defined the early 2000s. There was something that set DC3 and Survivor apart from its competition, though: its content and message.

The album deals with a variety of topics: obviously empowerment (specifically female), independence, body image (“Bootylicious”), self esteem (“Happy Face”), hate (“Fancy”), over-sexualization and perception (“Nasty Girl”), sexual abuse (“The Story of Beauty” – written by Beyoncé based on fan mail DC3 received), friendship (“Thank You”) and of course, love – and surviving heartbreak.

It is because of this that Survivor resonated with millions of fans that have stuck by Destiny’s Child ever since – like me. Of all the late 90s, early 2000s Pop groups Destiny’s Child’s legacy is by the far the most long lasting and beloved. If the ladies announced a proper reunion today, undoubtedly it would yield tremendous success. Why? Because fans have such a strong connection to this group. They may have retired, but the love between them has survived. There is no pretense, there is no need for a reunion for the sake of their careers. Of all their Pop group peers, only Destiny’s Child’s members have found notable success with their solo ventures. When they reunite it is out of pure love; and love conquers all.

Their iconic status was cemented with their 2004 comeback, Destiny Fulfilled, but Survivor was really their defining moment. It was the springboard to the success that came for all three of them. The sisterhood that was established with Survivor is perhaps the best aspect of it all. For millions of young girls, Destiny’s Child was the example of a strong sisterhood. For millions of people, period – Destiny’s child is a symbol that no matter what life throws at you, you can survive it: “After all of the darkness and sadness, still comes happiness. If I surround myself with positive things, I’ll gain prosperity.” Indeed, they did, and by doing so, showed millions of people that they can too. This message has endured 15 years, and will for sure last for many, many more. So, put your fist up and celebrate that you, too, are a “Survivor” today.

1 Comment

  1. Pedro Progresso

    May 19, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    I love this album, bought when it was released.I was really young (about 12) and tried to keep up with the words. The analysis is really nice too! And I’m writing this to add something that you might not know. it’s a cover from “Survivor” made last year by a braziian singer/humorist/feminist activist, she’s really popular and the video became a hit. I guess that it shows how much Survivor still relevant.

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