World-beating R&B divas remixed. Occasionally good...
And so the well-oiled six-legged cash-machine marches on into 2002, unfazed
by rumours of a split, determined to root out and destroy the last vestiges
of their credibility. Cue: ‘This Is The Remix’, a cynical piece of make
weight marketing. Which NME would get all indignant about, were it not so
drearily, predictably average.
That the ubiquitous, and rather rubbish, Wyclef Jean contributes one of
the better tracks – an odd, voodoo-funk version of ‘Bug A Boo’ – tells you
exactly what sort of territory we’re in here. The sort of territory where
Lil Bow Wow makes an appearance (never a good idea on a proper grown-up
record) and house producer Maurice Joshua is brought in to give three
tracks a dose of the Ce Ce Pennistons, for maximum penetration across
multiple markets. As for the ballad ‘Heard A Word’, imagine Luther Vandross
coated in syrup and candyfloss.
The backroom boys behind the robo-weirdo R&B revolution, meanwhile, seem
thoroughly uninspired by the source material. Timbaland‘s version of ‘Say My Name’
is okay, no more, while The Neptunes prove, once again, that they only
truly sparkle in tandem with Kelis. Only Rockwilder and a non-freakier
Missy Elliot really raise their game, turning out an inter-stellar
version of ‘Bootylicious’.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this. Destiny’s Child might
have gone out of their way to put themselves across as the blandest
band on the planet – interchangeable band members look good in furry
bikinis, trill magnificently and thank God a lot – but Beyonce Knowles
is no half-wit puppet-diva. She innovated DC‘s trademark sing-song, staccato
vocal style, and was, supposedly, key in fusing that with
Kevin ‘She’kspere’ Briggs’ taut productions on ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’.
She must know that in R&B terms, DC are falling behind the pack.
Rather than try and recapture the gleamingly modern cool of Rodney Jerkins’
sublime ‘Say My Name’ though, DC continue to flounder around in a quagmire
of sappy ballads, Christmas albums and Bee Gees covers. Whether this
attempt to be all things to all people is part of Columbia’s plan to ensure
long-term financial growth of their “product”, or is indicative of DC‘s
innate conservativism matters little. The simple fact is that while, say,
Missy Elliott will go down in history as an innovator, a risk-taker (just
imagine what must have gone through her head when she first heard ‘Get Ur Freak On’),
Destiny’s Child will disappear into memory as a bit of inconsequential,
if very rich, pop fluff.