The Writing's on the Wall

The Writing's on the Wall is the second studio album by American girl group Destiny's Child, released on July 27, 1999, by Columbia Records. The album was produced by Missy Elliott, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Rodney Jerkins, and Beyoncé Knowles among others and included guest appearances from rapper Missy Elliott and R&B trio Next. The Writing's on The Wall spawned four singles, including the US number one-hits "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name" as well as "Bug a Boo" and "Jumpin', Jumpin'". This is the last album with the group's original line-up. The album saw the group taking creative control from writing and producing their own tracks working closely with producer and singer-songwriter Xscape member Kandi Burruss. "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Bug a Boo" were among the first songs written and produced by the group.

The Writing's on the Wall
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 27, 1999 (1999-07-27)
RecordedDecember 1998 – March 1999
Genre
Length64:52
LabelColumbia
Producer
Destiny's Child chronology
Destiny's Child
(1998)
The Writing's on the Wall
(1999)
The Platinum's on the Wall
(2001)
Singles from The Writing's on the Wall
  1. "Bills, Bills, Bills"
    Released: June 14, 1999 (1999-06-14)
  2. "Bug a Boo"
    Released: August 23, 1999 (1999-08-23)
  3. "Say My Name"
    Released: February 29, 2000 (2000-02-29)
  4. "Jumpin, Jumpin"
    Released: July 4, 2000 (2000-07-04)

The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart on August 14, 1999, with first-week sales of 132,000 units, and later peaked at number five on May 6, 2000. It earned Destiny's Child six Grammy nominations for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (twice), Best R&B Song (twice), Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. The Writing's on the Wall was certified 8× Platinum by the RIAA on November 6, 2001, and has sold over 6 million copies in the United States alone.[3] Billboard magazine ranked The Writing's on the Wall at number 39 on the magazine's Top 200 Albums of the Decade.[4] By 2002 The Writing's on the Wall had 13 million copies worldwide.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[5]
Chicago Sun-Times[6]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[7]
Entertainment WeeklyB[1]
The Guardian[8]
NME6/10[9]
Pitchfork9.0/10[10]
Q[11]
Rolling Stone[12]
Robert Christgau(B+)[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[14]
The Village VoiceB+[13]

The Writing's on the Wall received generally favorable reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic gave the album four out of five stars, stating:

"With their second album, Writing's on the Wall, Destiny's Child still suffers from slightly uneven songwriting, but it's nevertheless an assured step forward for the girl group. Not only are they maturing as vocalists, they are fortunate to work with such skilled, talented producers as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Rodney Jerkins, D'Wayne Wiggins, Chad Elliot, Daryl Simmons, and Missy Elliott, who all give the quartet rich, varied music upon which to work their charm. So, even when the album fails to deliver memorable songs, it always sounds alluring, thanks to the perfect combination of vocalists and producers."[5]

Rob Brunner from Entertainment Weekly gave the album the grade of B, stating:

"Judging from The Writing's on the Wall, the second album from Destiny’s Child, it's not Briggs' fault. With his help, the Houston quartet (Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and the unimaginatively monikered Kelly) prove themselves to be more capable of confident, inventive R&B than many of their contemporaries. Though Briggs is joined by a slew of trendy producers (including Elliott and Rodney Jerkins), Wall still manages to avoid sounding like a mere rehash of other people's hits. With a snaky lead vocal that slithers around staccato harmony parts, the aptly titled album opener "So Good" coolly mixes restrained production and playful melody. "Bills, Bills, Bills", the first single, is a sort of companion piece to "No Scrubs", taking on guys who seem perfect but turn into jerks once they get comfortable in a relationship. And "If You Leave", a duet with male vocal trio Next, is an ambitious collaboration that delivers despite its potentially lethal abundance of voices. Wall gets bogged down by too much banal balladry ("Stay", "Sweet Sixteen"), proving Destiny's Child to be capable of sounding exactly like any other group of snooze-inducing slow-jammers. But more often they recognize the difference between extremes of pitch and extremes of passion, a distinction lost on many R&B balladeers (Blaque frequently fall for this trap, and they’d probably spend even more time screaming and yelling if they were a little better at it). Destiny's Child have learned a thing or two from the Supremes, singers who knew how to use a well-placed pause or a quietly sung harmony to maximum effect. No, they haven't managed to reach that lofty level on Wall, but if you're casting Motown '99, the album's worth a listen. Its best stuff is close enough to the spirit of the Supremes to at least win them a callback."[1]

Robert Christgau gave the album the grade of B+, stating:

"I like teenpop fine, but please, one song at a time. And since teenpop likes this glamorous femme quartet, individual songs are all a reasonable grownup would expect. Uh-uh. Lyrics are the usual problem–if there's a quotable quote here, I haven't noticed it. But that may just be because the multivalent harmonies, suavely irregular beats, and, not incidentally, deep-seated self-respect have been keeping me busy ever since I heard through the visuals."[13]

Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone, however, gave the album negative review, giving it the grade of two out of five stars, stating:

"Destiny's Child blew up last summer with "No, No, No", which wiggled seductively while begging the question, Since there are four ladies in the group, shouldn't that be "No, No, No, No"? Or is one still making up her mind? The Houston R&B group's new hit, "Bills, Bills, Bills", takes the same three-out-of-four-divas approach to a classic pop sentiment: These gals don't want your love, just your money money money. But unlike TLC's "No Scrubs", "Bills" isn't sexy enough to get you up off your deadbeat ass. The track has too much fussy clutter, and the singers hang out the passenger side of TLC's ride, groveling for spare change like forty-niners who've been on the job since '29. The Writing's on the Wall has a similar case of the blahs. Despite OK moments like the "Waterfalls sequel "Sweet Sixteen", the Destiny children never find that one money tune that turns a no-no-no scrub into a yeah-yeah-yeah paying customer."[12]

However, Nathan Brackett and Christian David Hoard from The New Rolling Stone Album Guide gave a more positive review and the grade of four out of five stars in 2004, five years after The Writing's on the Wall was released.[14]

Organization Country Accolade Year Source
Complex United States The Best R&B Albums of '90s (ranked 31) 2017 [15]
Entertainment Weekly United States The 100 Best Albums From 1983 to 2008 (ranked 92) 2008 [16]
Vibe United States "The 150 Albums that Define the Vibe Era" 2007 [17]
NME United Kingdom 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (ranked 454) 2013 [18]
The Face United Kingdom The Face Recordings of the Year (ranked 9) 1999 [19]
Q United Kingdom "100 Women Who Rock the World" (ranked 77) 2002 [20]
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States "The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time" (ranked 160) 2007 [21]
Rolling Stone United States "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (ranked 291) 2020 [22]
NPR United States "The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women" (ranked 61) 2017 [23]
Okayplayer United States "The 19 Most Influential R&B Albums of '90s" 2019 [24]
Popmatters United States "The Most Memorable Albums of 1999" 2020 [25]

Commercial performance

In the United States the album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 on August 14, 1999, selling over 132,000 copies in its first week and slipped to number ten the following week with 100,000 copies. It remained in the top forty for most of 1999 and had sold over 1.6 million copies by the end of the year according to Nielsen SoundScan and was certified 2× platinum in January 2000. Nine months after its release The Writing's on the Wall, following the huge success of third single "Say My Name", returned to the top ten, peaking at number five on May 6, 2000. During its first year on the chart it spent forty-seven out of fifty-two weeks in the top forty (including eleven weeks in the top ten) or better and was the tenth best-selling album of 2000, selling 3.8 million copies during the year. The Writing's on the Wall enjoyed its best week of sales more than one year after its release when it sold over 163,000 units during the Christmas week of 2000, and by the release of the group's third album Survivor it had scanned 5.8 million in the United States and shipped over seven million copies. The Writing's on the Wall spent ninety-nine consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 (from the summer of 1999 until the spring of 2001) and was certified 8× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on November 8, 2001. It has sold 6,347,000 copies to date in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan,[3] and over 700,000 at BMG Music Club.

Worldwide The Writing's on the Wall was a similarly huge hit and became one of the best-selling R&B albums of all-time. It achieved gold, platinum and multi-platinum status across Europe and was certified 2× platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in early 2001 in recognition of two million albums sold in Europe. In Canada, the album peaked within the top on Canadian Albums Chart and was certified 5× platinum by Music Canada for selling over 500,000 copies. It was certified 3× platinum in the United Kingdom by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), in New Zealand by the Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) and in Australia by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

Controversy

Michelle Williams (above) and Farrah Franklin joined the group as replacements for Luckett and Roberson.

In December 1999, Luckett and Roberson attempted to split with their manager, claiming that he kept a disproportionate share of the group's profits and unfairly favored Knowles and Rowland.[26] While they never intended to leave the group, when the video for "Say My Name" surfaced in February 2000, Roberson and Luckett found out that two new members were joining Knowles and Rowland.[26] Prior to the video premiere, Knowles announced on TRL that original members Luckett and Roberson had left the group.[27] They were replaced by Michelle Williams, a former backup singer to Monica, and Farrah Franklin, an aspiring singer-actress.[28] Shortly after her stint with Monica, Williams was introduced to Destiny's Child by choreographer Braden Larson aka "Peanut Orlando", and was flown to Houston where she stayed with the Knowles family.[28]

In March 2000, Roberson and Luckett filed a lawsuit against Mathew Knowles and their former bandmates for breach of partnership and fiduciary duties. Following the suit, both sides were disparaging towards each other in the media.[26] Five months after joining, Franklin left the group. The remaining members claimed that this was due to missed promotional appearances and concerts. According to Williams, Franklin could not handle stress.[28] Franklin, however, disclosed that she left because of the negativity surrounding the strife and her inability to assert any control in the decision making.[26] Her departure was seen as less controversial. Williams, on the other hand, disclosed that her inclusion in the group resulted in her "battling insecurity": "I was comparing myself to the other members, and the pressure was on me."[28]

Towards the end of 2000, Roberson and Luckett dropped the portion of their lawsuit aimed at Rowland and Knowles in exchange for a settlement, though they continued the action against their manager. As part of the agreement, both sides were prohibited from speaking about each other publicly.[26] Roberson and Luckett formed another girl group named Anjel but also left it due to issues with the record company. Although band members were affected by the turmoil, Destiny's Child's success continued. The following years of their career were seen as the group's most successful stretch,[26] becoming a pop culture phenomenon.[27]

There was also controversy surrounding the rights to use the "Columbia" name and trademark for the album's release in international markets. There were different rules for owning the rights to the "Columbia" brand name, depending on the market. For the album's release in Japan, where Columbia Records’ parent company Sony does not use the "Columbia" name or trademark, for example, the label was re-branded as SME Records (SME is an abbreviation for Sony Music Entertainment), which is a sublabel of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation and operates independently from the American Sony Music Entertainment, of which Columbia Records is a part of.[29] The "Columbia" name and trademark are actually controlled in Japan by Nippon Columbia, which is a direct competitor and neither has direct relations with the American Columbia Records, nor with Sony Music Japan. It should, however, be noted that Nippon Columbia was, in fact, the former licensee for the American Columbia Records up until 1968, when Sony Music Japan's predecessor, CBS/Sony Inc., was established.

Track listing

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes[30]

The Writing's on the Wall – Standard edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Intro (The Writing's on the Wall)"
  • Knowles
  • Donald Holmes
  • Gerard Thomas
  • Anthony Hardy
2:05
2."So Good"
3:13
3."Bills, Bills, Bills"
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Kandi
  • Briggs
4:16
4."Confessions" (featuring Missy Elliott)
4:57
5."Bug a Boo"
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Roberson
  • Kandi
  • Briggs
3:32
6."Temptation"
  • Wiggins
  • Terry T[c]
4:05
7."Now That She's Gone"
  • Fambro
  • Boynton
5:35
8."Where'd You Go"
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Roberson
  • Platinum Status
  • Chris Stokes
  • Knowles
  • Platinum Status
  • Stokes
4:15
9."Hey Ladies"
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Roberson
  • Kandi
  • Briggs
4:16
10."If You Leave" (featuring Next)
  • Elliot
  • Hunter
4:35
11."Jumpin, Jumpin"
  • Knowles
  • Rufus Moore
  • Elliot
  • Elliot
  • Knowles
  • Jovonn Alexander
3:50
12."Say My Name"
  • R. Jerkins
  • Daniels[b]
4:31
13."She Can't Love You"
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Roberson
  • Kandi
  • Briggs
4:04
14."Stay"Daryl SimmonsD. Simmons4:51
15."Sweet Sixteen"
  • Knowles[c]
  • Wiggins
4:12
16."Outro (Amazing Grace)" (dedicated to Andretta Tillman)Knowles2:38
The Writing's on the Wall – Japan edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
16."Get on the Bus" (featuring Timbaland)
4:44
17."Bills, Bills, Bills" (Digital Black-N-Groove club mix)
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Kandi
  • Briggs
7:16
The Writing's on the Wall – International edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
17."Get on the Bus" (featuring Timbaland)
  • Elliott
  • Mosley
  • Timbaland
  • Elliott
4:44
The Writing's on the Wall – European re-release (bonus disc)[31]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Independent Women Part I" (Pasadena remix)
3:42
2."Independent Women Part II"
  • Knowles
  • Stewart
  • Seats
3:46
3."8 Days of Christmas"
  • Knowles
  • Errol McCalla
3:31
4."No, No, No Part II" (featuring Wyclef Jean)
3:28
The Writing's on the Wall – European special edition (bonus tracks)[32]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Bills, Bills, Bills" (remix featuring Sporty Thievz)
  • West
  • Poke and Tone[c]
4:00
2."No, No, No Part II" (featuring Wyclef Jean)
  • Herbert
  • Fusari
  • Brown
  • Gaines
3:33
3."Say My Name" (Timbaland remix)
  • Knowles
  • Rowland
  • Luckett
  • Roberson
  • Jerkins
  • Jerkins
  • Daniels
  • Mosley
  • Sean Garrett
Timbaland7:33
The Writing's on the Wall – European special edition (bonus videos)[32]
No.TitleDirector(s)Length
4."No, No, No Part II" (featuring Wyclef Jean) (music video)Darren Grant 
5."Get on the Bus" (music video)Earle Sebastian 
The Writing's on the Wall – Enhanced edition (bonus disc)
No.TitleDirector(s)Length
1."No, No, No Part I" (music video)Darren Grant 

Notes

  • ^a signifies a producer and vocal producer
  • ^b signifies a vocal producer
  • ^c signifies a co-producer
  • ^d signifies an additional vocal producer
  • ^e signifies the song's lyrics being credited to "public domain"
  • Tracks 1–15 end with a short spoken interlude which relates to the following song, spoken by the band members. Each interlude is in the style of the Ten Commandments and are listed on the front of the disc.

Sample Credits

Personnel

  • Bill Ortiz – trumpet
  • Daryl Simmons – drum programming, keyboard programming
  • D'Wayne Wiggins – guitar, producer
  • Rodney Jerkins – producer
  • Claudine Pontier – assistant engineer
  • James Hoover – engineer
  • Steve Baughman – mixing assistant
  • Missy Elliott – performer
  • Jimmy Douglass – engineer
  • Prince Charles Alexandermixing
  • Vince Lars – saxophone
  • Albert Sanchez – photography
  • Blake Eiseman – engineer
  • Dexter Simmons – mixing
  • Brian Springer – engineer
  • Joey Swails – engineer
  • Destiny's Child – main performer
  • Dan Workman – engineer
  • LaShawn Daniels – vocal producer
  • Anthony Hardy – producer
  • Beyoncé Knowles – lead vocals, background vocals
  • LeToya Luckett – background vocals, Lead vocals
  • LaTavia Roberson – background vocals, lead vocals
  • Mathew Knowles – executive producer, mixing
  • Kelly Rowland – lead vocals, background vocals
  • Michelle Williams – background vocals (re-issued version only on UK Limited Edition Bonus CD "Independent Women Part I & II")
  • Farrah Franklin – background vocals (re-issued version only on UK Limited Edition Bonus CD "Independent Women Part I & II")
  • Kenny Stallworth – assistant engineer
  • Donald "Lenny" Holmes – producer
  • Nealante – producer
  • K-Fam – producer
  • Gerard Thomas – producer
  • Chris Bell – engineer
  • Brad Gildem – engineer
  • Jean Marie Hurout – engineer, mixing
  • Kevin "Shekspere" Briggs – producer
  • Kevin "KD" Davis – mixing
  • Tara Geter Tillman – background vocals
  • Mike Calderon – engineer
  • Jon Gass – engineer
  • Thom "TK" Kidd – engineer
  • Tony Williams – drum programming
  • Vernon J. Mungo – engineer
  • Kandi Burruss – producer

Charts

Certifications and sales

Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[69] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Belgium (BEA)[70] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[71] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[72] 2× Platinum 40,000
France (SNEP)[73] 2× Gold 200,000*
Germany (BVMI)[74] Gold 250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[75] 2× Platinum 200,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[76] 3× Platinum 45,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[77] Platinum 20,000*
Sweden (GLF)[78] Gold 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[79] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[80] 3× Platinum 1,000,000[81]
United States (RIAA)[82] 8× Platinum 6,400,000[83]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[84] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

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  75. "Dutch album certifications – Destiny's Child – The Writing's on the Wall" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Enter The Writing's on the Wall in the "Artiest of titel" box.
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  77. "Norwegian album certifications – Destiny's Child – The Writing's on the Wall" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  78. "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 2000" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
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  80. "British album certifications – Destiny's Child – The Writing's on the Wall". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type The Writing's on the Wall in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
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  82. "American album certifications – Destiny's Child – The Writing's on the Wall". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
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