Sisterhood is such an important part of music today. Sure, there aren’t so many actual pairs of sisters on the charts these days, but, on a broader level, the ethos of close kinship among performers can often transcend all that is petty and fake within the industry. From the Pointer Sisters to the Breeders, the bond of sisterhood has proved a winning force in popular music, and today more than ever we see countless groups with a similar closeness: even though their members may share no genetic material, the love is definitely there.
Let’s take Beyonce Knowles and Kelendria (Kelly) Rowland, who have remained the only constant part of the ever-shifting Destiny’s Child lineup since 1992. Knowles and Rowland are cousins, but, even further, the closeness of their relationship throughout the group’s notoriously unpleasant personnel changes speaks to the strength of their bond. If the near-sisterhood between the two is not evident enough in the cavalcade of Destiny’s Child hits bombarding radio, television and movies now and forever, then Rowland’s solo debut Simply Deep may be all the proof we need.
By now, of course, we all know Destiny’s Child. They’re the sassy, independent women who brought us such hits as “Say My Name,” “Survivor,” and the infernally lively “Jumpin’ Jumpin.'” Their songs are just about catchy and danceable enough to deserve the stifling amount of airtime they get, and what they lack in diversity from album to album is made up for by their outlandish adaptability to every imaginable commercial use. For what they do, it’s fair to say that the members of Destiny’s Child do it well — among colleagues such as TLC and En Vogue they hold their own just fine. But the persistent question is this: in a market that thrives on the disposability and interchangeability of popular music, are Destiny’s Child’s songs useful beyond the odd club anthem and the irritating soda commercial? Sadly, each new (or reissued old) Destiny’s Child album sways the answer more to the negative.
But, even sadder, so does Simply Deep. Not only does Rowland’s solo turn come across as stale and relatively derivative, but it also fails at the crucial task of setting her apart from her sisters. Its strengths are little different from the strengths of “Survivor” (which were admittedly ample), while its weak moments range from the nondescript to the notably unpleasant (“Train On A Track” sounds consistently a note off-key, while the lyrics of “Stole” turn an otherwise sweet tune into an ineffective post-Columbine lament). Rowland covers very little new ground; when she breaks off on her own she sounds uneasy and hesitant, and when she doesn’t she seems to lack the heart she has with the rest of her group. Either way, Simply Deep doesn’t quite make it out of the Destiny’s Child shadow alive.
Simply Deep is, granted, more simple than it is deep, but at least it packs in enough variety to avoid monotony (though very little in comparison to the rest of the albums under the Destiny’s Child umbrella). It’s all here: the slow, soulful ballads such as “Obsession,” which show off Rowland’s considerable vocal talent; the mid-tempo club numbers, including “Can’t Nobody,” which sound no different from any Destiny’s Child song (perhaps with a less tenacious hook); and the obligatory fast and lively songs featuring rappers such as “Dilemma,” which features Nelly “playing [his] position like a shortstop” and a bonus track called “Make U Wanna Stay” featuring the apparently noteworthy (?) Joe Budden. Everything that made the Destiny’s Child formula such a success will most likely make Simply Deep relatively popular, but will we be able to tell them apart a year from now?
Sisterhood is such an important part of music today that Rowland seems to have forgotten that a little sibling rivalry is also healthy. Perhaps she’s just overburdened by the tried-and-true influence of the Knowles family, who have no trouble making their presence felt. Beyonce Knowles does not appear on the album, but her sister Solange does and her father Mathew produced it. Her absence on the album fails to downplay the Destiny’s Child resemblance, instead making it seem like something is missing. Simply Deep, then, is one of the rare places where a full-fledged Destiny’s Child album would have been welcome instead.