Achieving diva status means trimming away anything that might get in the way of your showbiz destiny. For Beyonce, that includes not just her surname but also Destiny's Child, the R & B vocal group she began her career in--though they're allegedly still together, it wouldn't be a bit surprising if they never recorded another note collectively. It's a career-making move we've seen before: Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin, Bobby Brown, Kelly Rowland (also of Destiny's Child), and even Michael Jackson have all at some point felt compelled to shed their teensploitation baggage to make it with an adult audience. I wish Beyonce had taken a tip from Justin and enlisted Timbaland and the Neptunes to produce her solo debut, Dangerously in Love (Columbia). But I get why she did it with her dad instead: she wants to prove she can make it on her own (or at least keep it in the family). The faster stuff is ace--a horn fanfare (courtesy of the Chi-Lites) and a hot-stepping beat make the intro of "Crazy in Love" the best 30 seconds to hit radio this year, while Beyonce contours herself expertly to the robogrooves of "Hip-Hop Star" (featuring Outkast's Big Boi) and "Baby Boy" (featuring Sean Paul). Dangerously winds down considerably in its second half, which mostly consists of lukewarm ballads, but Beyonce's singing has improved, and she certainly sounds more at ease here than she did on the last two DC albums. She's turned down the hiccups and melisma, relaxing into the songs rather than attempting to power through them: even something as slight as "Speechless" sounds substantial under her care, and she and Luther Vandross make Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's "The Closer I Get to You" into something more than an ode to falling dead asleep. Nonetheless, the album is too uneven to be Beyonce's best work (that would be Destiny's Child's The Writing's on the Wall). With Bow Wow, Da Band, Murphy Lee & St. Lunatics, Monica, and Twista. Friday, December 19, 6:30 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison; 312-455-4500 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Markus Klinko & Indrani.