When I lived in Ethiopia in 1989 there were zero record stores. That's not an approximate number; that's what happens in socialist regimes. I am now living in ultra-capitalist Korea, it's 2001, but despite these facts I still can't find a copy Stevie Nicks' Trouble In Shangri-La, released two months ago to the rest of the world.
So when I see anti-globalization protesters on television, I am thinking, WHAT COUNTRY ARE WE FROM??? I want to be able to use my Korean credit card (with its lower rates) to make Amazon.com purchases. I want to eat Ethiopian injera in Seoul. Above all, I want to have more than Destiny's Child, NSync and Britney Spears as my "Overseas Pop" selection in the local record store.
How to explain the success of Destiny's Child? It's related to the concept of choice underlining my above rant; when you're an R&B fan and you walk into a record store these days, you won't find much of a choice out there. Sure, both Janet Jackson and Aaliyah have recently dropped new albums, but there was a huge stretch of sheer nothing before that. It was the polar opposite of, say, winter of 1994, when Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Madonna charted simultaneously.
Survivor doesn't live up to its chart position (then again, what does nowadays?). There's one excellent track: with its "Edge Of Seventeen" sample, "Bootylicious", the album's second number one after the overplayed title track, takes bounce to a hyper new level. Then there are a bunch of OK tracks, ones that would serve as last-minute fillers in a TLC album: "Independent Women Part I", a track that went number one due to lack of competition, dancy fun with "Apple Pie A La Mode", the layered title track, the fun bitchiness of "Fancy" where they (apparently) slag off former members of Destiny's Child, the hypocritical "Nasty Girl" about a girl who dresses too scantily (and a song many a music critic has taken target practice on). "Perfect Man," originally seen on the "Romeo Must Die" soundtrack, is also a good song but any group could've pulled it off so no extra points to DC.
The ballads aren't good, despite the fact that they're well-written songs. DC doesn't have the extra "I have survived" magic to pull of soulfulness and their attempts at profound emotions are as teenage ditty-ish as they come. "Emotion", a Bee Gees cover, and "Dangerously In Love" should've been done with coolness of expression and restraint but they have the embarrassing heat of teenage desperation (well, they *are* technically teenagers). Beyonce makes the mistake of being all alone for "My Heart Still Beats" which sounds exactly like your next door neighbor imitating Mariah Carey.
Carey has recorded not a few duds in the past but at least her voice made it interesting; the annoying fact of the matter is that Destiny's Child just aren't that special. Replace them with any three girls who can somewhat harmonize and you'll have Destiny's Child... in fact, tellingly, the current version is not 1.0 (they've gone through two members so far, in a sinister Supremes sort of way; this is currently the third version).
A friend of mine recently said, "Let's see what happens when TLC releases another album. Anyone remember En Vogue?" I don't know about the other industries but the commercial music sector could use some of that high competition of a globalized society.