Say her name, say her name! Beyonce (sounds like ”fiancé”) Knowles, lead singer of the lineup challenged Destiny’s Child, has reportedly inked a solo deal with Columbia Records. (Columbia declined to comment on the deal.) The reported three album contract, which netted the 19 year old star a $1.5 million advance, comes after months of rumors that Knowles was about to pull a Diana Ross and ditch the group, which has lost three members in the past year.
So far, though, Knowles’ solo plans don’t mean the end of Destiny’s Child, whose current single — ”Independent Women, Part I” from the ”Charlie’s Angels” soundtrack — sits at No. 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. They’ll perform at the VH1/ Vogue Fashion Awards this Friday (9 p.m., VH1). In February, they’ll release ”Independent Women,” the follow-up to their 6 million selling album ”The Writing’s on the Wall,” which features the top 10 hit ”Jumpin, Jumpin” (cowritten and coproduced by Knowles). And a Columbia spokesperson says the trio will then embark upon an international headlining tour. Because of this, it’s doubtful Knowles could release a solo record until 2002 at the earliest.
Still, don’t be surprised if you increasingly see her making appearances sans her pitch perfect partners. ”The first step [in launching her solo career] is creating a separate identity for herself,” says Angelo Ellerbee, President/ CEO of Double XXPosure, which provides career advice to hip hop and R&B stars including Mary J. Blige and D.M.X. Indeed, Knowles already showed up Child-less when she cohosted the MTV Movie Awards preshow with Sisqó and when she presented a Source award. She’s also been recording without her gal pals, dueting with label mate Marc Nelson on ”The Best Man” soundtrack and belting backup vocals for Jay-Z’s female rap protegée Amil on the single ”I Got That.”
But while establishing herself as a solo performer, Knowles must be careful not to alienate fans of the group. This includes not publicly dissing former members. ”No one cares if one girl cheated you out of something and another one wore your shoes,” warns Ellerbee. And Knowles should also praise her sistahs in song whenever possible; she needs to appear gracious and not back bitingly ”am-bitch-ious.” Says Ellerbee: ”She can’t go negative. She needs to give thanks to the group and to the fans who’ve been most supportive of Destiny’s Child.”
That said, Ellerbee thinks it’s too soon for the charismatic and vocally deft Knowles to go solo. After all, Destiny’s Child has had only one smash album, and many record buyers have just learned about the group, not to mention its exotically named frontwoman. ”It’s called paying dues,” says Ellerbee. ”You should at least do five to eight years in the business before you decide to come out and be Diana Ross.” And, by all means, stay away from any ill advised reunion tours.