With a red-hot lead single climbing the charts stateside as well as topping them abroad, the women of Destiny's Child are ready to drop their third Columbia effort, "Survivor," worldwide today (May 1)

With a red-hot lead single climbing the charts stateside as well as topping them abroad, the women of Destiny's Child are ready to drop their third Columbia effort, "Survivor," worldwide today (May 1).

The Houston-based trio -- Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams -- has crafted a fine new album, even though their last effort, 1999's "The Writing's on the Wall," is still prominent on The Billboard 200. This issue, it is No. 108.

"There was not even 10 minutes between the albums, which I was kind of upset about at first," says Knowles, the group's primary songwriter. "I felt like we needed a fair shot at making this record. We wanted a little more time to vibe the songs out and concentrate exclusively on the process of making this record.

"We didn't even have two consecutive days of recording," she adds. "We did it completely on the fly. It was very hard, but it ultimately worked out well. It's a testimony to how close we've become as a group. We managed to have a great time working on this album as a team."

Rowland agrees, saying, "I know we were a little nervous recording the next album, because so many people were like, 'What are you going to do to top "The Writing's on the Wall"?' But we went into the studio, and we didn't even worry about 'The Writing's on the Wall.' We went in and we prayed, and we put our best foot forward and got 'Survivor.'"

Columbia Records president Don Ienner believes that timing for a new album is right, noting that "The Writing's on the Wall" was recorded more than two years ago. According to SoundScan, it has sold 5.5 million copies, and it's been on the charts for more than 90 weeks. "This is an old record for them," he says. "Stylistically, it's an old record for them. Emotionally, it's an old record for them."

For Williams, "Survivor" marks her first experience in the studio with the group since joining last year. "I looked forward to it because we love working together onstage," she says. "The first song we recorded five to seven months ago was 'Survivor.' We prayed before that session, and the energy in that session was so high -- the room was heated."

That track addresses the drama the trio endured in 2000, including some well-publicized personnel changes. "Words can't describe how we felt when we recorded that song," Williams says. "Some of us were crying, others were jumping up and down."

Williams adds that listeners and fans have told the act that they closely relate to the tune -- something that doesn't surprise her. "This album is about life and reality. We're not talking about being iced out. Everybody can't buy diamonds or the finest champagne, but you can survive taking a test, or getting a job, or marriage. All of our songs are about realistic things."

Knowles is also quick to acknowledge that although the group is known for its uptempo singles, there is more to Destiny's Child than that. "I think this album shows our growth," she says. "You can hear how tight we've become as a unit. You can hear the love and support in our vocals. Lyrically, we're talking about deeper things. It's still Destiny's Child and it's still fun, but we're about more than fun."

When the act started working on the album, Knowles says, the initial songs were in the vein of their 2000 pop smash "Jumpin', Jumpin'." But toward the end of the process, "we were wanting to add more depth to the songs. Also, there are so many people copping our sound, it was necessary to change things up a bit."

To that end, "Survivor" does have a bit more edge than its predecessors. Destiny's Child tackles more mature topics, like domestic violence and abuse in "The Story of Beauty." In addition to that powerful song, the set includes such ballads as "Dangerously in Love" and "Brown Eyes."

"Men felt that 'The Writing's on the Wall' was a male-bashing album," Williams notes. "Well, now on this album we're talking about our love for them and how they make us feel. This album makes you feel like you're in love, [even] if you're not."

Although the media tends to focus on Knowles' star power, she strived to not monopolize the vocal spotlight on "Survivor "-- even though she did co-write most of the album and co-produced all of its 15 cuts.

"Beyonce did an excellent job at producing, and she made sure that we all got to sing lead," Williams says. "She brought out the best in us because she knows us. She knew what we could do, and she made sure that we did it."

Matthew Knowles, who manages the group for Music World Management and is Beyonce's father, says he has high hopes for "Survivor." "I'm hopeful that 'Survivor' will position the group as a superstar mega act. This album allows each one of the ladies to sing a solo part, which will hopefully be a springboard for their solo careers, as well as a springboard for the group as well."

The elder Knowles is quick to note, however, that individual deals for the group's members are not yet in the works -- nor will they signal the end of Destiny's Child. "There is absolutely room for each one of them to have solo careers, but Destiny's Child will always remain the mother ship," he says. "It's no different than a corporation. It has its divisions, but it's still a whole."

Ienner agrees, saying, "Destiny's Child will be together forever. I also think they're going to make solo albums, because [each member] has distinct views of the world and distinct views of her own artistry."

Ultimately, Ienner attributes much of the group's success to its own strengths. "The fact is, creatively, they're in charge," he adds. "This is not [the product of a] producer's vision. These girls are basically writing, producing, and conceptualizing what they're talking about."

Despite the act's success to date, Columbia executives understand that may not necessarily translate to "Survivor."

"We didn't take anything for granted with this project," says Stephanie Gale, senior director of marketing at the label. "Although we had a successful year, I know the difference between that Destiny's Child and this Destiny's Child. This album is much more them. To me, people are buying a whole new and improved group."

Gale notes that the group's multiple endorsements with such companies as AT&T, Candie's, and L'Oreal have increased its exposure just as the new album comes out.

Among the many cross-promotions being set up around the release of "Survivor" is a pay-per-view concert filmed in Houston, which will be available four days after the album is released. Columbia will also be releasing a DVD single for "Survivor" in conjunction with the album, and the group will headline MTV's first Total Request Live tour.

In addition, this Christmas there may be Destiny's Child dolls on toy store shelves via Hasbro.