Before Beyoncé was snatching up Emmy nominations and helming grandiose Disney projects, she was one of four talented R&B singers in the beloved girl group Destiny’s Child. The quartet made an explosive debut in 1998 with their self-titled album, and quickly got back in the studio to record a follow-up the next year. The Writing’s on the Wall, the group’s sophomore album (and last with members LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson), almost instantly cemented Destiny’s Child as one of the most iconic girl groups of all time, hitting No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and spawning the Billboard Hot 100-topping hits “Say My Name” and “Bills, Bills, Bills.”
The Writing’s On the Wall turns 20 today (July 27), and we ranked every track on the album to celebrate this milestone.
16. “Now That She’s Gone”
Much of Destiny’s Child’s lyrical content — especially on The Writing’s on the Wall — centers around men’s shenanigans and the different ways they’ve played members of the group. “Now That She’s Gone” is one of these tracks: they’re watching a man come crawling back after leaving his old girlfriend, and they aren’t having any of it. While lyrically inspirational, “Now That She’s Gone” gets buried in the shuffle by more memorable tracks with greater longevity.
This heartfelt slow burner is just one of a few songs on The Writing’s On the Wall sung entirely by Beyoncé, and tells the story of a deteriorating relationship that she’s trying to save. While they’re both deeply in love with each other, her unwillingness to have sex and “give [him] more than just touches and kisses” drives him away. While endearing (and perhaps personal), “Stay” fails to make a lasting impression in comparison to some of the album’s slower offerings.
14. “Sweet Sixteen”
Despite sixteen coming after fifteen, “Sweet Sixteen” — perhaps the album’s most overtly pop outing — sounds like a fitting precursor to Taylor Swift’s 2009 song about the confusion of being “Fifteen.” Destiny’s Child’s homage to teenage naïveté tells the story of a girl named Jackie who’s in a rush to grow up, but the song fades into memory as the second half of the album trails off.
13. “Intro (The Writing’s on the Wall)”
The album’s theatrical two-minute intro ranks lower on our list merely because of its non-musical nature. The skit is inspired by the tongue-in-cheek Godfather scene from Set It Off, with Kelly, LeToya, and LaTavia coming together to meet with their “godfather” Beyoncé Corleone and discuss their “commandments of relationships.” All four members discuss all being tossed aside by different men, and set the tone for the album as a tale of empowerment and vengeance.
Beyoncé exclusively sings the verses in this very literal song about being tempted by a sexy man across the bar. It’s not necessarily this subject matter that drags the song down, but the fact that it fails to deliver anything different or exciting compared to similar songs about dealing with sensual temptation.
11. “Where’d You Go”
Lyrically, “Where’d You Go” resembles “Say My Name” in that each member notices their man is losing interest in them. They plead with their lovers to stay and spare them the hurt, but because of its sonic resemblance to much of Destiny’s Child’s other material, you’re likely to wind up losing interest in the song itself after too long.
10. “She Can’t Love You”
With just the right tempo and lovely licks of acoustic guitar, “She Can’t Love You” stands out as The Writing’s on the Wall’s token Latin track, delivering a classic bolero sound that would work just as well in Spanish as in English. Because the album primarily leans towards midtempo R&B, however, “She Can’t Love You” isn’t quite Destiny’s sweet spot.
9. “So Good”
Following the album’s Godfather-esque intro skit, “So Good” is a cheerful welcome to Destiny’s Child’s second LP, and rightfully so: following a meteoric rise to stardom after one album, the song — though mostly addressed to an ex who’s wondering if they’re doing well — features Beyoncé saying “This is for them haters that said we wouldn’t make it / Now we doin’ platinum and now you can’t take it.”
8. “If You Leave” feat. Next
Aided by a guest appearance from then-popular R&B group Next, “If You Leave” simulates a conversation between a girl and guy anxious to leave their respective partners to be with each other, with Beyoncé leading the girl’s side of the story. “If You Leave” checks all the boxes for the perfect ‘90s R&B bop, so it’s interesting that the group didn’t opt to release it as a single.
7. “Outro (Amazing Grace)”
The group’s enchanting cover of “Amazing Grace” is dedicated to the memory of Andretta Tilman, the Houston woman who helped form Destiny’s Child precursor Girl’s Tyme in the early ‘90s and launch the careers of Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland. The ladies of Destiny’s Child have always been able to harmonize beautifully with each other, and their take on “Amazing Grace” stands as one of the greatest instances of their vocal chemistry to this day.
6. “Bug a Boo”
Today, the term “Bug a Boo” for Beyoncé fans probably conjures an image of the talented male dancers from her iconic 2018 Coachella performance, but longtime fans know it’s also the second single from The Writing’s on the Wall. Prior to Destiny’s Child, the term referred to something or someone who unduly caused fear; after Destiny’s, it became more associated with annoying men who can’t learn to back off, which speaks to the group’s ongoing cultural impact.
5. “Hey Ladies”
“Hey Ladies” is one of the many tracks on the album co-written and produced by Xscape alum and Real Housewife Kandi Burruss, and strikes the perfect balance between power and playfulness that often characterizes the music she writes. The song is one of the more upbeat offerings on The Writing’s on the Wall, and is filled with enough attitude to make anyone feel unstoppable before going out on the town.
4. “Confessions” feat. Missy Elliott
Long before Jay-Z’s admission of infidelity on “Family Feud” in 2017, Beyoncé—with the vocal support of the rest of Destiny’s Child—admitted to cheating on a boyfriend in this Missy Elliott-assisted track. Beyond co-writing the song, Missy just contributes a few spoken lines on the track, but the collaboration marked the beginning of the group’s relationship with Misdemeanor, and a symbolic moment for hip-hop at the time.
3. “Jumpin’, Jumpin’”
Perhaps the most quintessential Destiny’s Child song on the album, “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” is a roll call for all the ladies at the club who are trying to have fun (and just maybe find someone). Beyoncé once again takes the lead on the song, with LeToya and LaTavia totally absent (they were in the process of being replaced when the single was released). The song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 in August of 2000, helping drive The Writing’s on the Wall to certified platinum status the following month.
2. “Bills, Bills, Bills”
The lead single from The Writing’s on the Wall went on to become Destiny’s Child’s first Hot 100 No. 1, and with good reason: the song (also co-written by Kandi Burruss) boasts the ideal combination of a “f— you, pay me” attitude and a danceable hook — two key elements in a successful R&B smash whether it’s 1999 or 2019.
1. “Say My Name”
“Do y’all remember this song?” Beyoncé rhetorically asks the crowd during her now-legendary Coachella performance. Standing alongside surprise guests Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, the superstar singers — reunited in Destiny’s Child’s most recognizable lineup — come together to deliver a flawless rendition of the group’s most timeless song. “Say My Name” remains Destiny’s Child’s second-longest running No. 1 hit, and proves that twenty years of longevity is just the beginning.