Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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MICHELLE WILLIAMS: Destiny's offspring

MICHELLE WILLIAMS @bluesandsoul MICHELLE WILLIAMS @bluesandsoul MICHELLE WILLIAMS @bluesandsoul MiCHELLE WILLIAMS @bluesandsoul

She may be best known up-to-now as âthe quiet member of Destinyâs Child who releases solo gospel albumsâ. Nevertheless, this month finds Michelle Williams literally delivering the âUnexpectedâ - her first solo pop/R&B LP, currently pioneered by the electro-club grooves of its melodically-soulful offshoot single âWe Break The Dawnâ.

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Tenitra Michelle Williams started out singing in her local church choir before going on to perform with the gospel groups United Harmony and Chosen Expression. Becoming a back-up singer for chart-topping R&B songstress Monica in 1999, she was invited to join Destinyâs Child (alongside co-founding members Beyonce and Kelly Rowland) in early 2000. Accepting the once-in-a-lifetime offer, Michelle immediately became an integral part of said trioâs rapid ascent to worldwide superstardom, via such global chart-topping anthems as âIndependent Womenâ and âSurvivorâ. Which, by the time the threesome went their separate ways in 2005, had helped make them become officially the worldâs top-selling female group of all time, with combined record sales in excess of 50 million.

Having also released two chart-topping solo gospel albums during her time with Destinyâs Child (2002âs Grammy-winning âHeart To Yoursâ; and 2004âs more urban-influenced âDo You Knowâ) , an affable Ms. Williams now holds court with âB&Sâ in Sony/BMGâs swish new Kensington offices to discuss her aforementioned (and appropriately-titled!) first secular album project, âUnexpectedâ.

âFor me to sell the number of units that I did, and to get the amount of love and reception that I got, from doing gospel was great. Itâs just that, right now, Iâm ready to try something different and to get my name and face out there in a different wayâ, begins a straight-talking, 28-year-old Michelle: âYou know, up to now people have perceived me as this quiet, very serious and religious person who doesnât really do anything exciting. Whereas actually Iâm not religious, Iâm more SPIRITUAL. And, while being in touch with my spirituality does keep me grounded, at the same time it also lets me know that I can have FUN! So, while I canât be out here doing ANY and EVERY thing, I can still go to a club; I can hang out with my girlfriends; I can go out on a date and know how to handle myself... So I wanted my music this time around to REFLECT that.â

Which in turn influenced Michelleâs choice of producers: âYeah, because I wanted a fresh, new sound, I definitely wanted to find some producers who were ready to sit down and give me their BEST! As opposed to producers who just wanted to collect a cheque and royaltiesâ, she continues: âSo StarGate were the first producers I worked with. Then along came Soulshock & Karlin, Adam Frampton, Wayne Wilkins, Jim Jonsin... And what I particularly liked about all of them is that, while theyâre all different in their own way, theyâre all highly talented and very diverse. Like Jim Jonsin has given me whatâll probably become one of the biggest love ballads of this year with the song âThe Greatestâ. Yet very few people would believe that this is the same guy who produces Danity Kane, and who did âLollipopâ for Lil Wayne!â

Interestingly, many of the albumâs synth-heavy uptempo cuts (like the stomping âHello Heartbreakâ and pumping âPrivate Partyâ) rely heavily on the kind of Euro-dance-inspired electronica utilised recently by fellow US urbanites like Timbaland and Justin Timberlake: âThe reason for the European dance sound being recently introduced into R&B is because a lot of these American artists are world-travelled, and want to introduce something fresh to The Statesâ, explains Michelle: âSo theyâre like âOh, this sound is hot in London. So let me bring that back to the USAâ... And, while I didnât consciously decide to go in that Euro-club direction, this album does represent the go-getter in me - the person who does what she WANTS, and not what sheâs TOLD to do!â

âYou know, the first time we all did solo projects (away from Destinyâs Child) they were like âWe think you guys should do different sounds, so that you donât COMPETE against each otherââ, she adds: âWhereas we always figured that it was just in the nature of the business for us to be compared ANYWAY! I mean, even if Iâm doing gospel, theyâll still find a way to put Beyonce in there somewhere - even though sheâs nothing to DO with gospel! You know, while we personally arenât thinking of it as competition - because weâre like sisters - the perception of the media and the world in general is that we ARE competing with one another! So, as thatâs something we canât change, this time around I just figured Iâd do exactly what I WANTED to do!â

With her fame as one-third of Destinyâs Child also having helped her attain prestigious onstage acting roles in both the Elton John/Tim Rice-penned Broadway musical âAidaâ plus the national touring cast of the hit musical adaptation of âThe Colour Purpleâ, former Illinois State University student Michelle recalls her days as a member of said world-conquering trio with nothing but fondness: âI honestly have no complaints whatsoever about joining Destinyâs Child. Because through it I gained two new sisters, plus I was able to travel the world and touch the lives of so many people through music! You know, I think because we watched so many VH1 âBehind The Musicâ programmes, we were determined not to be one those girl-groups that missed the target because of internal foolishness. So, whatever issues we knew would hit that nerve with one of us, we knew not to GO there!â

âI mean, itâs like if you know that Iâm not a morning person, then donât push my buttons at that time of day!â, continues an animated Michelle, now in full flow: âPlus dress-wise we also took the time to know each otherâs style. So then, because the other girls would know my taste, theyâd automatically leave a certain style over there to ME! Because we knew in the past a lotta girl-groups had fought about stuff like clothes and shoes, none of us would purposely grab something that they knew someone ELSE in the group loved! So yeah, I do think a lotta the reason for us staying together and becoming so successful was genuinely because we consciously stayed away from a lotta the dumb stuff that girls can do! And, to this day, a reunion has not been ruled out. But, having said that, itâs not been ruled in EITHER! Itâs just that we honestly havenât talked about it amongst ourselves. But, in the future, who knows? Never say never!â

The digital single 'We Break The Dawn' is out now. The album 'Unexpected' follows September 29, both through Sony

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