Most humans get only one thing, a talent or skill that will become their career, and that's if they are exceedingly lucky. Furthermore, if Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers” theory holds true, they usually have to put in about 10,000 hours of grueling and repetitive work to transform that raw talent into something truly great.
Chalk it up to the YouTube/reality TV era, but there is a pervasive sense that few current superstars racked up those hours, that they were grown in some kind of fame farm and taken to market for instant consumption. Make no mistake: Some chart dominators currently breathing the thin, brisk air at the top of the charts are delinquent on paying their dues. But Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, who performs Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena as part of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, probably reached the 10,000 mark before she finished her teens.
The hits started rolling out in 1998 with the release of Destiny's Child's first album and the Wyclef Jean-produced single “No, No, No.” But the Beyoncification of America actually began in the late 1980s, when a 7-year-old from Houston took first place at a local talent show where most of the contestants were at least twice her age. The first-grader won by singing “Imagine” by John Lennon, another member of the 10,000 Hour Club.
In 1992, 11-year-old Beyonce, cousin Kelly Rowland, childhood friend LaTavia Roberson and the rest of a group that was then called Girls Tyme appeared on “Star Search.” They lost to the Detroit band Skeleton Crew, which still exists 21 years later but never quite capitalized on the straight 4's they received against what Ed McMahon called the “hip-hop-rapping” Girls Tyme's straight 3's. Clearly, Beyonce and the rest of the girls had a few hours to go.
But when Destiny's Child, featuring Beyonce, Rowland, Roberson and LeToya Luckett, was finally ready for its close-up, the timing was perfect. By the late 1990s, the alt-rock revolution was a memory and R&B-inflected teen pop had taken over the charts. At the time, Destiny's Child seemed like only the latest variation on the TLC formula that ran so smoothly as pop's adjunct to 1990s hip-hop and went solidly platinum with the debut album. But then the group quickly released 1999's “The Writing's on the Wall,” featuring “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name,” two inescapable hits that seemed to signal some kind of permanence. Even Elvis Costello deemed “Say My Name” “as good as anything (Motown's) Holland-Dozier-Holland ever wrote. It's a simple story anybody can recognize, done with tremendous panache.”
And that, it turned out, was Destiny's Child's peak. With the departure of Luckett and Roberson, the group was looking more and more like the launchpad for Beyonce's solo career, which commenced with appearances and songs in MTV's “Carmen: A Hip-Hopera” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” Destiny's Child's “Survivor,” featuring new member Michelle Williams, posted strong sales but fewer standout songs than its predecessor, while Beyonce's proper solo debut, 2003's “Dangerously in Love,” was fully confident and packed with great songs such as “Crazy in Love,” the opening track featuring her future husband, Jay-Z. She returned to Destiny's Child for one final full album, 2004's “Destiny Fulfilled,” but compared to “Dangerously in Love,” it felt more like contract fulfillment than destiny fulfillment.