Say My Name (as made famous by Destiny’s Child)

“Say My Name” is a song by the American girl group Destiny’s Child from their second studio album The Writing’s on the Wall (1999). It was written by Beyoncé Knowles, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson and Kelly Rowland along with LaShawn Daniels, Fred Jerkins III and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, featuring production by the latter.

The song was released by Columbia Records as the album’s third single on November 7, 1999, and marked the introduction of the group’s second line-up with the newly-added members Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin. The single is the most successful of the four releases from the album.

“Say My Name” won two Grammy Awards at the 2001 ceremony, for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best R&B Song, while also nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The single’s music video won the 2000 MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video. It also won a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Best R&B/Soul Single, Group, Band or Duo along with a BMI Pop Award for Most Played Song. Billboard named the song number seven on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[3]

“Say My Name” was the group’s first collaboration with the American producer-songwriter Rodney Jerkins, who was one out of several people hired to work with Destiny’s Child on their second album. When they wrote the song, however, the lead singer Beyoncé Knowles was initially displeased with the track they were working on. She commented that there was “too much stuff” on the track and it sounded like a “jungle”.[4] During the photo shoot for the album, Beyoncé’s father-manager Mathew Knowles went to the studio informing her that Jerkins reworked on the track she “hated”. He told her to “just have to take a listen to it”. When the new mix was played to the group, they liked it to the extent they could not “focus on anything”.[4]

Lyrically, “Say My Name” has a female protagonist telephoning her lover and suspecting him of cheating. She asks him to “say her name”. The young man hesitates, and the narrator believes it is because he does not want the girl he is cheating with to know who she is. Jerkins supported the song’s lyrics with a backing track that shifts back and forth in dynamics, steadily bringing different elements, including syncopated, 808 drum programming, synthesized strings and 1970s-style wah-wah guitar licks, in and out of the mix. Knowles sings lead on the verses and bridge and leads the melody of the chorus with Kelly Rowland adding the second part harmony. LeToya Luckett sings the high harmony on the pre-chorus and second chorus. LaTavia Roberson sings second part harmony with LeToya on the pre-chorus and sings the bottom harmony late in the second chorus.

Released as the album’s third single on November 7, 1999, “Say My Name” had several remixes which were issued alongside the original version. The two most notable alternative versions were a remix by Timbaland, which uses different vocals, lyrics and a guest appearance by the singer Static Major and Timbaland; and the “Nitro Remix”, which uses the original vocals over a bass music-styled backing track. The Maurice remixes contain additional re-recorded vocals by Knowles, Luckett, Roberson and Rowland, arranged by Maurice Joshua.

“Say My Name” debuted at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached its peak position twelve weeks later after selling 134,000 physical singles during its first week, taking longer than any other Destiny’s Child number-one single to reach the top. The song also reached the top of both the Hot 100 Airplay and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart for three weeks in 2000. The song spent 32 weeks on the Hot 100 and was one of the top ten best-selling CD-singles of the year in the US. It is the group’s third biggest-selling single in the US after “No, No, No” and “Bills, Bills, Bills” and was also their third gold RIAA certified single.

In the United Kingdom, it was the group’s biggest hit up to that point. It peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart and sold over 190,000 copies. The song was Destiny’s Child first number one in Asia. This single enabled the group to break into the Asian market, when R&B music was just beginning to receive strong airplay. In the Philippines, it was the longest number one single by an R&B girl group, topping the charts for seven weeks. In Australia, it was the second recording ever by an R&B group to reach number one on the ARIA Singles chart after TLC’s “No Scrubs” and helped to propel The Writing’s on the Wall to multi-platinum success.

Conflict among members of the group arose in December 1999 following allegations that the group’s manager and Knowles’ father Mathew Knowles was withholding group profits from Luckett and Roberson. They then allegedly asked Knowles for more money; they were dismissed and in January 2000 Knowles recruited Franklin and Williams to replace both without the signed members’ consent or knowledge. The video for “Say My Name” was then filmed in late January 2000 with little time for the new members to learn the choreography. The video was premiered on February 15, 2000, with Franklin and Williams alongside Knowles and Rowland, on MTV and BET simultaneously with the publication of a press release announcing the line-up change. Luckett and Robersons’ vocals still appear on the song, despite their absence from the video. Franklin and Williams’ vocals are not included on the track.