One of my favorite things to happen on Beyoncé’s internet is when I come across some meme or viral something that has taken off and I know immediately why within seconds of seeing it, usually because fuckery is or was afoot.
Such was the case recently when I came across an Instagram post that referenced a tweet (see below) that referenced Destiny’s Child’s song, “Cater 2 U” from their 2004 swan song album, Destiny Fulfilled. I knew as soon as I saw it, folks were, understandably and reasonably, not here for that messaging and calling the song (lyrically at least) some bullshit. When it came out in 2004, I thought it was a ridiculous song but that was pre-social media and viral posts and frenzy. It’s 2021 now and, well, I have some 2021 thoughts about it (and Destiny’s Child, etc). And sharing is caring. Allons-y.
1. Let’s start at the top with the album: I remember when Destiny Fulfilled dropped, mostly because we knew this was the final album for the group—Beyoncé’s solo career needed to happen at this point—and because it also felt like an album they made kind of just because. It wasn’t a bad album by any stretch, but it also wasn’t a great album either. It has its moments—“Lose My Breath” and “Girl” for instance—but it was more for them as a group, it seemed, than us as fans.
My favorite song on the album is “Free,” and well, after this album, it seemed apropos. In a show of how long I’ve been writing, I found my old album review of it from November 2004. I have been blogging for at least 17 years of my life. Fucking wow. Anyway, back then I said it was an amazing album and really raved about it; I definitely don’t feel as strongly about it now.
2. The best thing about revisiting “Cater 2 U” and Destiny Fulfilled is that it made me revisit The Writing’s on the Wall, and ZOMG! does that album still fucking bang. What an amazing album from start to finish. There are NO skips on The Writing’s on the Wall. None. That album blew up because it should have. My lawd. It is absolutely working its way back into my musical rotation.
3. Let’s get to the star of the show: “Cater 2 U.” Real question: Is there any universe where a Beyoncé-led anything makes this song today in 2021? I think not.
I’m half-surprised they made this song in 2004. I know Bey was in full sprung mode with Jay-Z at that time (I presume). He had just told us in 2003's “P.S.A.” from The Black Album that he had the flyest chick in the game wearing his chain. The speculation about them had been going back and forth, and they both more or less confirmed it all. Bey used her verse on this album’s “Soldier” to effectively tell us that she prefers Jay-esque chaps. So “Cater 2 U” is the kind of song that maybe you’d make when your nose is wide open, when you’re all-in on your love and you drag your friends into it. In 2004, I thought it was nuts but I also was like, how cute. In 2021, this song would get think-pieced to death about setting back women’s liberation. Like, I wonder if 2021 Beyoncé ever listens to this song or cringes if and when she does. Why would she cringe? Let’s take a look at some lyrics.
4. Here’s Bey’s verse in particular:
Baby I see you working hard
I want to let you know I’m proud
Let you know that I admire what you do
The more if I need to reassure you
My life would be purposeless without you (Yeah)
If I want it (Got it)
When I ask you (You provide it)
You inspire me to be better
You challenge me for the better
Sit back and let me pour out my love letter
Let me help you
Take off your shoes
Untie your shoe strings
Take off your cufflinks (Yeah)
What you wanna eat, boo? (Yeah)
Let me feed you
Let me run your bathwater
Whatever you desire, I’ll supply ya
Sing you a song
Turn my game on
I’ll brush your hair
Help you put your do-rag on
Want a foot rub (Yeah)
Want a manicure
Baby I’m yours I wanna cater to you, boy
I ain’t saying Jay doesn’t get special treatment, but I can almost imagine her saying, “You want to take a bath, nigga, go run your own bathwater, I’m eating.” The submissive nature of it seems so excessive—“untie your shoe strings” and the cuff links, especially—that it’s hard to see the woman who made the last few albums viewing her relationship in this state. I imagine that their relationship has its own rhythms; this just doesn’t seem like it would ever be it. Her life is purposeless with him? Whew, chile. I get it has that love letter vibe to it but Cringe City all day.
5. And I don’t mean to make this just about Beyoncé, let’s look at Kelly’s lyrics too:
Baby I’m happy you’re home
Let me hold you in my arms
I just want to take the stress away from you
Making sure that I’m doing my part (Oh)
Is there something you need me to do? (Oh)
If you want it, (I got it)
Say the word I (I will try it)
I know whatever I’m not fulfilling (Oh)
No other woman is willing (Oh)
I’m gon’ fulfill your mind, body and spirit
I promise you (Promise you)
I’ll keep myself up (Oh)
Remain the same chick (Yeah)
You fell in love with (Yeah)
I’ll keep it tight
I’ll keep my figure right
I’ll keep my hair fixed
Keep rockin’ the hottest outfits
When you come home late, tap me on my shoulder, I’ll roll over
Baby I heard you
I’m here to serve you
If it’s love you need, to give it is my joy
All I wanna do, is cater to you boy
Kelly’s verse is interesting for its optimism about relationships in general. For one, she will absolutely not remain the same woman he fell in love with because, hopefully, they’re both growing in their love. I get it figuratively, but all of the stuff she’s trying to do to make sure he continues to want her is shit that gets old; probably six months in when she realizes he ain’t doing that same shit to keep her. I ain’t calling any of this problematic, just unrealistic AF. Shit, she definitely ain’t rolling over when he gets home; maybe a time or two, but she probably specifically ain’t rolling over because he came home late and she done called him several times and he didn’t answer. I’m just saying, a lot of this verse exists in a vacuum where the man in this situation is Babyface, who wrote “Soon As I Get Home.” In fact, this song feels like the companion piece to it, except it was released in 1989. Interesting, and I think this says something more about sexism and patriarchy than I have time to get into here; it sounds romantic coming from Babyface and sounds cringey coming from Destiny’s Child.
6. Michelle gon’ get this too, though she kind of pulled up before she got through the Submission Finish Line in first place:
I wanna give you my breath
My will to be here
That’s the least I can do
Let me cater to you
Through the good (Good)
The bad (Bad)
The ups and the downs (Ups and downs)
I’ll still be here for you
If you rewrite the “cater to you” lyric then this just sounds like standard issue love song fodder. Michelle has mentioned on social media that this song is ridiculous, by the way.
7. I do think their vocal harmonies are amazing on this song, especially as they get to the end of the song and are just going for it. And in truth, it’s not a terrible song, it’s just a song that doesn’t work in 2021. And especially coming from Beyoncé, who would, just a few years later, lean heavy into her feminist bag and lean on female empowerment, and further become this even stronger Black woman before our eyes as she dealt with real life relationship, marriage and love issues. If they were the type of group who only made sappy love songs, sure. Interesting enough, their pre-Destiny Fulfilled songs don’t fit this mold either. Maybe it was just a one off moment of gushing, perfect world love where they met the perfect significant other. Either way, I appreciate the internet for bringing it back into my life though I wish somebody would ask Bey, Kelly and Michelle how they feel about it now. Thankfully, it came out in 2004 and was a blip. Because 2021 would eat their asses up.
8. Go back and listen to The Writing’s on the Wall. Seriously.