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Destiny's Child 

Destiny Fulfilled (Columbia)

Thanks to Beyoncé Knowles' transparent ambitions, Destiny's Child has been on a deathwatch since day one. And after Beyoncé's solo breakthrough last year, pragmatic observers may wonder how her R&B trio has survived. But the real surprise of Destiny Fulfilled is its content, not its mere existence. Rather than the expected urban trendfest, much of it is a celebration of classic girl-group R&B that makes the best case ever for Destiny's Child's existence.

Of course, first you have to wade through the obligatory one-note singles (Rodney Jerkins's "Lose My Breath," an explosion of marching-band snares and heavy breathing, and the even more limited thug paean, "Soldier"). But after the limp erotica of "T-Shirt," sturdy melodies and themes dominate, allowing Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams a framework for their underrated harmonizing -- remember, unlike so many acts that share their target demographic, these girls can actually sing. "Bad Habit," underpinned by heart-tugging strings, and the buoyantly funky "Free" are the best of half a dozen fine tunes mourning the end of love and celebrating new independence.

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