Tenetra "Michelle" WilliamsBeyoncé Knowles Kelendria "Kelly" Trene Rowland Tenetra "Michelle" Williams Farrah Franklin LaTavia Roberson & LeToya Luckett
There's much to be respected about those "trial by fire" personalities who seize opportunities placed in front of them by the Creator without buckling under the pressure, those who steadfastly hold on to a focused vision and ultimately allow faith to guide them.
Vocalist/songwriter/performer Michelle Williams is one of those people. With a steely determination and willingness to learn, she joined Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time, during a frantic period of breakthrough mainstream success and worldwide touring. That same fearless, faith-driven quality came in handy while jump-starting a solo career as an inspirational/gospel recording artist with her 2002 release, Heart To Yours, much in the same way her tireless work ethic motivated her to conquer a starring role on the Broadway stage.
Michelle Williams now utilizes those very same attributes--propelled by her angelic, songbird-like vocals--to enter the next phase of her solo music-making with her sophomore release, 'Do You Know?'.
Indeed, since joining the multi-platinum-selling group, the truly blessed Michelle has shared in a staggering level of success and exposure. She has been part of smash hit singles that set radio airplay records. She's traveled the world over on sold-out headlining tours, won countless awards including multiple Grammys, and performed for everyone from the President of the USA to the King of Pop, not to mention millions of fans. That momentum continued for Michelle after the release of Heart To Yours, a #1 album on the gospel chart, when she landed a stint co-hosting the Stellar Awards, recorded a duet ("Steal Away To Jesus") with gospel legend Shirley Caesar and embarked on a national tour with Luther Vandross and Angie Stone.
Then, while fellow group members Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland enjoyed their own forays into successful music and film ventures, Michelle again followed God's vision for her, challenging herself to cross the boundaries of the contemporary music industry into the starring role in Elton John and Tim Rice's hit Broadway musical, "Aida." In preparation for the role of the love-crossed Nubian princess, Michelle temporarily exited the somewhat pampered existence of a pop music star for the musical theater grind of intense rehearsals, vocal coaching and a schedule of nightly performances. "You know, I only had four weeks to learn everything," Michelle says. "I had so much to digest. If they weren't teaching me one thing, they were teaching me something else. It's been truly awesome. I never dreamed of this, coming this far with a Broadway show under my belt, especially a major one. Aida is a major show."
It is with that same positive outlook and unwavering vision that Michelle conquered the role, a process she readily likens to the daring move to join current R&B/pop's most popular girl group. "It was similar to what I had to go through when I joined Destiny's Child," acknowledges Michelle. "That's why I didn't give up. When I get in a situation like that, I think of where I am and where God has brought me. I figure that if I stick with this situation, I could only go higher. Now that I've done Aida, it's like I should be able to do anything."
Obviously re-invigorated and matured by the experience, Michelle excitedly delivers Do You Know, a melodious excursion through inspirational and contemporary urban-gospel styles, set to everyday life-based testimonials that run the gamut from self-doubt and questions of faith to bad relationships. Produced by Tommy Sims (CeCe Winans, Eric Clapton, Kelly Clarkson), Anson & Eric Dawkins (Tyrese, Ruben Studdard), Erron Williams, Cedric & Victor Caldwell, PAJAM (Paul Allen & J. Moss), Solange Knowles, and Beyoncé Knowles with Soul Diggaz, Do You Know features songs, five of which she either wrote or co-wrote, Michelle feels are close to her own life and experiences. "For this album--after going through so much in 2003--it was a perfect time to do another record, because I was able to write about how I was feeling," she explains. "There were also producers who already had songs written, and I felt like they were written about my life. God placed these producers in my life for this record. There isn't one song on this record that I can't identify with."
From the brassy, uplifting rhythm of "Purpose In Your Storm" (the set's opener) to the acoustic-textured R&B/gospel groove balladry of "I Know" (recorded with Destiny's Child members Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland), listeners will quickly notice that the overall serene, mellowed feel of Heart To Yours has been replaced by a generally brighter, uptempo vibe. Michelle reveals that the difference has much to do with corresponding with her listening audience, as well as feeling liberated from the perceived confines of a particular genre.
"Some of my fans from the last record were saying that there weren't a lot of uptempo type of happy, feel-good songs," says Michelle. "With Heart To Yours, it was like I didn't want it to be so gospel because I was fearful of coming into gospel, coming out of R&B. I know that the gospel crowd is very protective of that genre of music. With any kind of music, they have to accept you. So, I felt like I wouldn't be accepted. I thought, 'Maybe I won't do gospel, but I'll do something similar.' But it worked out. After the first song I did with Shirley Caesar for her record, she changed people's minds. She said: 'you know what? I love Michelle, so you all have to love her--and that's the bottom line.' And people like Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin were saying the same thing. So, I'm like, 'well, I've got some of the major gospel acts in my corner.' So, I'm okay with everything."
Hence, Do You Know is comprised of contemporary-minded inspirational selections that range from groove-laced uptempos and lush midtempos to stunningly beautiful ballads. Sure to win the favor of her Destiny's Child fan base are "My Only Love Is You," with its the sultry 'n' smooth R&B/dance feel; "Never Be The Same," with its chilled, urban-styled bounce; the melodic, head-noddin' groove of "The Incident;" and "Didn't Know," a catchy, light-bumpin' song Michelle was inspired to write after a day out boating in Texas with her manager, Music World Music label head Mathew Knowles and Tina Knowles (Destiny's Child stylist).
"It was beautiful out on that boat with Mathew and Tina," recalls Michelle. "I said to myself, 'this is how life is supposed to be. I'm not supposed to be around people that don't mean me any good, who make me depressed and stressed out.' That next morning, I just wrote about what I was going through. I was smiling, I felt God's love and I didn't have people around me to bring me down. The song basically says that, 'I didn't know that I would be so happy. I didn't know I would feel so free. I didn't know your love would change me. I live in total victory.'"
Michelle's sophomore solo set also features her soulful voice stretching out amidst moving ballads like the poignant, dramatic "15 Minutes"; a tranquil, heavenly "Rescue My Heart"; the tenderly harmonious "The Way Of Love"; and the climactic, emotion-charged title track. "One day, I was at my house washing dishes and that song just came into my head," Michelle recalls of the truly inspired "Do You Know." "It was like God was talking to me," she confesses. "Basically, God was asking me, 'Girl, do you know who I am? Do you know that I will heal your heart?' I had just gone through a break-up that had just torn me up. But I'm glad it happened, because I was able to write about it. And the song turned out to be healing for me. So, I took it to my brother (producer, Erron Williams), he did his thing on the music and that's how 'Do You Know' was born."
Ultimately, through life's examples and the musical messages throughout Do You Know, Michelle Williams has hopes of inspiring and encouraging with the gospel, which she'll be the first to point out as simply meaning "good news."
For her, more than the material success, it's about communicating a relevant message to today's generation. "I just really want to reach out to the young people and let them know who God is," she relays, "and how God can be there for you--and you can still be cool. You can be cool and Christian. You can be cool and saved. You can be cool and still express your love for Christ to the world and it's okay."
Michelle Williams is signed to Music World Gospel alongside labelmates Ramiyah.