Humankind has not yet invented the right punctuation for Beyonce Knowles. No comma or period can contain her exuberant idiom; no semicolon can keep her from her meandering linguistic path. In the middle of her runaway sentences, Beyonce usually interrupts herself with deep, rolling spasms of laughter. Whether the subject is her tendency to forget lyrics while performing, her lack of time to devote to a boyfriend or her profound inability to play guitar, every utterance arrives with its own disruptive laugh track. Then there are the pauses--earnest, eyes-drifting-into-future-space jobs that can stretch 10 or 15 seconds. Thus a typical Beyonce sentence goes, "As far as acting ... I want to ... hmm ... play some kind of a ... like a ... a dark character? Even though ... no ... I don't know!" Then: "Aaah-hah-hah-hah--hah. Lord!"
Beyonce is not a syntactic moron, just a 21-year-old with some miles to go on the journey to womanhood. That she is simultaneously on the road to one-name multimedia stardom might explain some of the giggling. After selling 11.7 million albums (according to Nielsen SoundScan) with girl group Destiny's Child and scooping up the only bits of critical praise thrown near last summer's dreadful Austin Powers in Goldmember, Beyonce is right now making her move from ensemble player to center stage. Her first solo album, Dangerously in Love, arrives June 24 with enormous commercial expectations, and in September she makes her debut as a romantic lead in The Fighting Temptations opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. "I'm soooo excited," she says with one of those laughs, "but I'm kind of a mess right now too."
A Star Search contestant at age 10, Beyonce (it's her mother's maiden name) has rehearsed for fame her entire life. And she's still nervous. Despite the industry perception of Destiny's Child as Beyonce and two warm bodies in stilettos, she insists that Michelle Williams and her cousin Kelly Rowland are crucial collaborators, and she misses them. "It's scary. I've been singing with Kelly since I was 9, and every day of my life, every time I've been on a stage, every interview, she's [been] there. So it makes me nervous she's not here." After a relatively quick pause, she continues. "But it's a necessary challenge because I'm an adult. We're all adults now, and we need to learn things about ourselves, and sometimes you can't do that unless you're by yourself."