The Writing's on the Wall received generally favorable reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic gave the album four out of five stars, stating: "With their second album, Writing's on the Wall, Destiny's Child still suffers from slightly uneven songwriting, but it's nevertheless an assured step forward for the girl group. Not only are they maturing as vocalists, they are fortunate to work with such skilled, talented producers as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Rodney Jerkins, D'Wayne Wiggins, Chad Elliot, Daryl Simmons, and Missy Elliott, who all give the quartet rich, varied music upon which to work their charm. So, even when the album fails to deliver memorable songs, it always sounds alluring, thanks to the perfect combination of vocalists and producers." Rob Brunner from Entertainment Weekly gave the album the grade of B, stating: "Judging from The Writing's on the Wall, the second album from Destiny’s Child, it's not Briggs' fault. With his help, the Houston quartet (Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and the unimaginatively monikered Kelly) prove themselves to be more capable of confident, inventive R&B than many of their contemporaries. Though Briggs is joined by a slew of trendy producers (including Elliott and Rodney Jerkins), Wall still manages to avoid sounding like a mere rehash of other people's hits. With a snaky lead vocal that slithers around staccato harmony parts, the aptly titled album opener "So Good" coolly mixes restrained production and playful melody. "Bills, Bills, Bills", the first single, is a sort of companion piece to "No Scrubs", taking on guys who seem perfect but turn into jerks once they get comfortable in a relationship. And "If You Leave", a duet with male vocal trio Next, is an ambitious collaboration that delivers despite its potentially lethal abundance of voices. Wall gets bogged down by too much banal balladry ("Stay", "Sweet Sixteen"), proving Destiny’s Child to be capable of sounding exactly like any other group of snooze-inducing slow-jammers. But more often they recognize the difference between extremes of pitch and extremes of passion, a distinction lost on many R&B balladeers (Blaque frequently fall for this trap, and they’d probably spend even more time screaming and yelling if they were a little better at it). Destiny’s Child have learned a thing or two from the Supremes, singers who knew how to use a well-placed pause or a quietly sung harmony to maximum effect. No, they haven’t managed to reach that lofty level on Wall, but if you're casting Motown '99, the album's worth a listen. Its best stuff is close enough to the spirit of the Supremes to at least win them a callback."Robert Christgau gave the album the grade of B+, stating: "I like teenpop fine, but please, one song at a time. And since teenpop likes this glamorous femme quartet, individual songs are all a reasonable grownup would expect. Uh-uh. Lyrics are the usual problem–if there's a quotable quote here, I haven't noticed it. But that may just be because the multivalent harmonies, suavely irregular beats, and, not incidentally, deep-seated self-respect have been keeping me busy ever since I heard through the visuals." Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone, however, gave the album negative review, giving it the grade of two out of five stars, stating: "Destiny's Child blew up last summer with "No, No, No", which wiggled seductively while begging the question, Since there are four ladies in the group, shouldn't that be "No, No, No, No"? Or is one still making up her mind? The Houston R&B group's new hit, "Bills, Bills, Bills", takes the same three-out-of-four-divas approach to a classic pop sentiment: These gals don't want your love, just your money money money. But unlike TLC's "No Scrubs", "Bills" isn't sexy enough to get you up off your deadbeat ass. The track has too much fussy clutter, and the singers hang out the passenger side of TLC's ride, groveling for spare change like forty-niners who've been on the job since '29. The Writing's on the Wall has a similar case of the blahs. Despite OK moments like the "Waterfalls sequel "Sweet Sixteen", the Destiny children never find that one money tune that turns a no-no-no scrub into a yeah-yeah-yeah paying customer." However, Nathan Brackett and Christian David Hoard from The New Rolling Stone Album Guide gave a more positive review and the grade of four out of five stars in 2004, five years after The Writing's on the Wall was released.
In the United States the album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 on August 14, 1999, selling over 132,000 copies in its first week and slipped to number ten the following week with 100,000 copies. It remained in the top forty for most of 1999 and had sold over 1.6 million copies by the end of the year according to Nielsen SoundScan and was certified 2× platinum in January 2000. Nine months after its release The Writing's on the Wall, following the huge success of third single “Say My Name", returned to the top ten, peaking at number five on May 6, 2000. During its first year on the chart it spent forty-seven out of fifty-two weeks in the top forty (including eleven weeks in the top ten) or better and was the tenth best-selling album of 2000, selling 3.8 million copies during the year. The Writing's on the Wall enjoyed its best week of sales more than one year after its release when it sold over 163,000 units during the Christmas week of 2000, and by the release of the group's third album Survivor it had scanned 5.8 million in the United States and shipped over seven million copies. The Writing's on the Wall spent ninety-nine consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 (from the summer of 1999 until the spring of 2001) and was certified 8× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on November 8, 2001. It has sold 6,347,000 copies to date in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and over 700,000 at BMG Music Club.
In December 1999, Luckett and Roberson attempted to split with their manager, claiming that he kept a disproportionate share of the group's profits and unfairly favored Knowles and Rowland. While they never intended to leave the group, when the video for "Say My Name" surfaced in February 2000, Roberson and Luckett found out that two new members were joining Knowles and Rowland. Prior to the video premiere, Knowles announced on TRL that original members Luckett and Roberson had left the group. They were replaced by Michelle Williams, a former backup singer to Monica, and Farrah Franklin, an aspiring singer-actress. Shortly after her stint with Monica, Williams was introduced to Destiny's Child by choreographer Braden Larson aka "Peanut Orlando", and was flown to Houston where she stayed with the Knowles family.
In March 2000, Roberson and Luckett filed a lawsuit against Mathew Knowles and their former bandmates for breach of partnership and fiduciary duties. Following the suit, both sides were disparaging towards each other in the media. Five months after joining, Franklin left the group. The remaining members claimed that this was due to missed promotional appearances and concerts. According to Williams, Franklin could not handle stress. Franklin, however, disclosed that she left because of the negativity surrounding the strife and her inability to assert any control in the decision making. Her departure was seen as less controversial. Williams, on the other hand, disclosed that her inclusion in the group resulted in her "battling insecurity": "I was comparing myself to the other members, and the pressure was on me."
Towards the end of 2000, Roberson and Luckett dropped the portion of their lawsuit aimed at Rowland and Knowles in exchange for a settlement, though they continued the action against their manager. As part of the agreement, both sides were prohibited from speaking about each other publicly. Roberson and Luckett formed another girl group named Anjel but also left it due to issues with the record company. Although band members were affected by the turmoil, Destiny's Child's success continued. The following years of their career were seen as the group's most successful stretch, becoming a pop culture phenomenon.
There was also controversy surrounding the rights to use the "Columbia" name and trademark for the album’s release in international markets. There were different rules for owning the rights to the "Columbia" brand name, depending on the market. For the album’s release in Japan, where Columbia Records’ parent company Sony does not use the "Columbia" name or trademark, for example, the label was re-branded as SME Records (SME is an abbreviation for Sony Music Entertainment), which is a sublabel of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation and operates independently from the American Sony Music Entertainment, of which Columbia Records is a part of. The "Columbia" name and trademark are actually controlled in Japan by Nippon Columbia, which is a direct competitor and neither has direct relations with the American Columbia Records, nor with Sony Music Japan. It should, however, be noted that Nippon Columbia was, in fact, the former licensee for the American Columbia Records up until 1968, when Sony Music Japan’s predecessor, CBS/Sony Inc., was established.
Tracks 1–15 end with a short spoken interlude which relates to the following song, which is spoken by the band members. Each interlude is in the style of the Ten Commandments and are listed on the front of the disc.