This was inspired by the reality TV series of the same name where contestants vote each other off an island. It is a play on what happened to the group when they lost three members in one year, and their associated drama was being compared to the show - wondering what group member would be the last one voted off. Group leader Beyoncé Knowles wrote it after reading a review comparing the member changes to the TV series Survivor, which debuted in 2000 and was a sensation when this song was written.
Beyoncé says that this song was a defining moment in the career of Destiny's Child, as with their success also came a great deal of negativity. The criticism encouraged her to "write them out of the negativity," which is how she came up with this song.
Beyoncé explained on MTV's Behind The Video: "'Survivor is basically about surviving different situations. Everyone in this world that I know, they've survived something, and I know the song is definitely inspirational. It really makes you feel strong and it really makes you feel like you can survive anything."
This won the 2001 MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video.
Two former members of the group, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, sued Beyoncé Knowles, Mathew Knowles (Beyoncé's father and the group's manager), Kelly Rowland, and Sony Music for breach of contract, defamation, libel, and fraud over this. When Luckett and Roberson left, they signed a settlement that prohibited both parties from talking about their leaving the group. They claimed this song violated that agreement because the lyrics, such as "Thought that I'd be stressed without you, but I'm chillin', thought I wouldn't sell without you, sold 9 million," were aimed at them. Beyoncé Knowles claimed the song was about anyone who ever doubted the group. The case was settled in 2002.
The video, directed by Darren Grant, played off the TV show, with the girls washing up on an island "somewhere in the South Pacific." It was actually shot on Point Dume State Beach in Malibu, California, with some scenes, including the dance sequence, done at a Los Angeles studio.
Destiny's Child performed this for the first time at the 2001 Soul Train Awards.