It’s been nearly 20 years since Miss Thang Monica hit the R&B scene and became the youngest artist to have two consecutive number-one hits on the Billboard R&B chart with “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)” and its follow-up “Before You Walk Out of My Life” at the age of fourteen. The seemingly down-to-earth girl next door has triumphed over personal tribulations through the years, which has made her the woman she is today as she embarks upon her New Life.
Her marriage to NBA player Shannon Brown, who co-starred in the video for “Love All Over Me”, serves as expressed inspiration for the album with Monica proclaiming Shannon “gave me a new life when you made me your wife,” on “Amazing”, one of two songs strictly written about and dedicated to her man.
“I was comfortable with spending time by myself and just enjoying my two sons. I assumed it would be that way for a long time. But I pretty much allowed God’s will to be done and not try to control everything for a change. And that’s when I met my husband. This album represents some of the best things that have happened to me in my life,” Monica says.
♫ Monica & Brandy – It All Belongs to Me
The album begins with an introduction filled with words of encouragement from someone who can definitely speak on it: Mary J. Blige. It’s a bit discomforting, though, that Mary was relegated to a single phone conversation instead of a full-fledged collaboration like Brandy, who reunites with Monica on “It All Belongs to Me”, which picks up nearly 14 years later where their No. 1 single, “The Boy Is Mine”, left off according to writer and producer Rico Love.
Interesting that the two R&B divas who were fighting over a man are now together telling one to go on and get gone, making sure he doesn’t leave with anything that wasn’t already his. While the track fails to compare to its predecessor (it recently fell from No. 23 to No. 34 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Charts), it illustrates the growth and maturity both artists have obtained following their “Boy Is Mine” days. The two are now working to put a tour together, and Monica says of Brandy, “She’s my girlfriend.”
♫ Monica – Without You
The rest of the album deals with love, including new man Shannon and the others she’s had to let go of in the past. Monica professes her love on the Polow da Don-produced “Without You”, the other track strictly for Shannon, while also pledging devotion on “Daddy’s Good Girl”. The Cainon Lamb and Anthony Randolph-written “Big Mistake” could easily have been included on one of Monica’s earlier releases, while the Salaam Remi-produced “Cry”, which was co-written by Remi and Jazmine Sullivan and is reminiscent of “Unchained Melody”, allows Monica to truly shine. It serves as the perfect segue to “Time to Move On”, a soulful D. Smith number fans will appreciate after Monica’s cover of “Misty Blue” in the late 1990s.
♫ Monica – Time to Move On
The standout, however, is “Until It’s Gone”, which was produced by Missy Elliott and Cainon Lamb who also share writing credits with Jazmine Sullivan, among others. The buzz single was released as a digital download following “Anything (To Find You)”, another Elliott, Lamb, Sullivan collaboration which featured rappers Rick Ross and Lil Kim, whose vocals were removed following a sampling revocation by The Notorious B.I.G.’s mother, Voletta Wallace, for an excerpt from B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?”
When Monica really gets into a song, it’s a beautiful thing, but there just aren’t too many instances where she does that with this material. The writing talent showcased here is not always supported by its production counterpart, and vice versa. By releasing Still Standing in March 2010 and starting work on New Life in September, one can’t help but feel that the album was rushed. Despite having something new to share subsequent to her nuptials, Monica’s new album would have greatly benefited from taking time to fully develop its sound, particularly since many of the major players from Still Standing were also on hand for New Life.
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