Monica: Standing Still
By Brian Anthony
Miss Thang, Monica Arnold (now Brown) emerged on the music scene at the tender age of fourteen with a singing voice beyond her years. Super producer Dallas Austin, an Atlanta native like Monica introduced the young singer to the world with her debut single “Don’t Take it Personal (Just One Of Them Days)” off of her debut album “Miss Thang.” Years later, Monica is now married with two children and releasing her seventh studio album “New Life.” Monica has indeed sustained staying power throughout the years in this ever changing, never promising music industry. However, with and through her music Monica is standing still.
Monica became the youngest recording act to score two consecutive chart-topping hits on the US Billboard Top R&B Singles chart with “Don’t Take it Personal” and “Before You Walk Out My Life”, Although Monica has remained in the limelight throughout all these years, there still isn’t much growth in her music. She’s a great vocalist and her sound hasn’t changed over the years, she also stuck to her R&B roots too, but her music hasn’t given us anything to get excited about for a while now.
Most of her mainstream success came when she recorded the song “For You I Will” written by Diane Warren from the “Space Jam” movie soundtrack which featured one of R. Kelly’s biggest hits “I Believe I Can Fly.” More came when she and singer Brandy joined forces for a duet in 1998 titled “The Boy Is Mine” which was also the title of her second album. The duet earned Monica her first and only Grammy and was the biggest single that summer of 1998 and the biggest hit in general, in America. It spent a record-breaking thirteen weeks on the top Billboard 100 chart. To date, it remains as one of the top twenty most successful American singles in history based on Billboard chart success.
Later, Monica would experience some music highs and lows along with personal issues. While preparing to record her third album the singer witnessed her then boyfriend take his life in front of her eyes. After experiencing that the singer took a small hiatus and then returned with her third album, “All Eyez On Me.” However, failing to make a lasting impression with the two leading singles “All Eyez On Me” and “Too Hood”, the project was shelved and only released in Japan. You would think after witnessing a loved one take their life that she would somehow channel that pain into a wonderful project, but that wasn’t the case for the singer. Her albums material wasn’t up to par and failed to receive a good response for the singers return.
Back to the drawing board, Monica enlisted some new help (Missy Elliott, Kanye West, & Jazze Pha) to prepare what would be her third release, “After The Storm.” Reconstructing songs from the previous project “All Eyez On Me” while adding some new ones to the mix, Monica’s found “After The Storm” debuting at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop chart, becoming the singers first and only number one album to date. The Missy Elliot penned song “So Gone” was one of her biggest crossover success in years and her first top ten single since “Angel of Mine.”
Monica experienced another low point in her career with the sales on “The Making of Me.” The album failed to produce any memorable hits, besides the lead single “Every Time The Beat Drops” which wasn’t received too well. Fans weren’t able to connect with the material on the albums lead single. The LP only received a good radio response from one of the three singles off the album (A Dozen Roses). The album failed majorly to reach the top of the charts. “The Making of Me” is Monica’s lowest selling album to date.
Returning to the drawing board once again Monica was determined to record an album that would be more personal and a solid reflection of the woman she’d become. After everything the singer has endured throughout the years the album title “Still Standing” was more than fitting for her sixth album. This time around she worked with a vast of producers who she thought would bring out the best in her material wise. “Still Standing” debuted number two on the Billboard charts. It also spawned out the single “Everything To Me” which became her biggest chart hit since “So Gone.” You can say much of the albums success was due to the documented reality series on BET titled “Still Standing.” The reality series documented the Monica’s recording process of the LP and earned her single “Everything to Me” a Grammy nomination.
As “New Life” hits store shelves we hope that this veteran has given us more musically this time around. I love her growth as a woman, but why hasn’t her music displayed the same? There is no evolution to this woman’s music. I suggest she finds the right music producers and illustrate a vast majority of the album. She has a beautiful story to tell, yet it’s never really heard in the music. She continues to try channeling Mary J. Blige’s life and music, (listen to New Life’s intro, I.E. album title too, along with pervious videos) so she should use Mary as her music mentor. Being a great singer just isn’t good enough anymore in this business. Her inability to connect with songs musically is reason why her album sales are lack luster. I don’t believe any of the songs she’s singing, because there isn’t much connection with the songs she’s singing. It seems as if she’s not open to a change musically, which she’s in dire need of. Yes, there has been an evolution in her personal life that you can’t help but notice. However, for a woman who has experienced losing a loved one to suicide, having become a mother, getting married, divorced and then remarried, you would hope to hear a wider variety in the subject matter within her music. I’m tired of the stale music she continues to give us. I want more from her. I want to be able to believe her. In fact, the only song that’s been believable over the years is the heartfelt “Getaway” from her “The Makings of Me” album. She was able to channel her emotions and deliver a song that’s touching and very relatable.
I only hope that Monica will take control of her music and push herself to endless limits personally and musically. She’s beyond lack luster and stale music, and she’s managed to remain relevant throughout the years in this janky music industry. She needs to take full advantage of that, because I know she’s very appreciative of it. If not, she’ll get lost and forever continue to find herself fighting to own a place she rightfully paved, and therefore her music career will continue to suffer and remain at a stand still.
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