It’s true that loyal fans ride a singer’s roller coaster of a career, going along with the highs and lows, the twists and turns. But it’s those lows and twists that not only make for the best stories to tell once the ride ends, but shakes us down to our core more than any girl-power anthem.
Monica, who’s had her share of heartbreak anthems in recent years with singles “Still Standing” and “So Gone,” comes to life on her sixth studio album, “New Life,” when the singer chooses passion over pride and lets us seep in her vulnerability. Her deep, emotive voice pilots her when the singer dives down to pain’s core — unfortunately taking place at the closing of “New Life” with tracks as “Time To Move On” and the Salaam Remi- produced “Cry.”
The rest of “New Life” is the sound of Monica playing it safe. Aside from frequent collaborator Missy Elliott‘s “Until It’s Gone,” production and penmanship by greats like Rico Love, Bryan-Michael Cox, Jermaine Dupri, often downplays the singer’s vocal prowess. Lyrically, Monica often gets lost in self-declaration and comes to light when times get dark. Production feels subpar by all parties involved, especially surprising since they come from the usual suspects on Monica’s past albums.
Which “New Life” track will launch Monica to the top of the Billboard charts and leave you wanting one more listen? Here’s our track-by-track review of the R&B singer’s new album.
1. “New Life (Intro)”: Mary J. Blige‘s words of encouragement, via a ring, act as a fuel to Monica’s journey. “I’m packing my yesterday, and I wont’ look back… I got to embrace my new life,” Monica says.
2. “It All Belongs To Me” featuring Brandy: On “It All Belongs To Me,” produced and written by Rico Love, the R&B femmes join forces to kick their wrong-doing lovers to the curb, making sure they sure as hell don’t leave with any of their own belongings. The middle-of-the-road production and distinct lack of hair-pulling sass a la “The Boy Is Mine” ultimately make this a disappointing duet for the 90s R&B queens.
3. “Daddy’s Good Girl”: Rico Love pens and produces a call for love’s assurance. “As long as I know you got that love for me, I’ll be g.o.o.d.,” Monica sings. A decent musical pledge of devotion, but nothing that hasn’t been tread before — or better.
4. “Man Who Has Everything”: It’s not about how much you have, it’s about who you have “till forever,” Monica sings on yet another Rico Love track. Love’s reggae-pop vibe adds spice to the proceedings.
5. “Big Mistake”: Before moving on from heartache, Monica calls out one of her biggest mistakes on the Lamb penned and produced track. “Make no mistake, you won’t my mistake no more,” Monica sings with self-assurance. The production is dated enough it could’ve been on one of her late-90s R&B albums with little tweaks.
6. “Take A Chance” feat. Wale: Monica capitalizes on Wale’s emotiveness. “Got a past I’m ashamed of / Past full of danger / I can give you everything / But a last name is sacred,” Wale raps. We get two sides of a love story as the singer is ready for more, while her lover stands still with hesitance.
7. “Without You”: Monica takes co-executive producer reigns on this track, which adds some throbbing synths and twinkling piano on another “I love my man” cut. Remains solidly in the R&B vein, however, lacking the pop touch that made “Why I Love You So Much” or “Angel Of Mine” cross over in their heyday.
8. “Until It’s Gone”: While we await for Missy Elliott to return from her seven-year hiatus, she puts work in on Monica’s “New Life,” producing and co-producing (alongside another hideaway, Jazmine Sullivan), “Until It’s Gone.” The “You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone” anthem is laced with The Spinners “I Don’t Want to Lose You” and Boogie Down Productions’ “9 MM Goes Bang.” The cut stands the best chance of breaking out amid the filler-heavy material here.
9. “Amazing”: Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox and Crystal Johnson deliver a surprisingly mediocre ode to love’s loyalty.
10. “Cry”: Things get good on the final portion of the album, starting with “Cry.” The Salaam Remi slow jam, which samples Remi’s own “Igloo Lover,” spotlights Monica’s vocal range, including her impeccable deep alto.
11. “Time To Move On”: Monica lets her guard down on the D. Smith-helmed track, which showcases the singer at the wake of love’s deceit. “Now when we used to argue, atleast you used to look at me/ Now we lay next to each other and we don’t even speak,” Monica sings, as the realization of love’s departure plays out with each word.
12. “New Life (Outro)”: “Don’t look back, cause I know I got to stay track,” Monica sings, closing the album with words of wisdom to herself.