Today is the day!
Monica releases her album ‘New Life’, so it is now available to purchase. But the question I ask is, where is the switching of tempo on this album? It was basically ballad after ballad, slow cuts lifted from previous albums and then merged into a new project.
The album features production and songwriting from Rico Love, Polow da Don, Missy Elliott, Salaam Remi and Monica’s usual game players such as Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox, to name the few.
Monica takes us through an emotional journey on this album. She looks back on painful passages of her past (reminders of lost love), while looking forward to a positive new future (with L.A. Laker husband Shannon Brown).
If this album was marked on consistency, it would get full marks, but a cohesive album is not always a good thing. I think ‘New Life’ is still a good R&B album. It just lacked variety. Though samey (and a bit boring and forgettable) in its production, Monica’s vocals are nice, and the album is well produced.
Here, I present you with my track-by-track album review.
‘New Life (intro)’
An encouraging phone conversation with Monica’s good friend Mary J. Blige is filled with appraises for Monica’s excellent role as a wife, a mother and a singer. Mary tells Monica not to take her blessings for granted. The piano-backed intro is accented by nice soulful addlibs and sets the tone for what’s to come next, allowing Monica to explore the positive aspects of her “new life”.
‘It All Belongs to Me’ (feat. Brandy)
The Rico Love penned midtempo failed to live up to the hype of their critically acclaimed, 14-year smash ‘The Boy Is Mine’. While I was not expecting some masterpiece, there was still hope for a kick-ass uptempo that would slay my soul. Unfortunately, the production was tediously dull and despicably boring. Not to say it’s a bad song however. It just didn’t overwhelm me. Saying that, the track did showcase how much Brandy and Monica have grown up over the years. They had to of course. They’re no longer in their teens, no longer in their 20s, and fighting over a man during this period of their life would be deemed totally unacceptable now that they are mothers. The two vets reunite to kick no-good boyfriends to the curb and demanding their belongings back in the process. A very basic R&B production but it excelled in parts that mattered most. A chemistry that was not lost.
‘Daddy’s Good Girl’
Every woman wants unlimited love and attention from their men. But can a woman actually command it without coming across too needy and desperate? Monica takes it there on the lyrically-depressing midtempo, while taking a stand against unrequited love. The production is a nice R&B throwback built on a simple keyboard-driven melody, some handclaps and a soft bassline. But going back to the lyrical content. If a man was truly in love with his woman, she would not need to make a plea to behave herself in exchange for romantic reciprocation. In which case, all of this would be an automantic process, and not forced.
‘Man Who Has Everything’
The build-up to this is great. The Rico Love-produced cut highlights a woman’s determination to genuinely offer a man her love. That is, without being stuck on his high calorie bank balance. She illustrates that these are things which would attract the typical gold digger but not a woman who has her own sh*t. It pretty much draws on the concept of “money can’t buy you love”, and opens up with a progressive drum beat building into this reggae-tinged, soul arrangement. I like that this has a throwback feel to it but at the same time it contains elements that would make it somewhat suitable for the Adult Contemporary audience.
This break-up number is backed by percussion, claps and some male harmonising that blends in smoothly with the beat. Rather than cry about the breakdown of her relationship (presumably with the father of her kids), Monica airs regret over not walking away sooner when the signs were always there. It’s more bittersweet than emotive but vocally, Monica totally excels on the Cainon Lamb-produced cut. It certainly makes for a killer, oldschool Monica ballad.
‘Take a Chance’ (feat. Wale)
Monica and Wale come together to deliver this really heartfelt ballad. It comes with a beautiful message about lovers ignoring their pasts to start a fresh. The track is accompanied by some heavy bass which glides over a smooth, laidback production. Wale delivers several commitment-deficient verses (“Got a past I’m ashamed of, past full of danger. I can give you everything, but the last name is sacred” he spits). Sure enough, he will give her the world but not his hand in marriage. This track has some serious commercial sensibilities. A definite album standout!
Monica delves deeper into personal territory showing gratitude for the man that is currently in her life right now. Polow Da Don‘s production consists of a reverb-heavy percussion line, complimented by a melodramatic piano. It’s a pretty song which allows Monica to play with her range, and allowing us to hear how far she can go with it.
‘Until It’s Gone’
The ballad consists of Monica no longer dwelling on a failed relationship. She tells him he’ll only realise what he’s lost until it’s gone. Monica also finds herself vocally challenging herself among the varying degrees of piano and strings, which samples the late soul diva Phyllis Hyman’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You’. I love the bittersweet nature of the song and Monica certainly knows how to work an oldschool slow jam.
Another retro ballad from Monica which sees the singer directly declaring her love to her husband Shannon Brown. “Gave me a new life, when you made me your wife” she emotionally sings on the Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox helmed offering. The production is not fresh and this sound has been recycled over and over. Same old boring piano riffs and handclaps.
This is probably Monica at her most retro. Jazmine Sullivan wrote it with Salaam Remi. The organic production is bathed in vintage soul and Monica makes no apologies for it either. I heard Jazmine’s version a few months back and I was slayed. Monica did a nice job and although her version is softer, it totally works given the nature of the song. ‘Cry’ endorses a great message for men. Social perceptions of men heavily play on the fact that they are not suppose to show emotion because it is considered weak and girly. Monica is saying it is perfectly fine for a man to cry as they too need a shoulder to lean on.
‘Time to Move On’
Monica closes the album with this vocally-gymnastic soul tune, which comes complete with some bluesy guitar riffs and a gospel choir. Monica is finally closing the door on the relationship that just wasn’t meant to be. Brilliantly sang.
‘New Life (outro)’
Same musical composition is used as the intro. This time Monica embraces her new life of happiness and fulfilment.
Overall rating: 3.5/5