Album: New Life
Released on: April 10, 2012
Grammy Award-winning artist Monica brings forth her seventh studio album New Life. Due to the merging of RCA Records from J Records, the album’s release was delayed by a few months and her leading promo singles “Anything (To Find You)” and “Until It’s Gone” somewhat suffered. Beyond the setbacks, Monica enlisted top producers and writers to bring her vision to life. The album’s contributors are Polow Da Don, Jermaine Dupri, Bryan Michael-Cox, Rico Love, Jazmine Sullivan, Salaam Remi, D. Smith and Missy Elliot.
New Life opens with an intro featuring Monica’s longtime mentor Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul, Mary J. Blige. Blige gives Monica insight on turning her past issues into lessons learned, moving forward and being thankful for her blessings. The first official single “It All Belongs to Me,” duet with R&B songstress Brandy peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop charts. For me, I really love the skill both artists brought vocally with their melismatic inflections and technique. The song definitely had to grow on me because the production could have been stronger, however the ladies gave all they had vocally. On the infectious track, “Daddy’s Good Girl,” Monica rides the beat effortlessly, which is really reminiscent of Mary J. Blige’s “Mr. Wrong.” She sings about wanting more than materialistic things and states that as long as she feels loved & cared for, she will remain loyal. “Man Who Has Everything” sounds like an experimental track for Monica. Produced by Rico Love and Earl & E, the song has a different sound with reggae undertones and is unlike anything that Monica has ever tried. On “Big Mistake,” Monica sings her regrets of staying in a relationship with little to no growth and hoping the man would change his ways. The instrumental is classic R&B and I liked the adlibs Monica gave in the end, it made the song somewhat better because the lyrics and hook were too simplistic.
With “Take A Chance,” Monica is joined by rapper Wale. She previously stated that the track is about not being afraid of change. Her vocals were great and I love the artist Wale is, but felt he was not the best possible choice for the collaboration. The song may have been better if kept as a solo. My favorite track on New Life is “Without You,” produced by Polow Da Don. The vocals presented were flawless. Monica added falsetto, which actually finessed the track and gave a great touch. One of the tracks that had everyone awaiting the release of the album was “Until It’s Gone.” The song is about someone not appreciating all that you do and Monica sings truth the listener can really feel. “Amazing” is the kind of song I expected to hear with Monica being a newlywed and taking this new journey in life. On the Dupri and Cox written and produced track, Monica sings, “Everything I am/ everything I was/ has been elevated through the power of your love/ everything I’ve lost/ everything I’ve gained/ no longer makes a difference since you changed my name.” I love the song, it’s sincere and the lyrics are everything you would want to tell someone who impacted your life with love.
“Cry” is another favorite of mine from the album. The instrumental has an old-school feel and Monica exhibits her signature runs and lets her man know it’s alright to be vulnerable in front of her. On the bluesy “Time To Move On,” I found what I was searching for in Monica’s emotionally charged power vocals and overall, felt it was the best song on the entire album. I believe it’s one of Monica’s most personal records and I could feel the honesty in her vocal delivery. Great closing track!
New Life had very few standout moments in comparison to 2010′s Still Standing. For me, the album pretty much coasted on cruise control with not too many highs or lows. All of Monica’s fans know her vocal capability and I felt she stayed in the pocket, not really pushing beyond what we already know she can do. The album did not wow me as much as the release of Still Standing and also, it lacked uptempos, which Monica usually incorporates, even though she is a balladeer at heart. This definitely hurt the album because it kept the vibe one-dimensional. I believe the new space Monica is in mentally affected the emotion of the album, but I’m uncertain if she found the proper balance between revisiting the past and her new life journey. Monica is an artist that no longer has to prove she is a powerhouse vocalist because it is evident in her previous works, however I always feel an artist should never become too comfortable and based on the overall production of the album, it remained safe. From New Life, I hoped for a well-rounded project, but only loved about five songs out of ten, excluding the intro and outro.