Sunday, 21 October 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Monica

Remember when ‘Case of the Ex’ ruled the charts and Wyclef Jean produced good music? In this weekly feature, I’m going to take a look back at some of the best RnB artists of yesteryear, sharing their signature videos and underrated hits, as well as looking at what they’re up to nowadays.

Previous posts have focussed on Cassie, Ciara, Missy Elliott and Brandy. Today, it’s Monica’s turn!

Hey Monica!
Monica has been steadily releasing music for the past twenty years now, hitting the height of her fame around the late 90s with her Brandy duet ‘The Boy Is Mine’. Her popularity has continued since however, with Monica recently becoming the first RnB artist to top the RnB Billboard chart in the 90s, 2000s and 2010s! You go girl! Let’s take a look back at her debut from 1995.

Monica released ‘Miss Thang’ at the tender age of 14 and with the first two single releases, she became the youngest recording artist to top a billboard chart with consecutive hits. With her powerful yet smooth voice, Monica burst onto the scene with her first single ‘Don’t Take It Personal’, which showcased an edgier look that fans of her more recent work might not be used to it. Loving the 90s Dallas Austin production and boyish haircut.

The first album did pretty well but with her follow-up ‘The Boy Is Mine’, Monica became a global superstar.

Exploiting rumours of their rivalry, Monica and Brandy released the ‘The Boy Is Mine’ as the lead single from both of their albums which came out that year. The track quickly became the biggest hit of 1998 and is easily one of the most successful duets of all time. The harsh edge of Monica’s voice and Brandy’s warmer tone perfectly complimented one another, resulting in the most successful hit of their respective careers. Because of this, I feel that the rest of Monica’s output around that time can sometimes be overlooked but ‘The Boy Is Mine’ had some other classic RnB tracks that continued the albums success. Check out the video for ‘The First Night’ if you don’t believe me.

Loving Jermaine Dupri’s production.

The song was another huge smash for Monica and became her first solo chart topper but it’s not even my favourite! Her next release from the album was actually a cover of British girl group Eternal’s biggest hit,, ‘Angel Of Mine’. This ballad showcases Monica’s softer side and has since become one of her signature songs.

But that’s not my favourite track off the album either! That honour goes to the far less successful ‘Street Symphony’, which saw Monica work once again with Dallas Austin for an RnB track with a classical twist. I’m obsessed with this one, even if the music buying public back in 1999 weren’t as enamoured. Watch it here…now!

How crazy is that dress?!

The following year, Monica suffered personal tragedy but continued on, releasing a single for the soundtrack ‘Down To Earth’, which saw moderate success in the US. It’s a catchy little RnB track and definitely worth checking out if you haven’t heard it before. Here’s ‘Just Another Girl’.

The song was also featured on Monica’s third album, ‘All Eyez On Me’, which only saw a physical release in Japan after internet bootlegging and a lukewarm response to the lead title track single.

One of my favourite songs from this album is the heartfelt Diane Warren ballad ‘What My Heart Says’.

I also love the second single from the album, ‘Too Hood’ which saw Monica reunite with super producer Jermaine Dupri. Unfortunately, this song did not fare well either and so a music video was ultimately never produced. Listen to it here.

In 2003, Monica retooled the album, dropping about half of the songs in favour of new material produced by hitmakers such as Missy Elliott and Kanye West. This effort became her fourth album, ‘After The Storm’, and lead single ‘So Gone’ became one of Monica’s biggest hits in years, both critically and commercially.

‘So Gone’ is such a tune, check it out.

Love the scratchy production.    

‘After The Storm’ is easily my favourite Monica album and while one or two tracks tend to flow together towards the end, the quality remains consistently high throughout. I love the single ‘U Should’ve Known Better’ but my personal favourite from this release is ‘Get It Off’, which sees Monica singing over Missy’s dirty hip-hop production in this club banger. If only Monica sang more songs with this kind of edge! The track was released as a double A side with ‘Knock Knock’ and there’s a video featuring both songs but it misses out half of ‘Get It Off’ so listen to the album version instead. 

‘Baby I’m a dirtbag!’

In 2006, Monica returned with her fifth album, ‘Makings of Me’, which included further production by Missy Elliott and Jermaine Dupri.

While the album was received well critically, ‘Makings of Me’ became Monica’s lowest selling release to date. Despite this, I was obsessed with the lead single ‘Everytime Tha Beat Drop’, which saw Monica return with an edgier hip-hop sound that reminded me of her debut. The video is so cool, with some awesome street dancing, Monica looking incredible and random stuff falling out of the sky!

Loving the dog!

After a long break, ‘Still Standing’ became Monica’s sixth album release and in 2010, she received two grammy nominations for Best RnB album and Best Female RnB Vocal Performance.

Critics loved it and ‘Still Standing’ reached number two on the Billboard chart in its first week of release. Lead single ‘Everything To Me’ is a nice mid-tempo number but I prefer the follow up ‘Love All Over Me’, which features Monica looking back at her life in 1995 compared to now and even listening to her first album on the radio!

Not many women can pull off the short hair like Monica !

2012 saw Monica return again for her most recent release, ‘New Life’, which is her SEVENTH album so far!
Guests on the album include Mary J Blige, Wale and Rick Ross. Click below to see Rick on the album’s lead single ‘Anything (To Find You)’, which is just classic Monica.

Lil Kim was originally supposed to feature on the track as well but her part was controversially removed before the song’s release. While ‘Anything’ is a good song, my favourite release from the album has to be ‘It All Belongs To Me’, a duet with BRANDY! Yes, that’s right, BRANDY! Of course the song cannot match the classic ‘Boy Is Mine’ but it’s a great RnB song in its own right and highlights once again how impressive both their vocals actually are.

What a tune. As both their careers are not as successful as they once were, I would love to see the pair record an entire duets album or even just do a joint tour, which would remind people of how great they are, both separately and together. Probably just a pipe dream but never mind.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking back over some of Monica’s biggest hits as well as some personal favourites of mine. Remember to comment below if you like my choices or if you think I missed out any key songs. And come back next Sunday for another edition of ‘Whatever Happened To RnB?’.


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