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The Makings of Monica

Interview with a Diva


The Makings of Monica

"Makings of Me" cover © J Records.

Updated November 22, 2006
Sometimes it's hard to believe that R&B singer Monica is still only in her mid-20s; after all, she's been part of the American musical landscape for more than a decade. And what's even more interesting is that despite being only 26, Monica's been through more triumph and tragedy than many people twice her age.

Among the things she's endured over the past five years are the suicide of her boyfriend - who killed himself in front of her; and a later boyfriend (the rapper C-Murder) who was charged with murdering a teenager following a dispute outside a Louisiana nightclub. But on the bright side was her engagement to a behind-the-scenes music industry veteran; and the birth of her son, Rodney.

And many of those moments that make Monica who she is were captured on her fourth studio album, appropriately titled The Makings of Me.

Very Personal Songs

The album's full of true-life tales of the ups and downs of Monica's life, such as "Why Her," where Monica wonders aloud why her man chose to cheat on her with a specific woman; and "Sideline Ho," where she schools women as to how to tell whether or not they're their man's main squeeze.

With the way she pours her heart out in some of the very personal songs, you'd think it was an emotionally draining process recording the songs. Not so, says Monica.

"I had already dealt with all these things," the articulate, well-spoken diva said during a phone interview. Monica explained that she had already worked her way through her various difficulties and put them to rest before putting them on the album. "I dealt with 'me' before presenting it to the world."

Working With Missy

Part the songwriting and production on the album, specifically the album's second single, "Dozen Roses," was handled by Missy Elliott. Missy also served as executive producer of Monica's third album, 2003's After The Storm. "She and I started to talk a lot after we lost Aaliyah," Monica revealed of her friendship with Missy. "As she got to know me, she would write more for me. It got to the point where we were almost doing two songs a night."

Not all the songs made it to the album, of course - in fact, there's only 10 tracks on The Makings of Me, and the album clocks in at under 40 minutes, a little short by today's standards. But the brevity of the album's not due to a lack of material.

"I probably recorded 40 songs for the album," she revealed. When asked about whether it's tough to narrow down so many songs to just a little more than a handful for an album, she said "It's not. The good stuff stands out."

A Record For the Kids, An Album For Adults

One thing that definitely stood out on Monica's new album was the first single, "Everytime Tha Beat Drop," which features her fellow Atlanta residents, the rap clique Dem Franchize Boyz. When the song first hit TV and radio, it threw some people for a loop, because they weren't expecting a snap music track from Monica, who's always been known more for traditional R&B. And as it turned out, the song was like nothing else on the album.

"I just wanted to do a record for the kids, because the album is so deep," Monica explained. But in releasing that record for the youth as the first single, some were given a mistaken impression that the entire album would be geared in that direction. "And that was the downside of releasing it as the first single," she admitted. "This is not an album for kids."

A Slow Marketplace

Although the album is probably the most accomplished of Monica's career, sales have paled beside her last album, which has sold about a million copies to date. So far, The Makings of Me has sold less than a quarter of a million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which monitors album sales. But to help get the word out, Monica said she plans on promoting the album until at least February, then go out on tour to further support the album. "The marketplace is so slow right now," she said, taking about not just about her album, but R&B and music in general. "I accept that that's what's taking place."

So it's possible that despite a slow start sales-wise, The Makings of Me could eventually go on to big things due to good word-of-mouth. And there are precedents, most recently the case of Lyfe Jennings' first album which started out - and remained - fairly low on the charts, but went on to be a sales hit over time. But in the meantime, Monica's working hard to promote it.

And as for the more distant future, Monica hasn't started thinking about a new album yet, but did mention one person whom she'd love to collaborate with: "I've always been an R. Kelly fan," she revealed. "He and I could probably make some good music."
And considering Monica and Kelly's equal penchant for drama in their music, that's a collaboration that many music fans would love to see come to fruition.

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