Although she's still not even 30 years old yet, Monica
Arnold is a longtime veteran of the music business. She began her professional career as a teenager in the mid-'90s, and over that span has recorded six albums (one of which was released only in Japan). Her sixth and latest project, Still Standing
, released March 23, 2010 in the U.S., is like Monica herself; mature and dignified enough to appeal to older fans, but at the same time young and fresh enough to be down with the hip-hop generation. Although it has it's few minor flaws, Still Standing
is definitely one of the stronger albums of Monica's career so far.
One of the problems with some of Monica
's past work is that although she has a strong, powerful voice, that voice has sometimes come across as cold and unemotional. But on the majority of the 10 songs on Still Standing
, she sings with not only strength, but conviction. A perfect example of this is the album's second song, "One in a Lifetime," a lush, piano-laced song about finding your true love. Instead of going through the motions, she shows plenty of emotion: when she sings "You only get one, one, love/one in a lifetime," and begs her lover to come back home, you believe she's sincere and feel the urgency in her voice. Likewise on the next two songs, "Stay or Go," which was co-written and co-produced by Ne-Yo; and the Missy Elliott-produced single "Everything to Me." In fact, "Everything to Me," which contains a sample of the 1980s Deniece Williams hit "Silly," is the album's standout track and is as solid as a brick house; great singing, great lyrics, great production, just a great all-around song.
Ironically, the song after "Everything to Me," is one of the few weak tracks here. The song, called "If You Were My Man," is too retro-'80s. Interestingly, it uses the same formula as "Everything to Me" (a throwback beat produced by Missy Elliott), but goes wrong by having Monica kick a rap verse (yes, you read that right) toward the end of the song. It's one of the few blemishes on an otherwise strong album.
Warm & Rich
As anyone who's followed Monica's career knows, Monica's underone a lot during her 29 years of life, including the suicide of one boyfriend, the murder conviction of another, and just before the album's release the break-up of her relationship with her longtime boyfriend (and father of her two sons), rapper Rodney "Rocko" Hill. And there's also been a little record label drama mixed in there, too. But despite all she's been through, there have been times where it just seemed like Monica was just singing words on a piece of paper, every when she was singing about heartbreak and turmoil, two topics she obviously knows a lot about. But that isn't a problem on this album, for the most part.
Mostly, Monica's vocals have a warm, rich and very human tone to them. The album's title track, "Still Standing," which features her fellow Atlanta native Ludacris, is about her inner strength as a person, and it also exemplifies her strengh as a vocalist. When she starts off the song by singing "Listen to me now, I'm gonna say it loud so you won't be confused by what we talkin' 'bout," you immediately realize that she's come a long way since the days of songs like "The Boy is Mine," but when she continues with the lyrics "I been through the storm, got dirt on my name, I'm still holdin' on, champion of the game," she makes it clear that despite her personal and professional ups and downs, Monica still plans on being a force in the music world for some time to come.