Sunday, March 28, 2010

Album Review: Monica "Still Standing"

It's been quite a ride for Monica since she was last on top with After The Storm (which I suppose is ironic) seven years ago. In 2006, she released her last album The Makings Of Me, which, after being misguided by her label, flopped. Then, after taking some time off to give birth to her second son, Monica began her comeback with the BET reality show Monica: Still Standing. Fans were able to see a different side of Monica & fall in love with her all over again, which led to the fan-chosen first single "Everything To Me" off the singer's fifth studio album Still Standing topping the Billboard R&B & Hip-Hop Songs chart. Monica has had quite a ride on her way to the appropriately titled Still Standing, but is the success justified by the quality of the music?

The Ludacris-assisted title track "Still Standing" kicks off the album. It's hard to describe exactly how I feel about the song now that it's been out forever & played during the opening credits of Monica's reality show every week for a three-month period, but I do know that when it leaked, I loved "Still Standing," so we'll leave it at that. Next up is "One In A Lifetime," which is nice & has some lovely sections in it. While the album doesn't have any bad tracks, this one is probably the weakest, so it baffles me as to why in the world the label wanted to release it as the lead single. Moving on, we have "Stay Or Go," a gorgeous slow jam. Then, of course, there's "Everything To Me," which is absolutely incredible vocally & enjoyable to listen to regardless.

The only song on the album that could even remotely be labeled an uptempo is (the annoyingly retitled) "If You Were My Man." This Missy Elliott production is terrific & still hasn't gotten old after having been leaked for quite some time. "Mirror" is another excellent track, while "Here I Am" is definitely a highlight. It sounds like, despite their differences, that Polow Da Don & Monica have great musical chemistry! I also quite like "Superman," which serves as a solid bridge connecting "Here I Am" to another big vocal display on "Love All Over Me." Girl, you need to work more with Jermaine Dupri cause this song is gooood! Speaking of which, & I almost can't believe I'm saying these words together, but the Stargate-produced closer "Believing In Me" is another highlight. Monica is powerful on the song, which recently took on a whole new meaning, with her passionate lyrical delivery. I love it!

Hopefully it's evident that I really like Still Standing. Monica is so talented & really has amazing chemistry with pretty much every producer she works with. In fact, most of the problems I could point out about the album (Hello! 10-song cap!) are not her fault, but her label's... not to mention that she completely pulled through despite their restrictions! If there is anything I could say that I think will help Monica continue to excel in the future, it would be to work more with Missy Elliott. I know she knows that, but people are obviously digging the vibe of "Everything To Me" & I LOVE "Let Me Know," a very early leak, which probably led to its non-inclusion. The two of them had incredible chemistry back in the day with "So Gone," but its only gotten better with time. None of that takes away, however, from the fact that Still Standing is, from beginning to end, an outstanding album & one of the best R&B efforts in recent memory.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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