Monica: New Life

Two years between albums is a relatively short period for Monica. Inspired, perhaps, by the comparative success of 2010’s Still Standing—a Billboard-charting, Grammy-nominated record preceded by a BET reality show of the same name—New Life comes with little hesitation or pause. But New Life is hardly new, emphasizing the fundamentals of classic R&B. Ballad-driven and bluesy, and playing on the usual themes of heartbreak and renewal, New Life isn’t about broadening horizons so much as it is about realizing a comfortable niche.

New Life is a backwards-looking effort detached from contemporary trends. While the lack of AutoTuned verses and dubstep bass drops are a welcome move away from gimmicky contemporary production, the album doesn’t offer much else in their place. Even catchy tunes, like the Missy Elliott-produced “Until It’s Gone,” only register for a moment before disappearing again into the recesses of the album. Lead single “It All Belongs To Me” might be New Life’s most pandering song, a duet with fellow R&B crooner Brandy that attempts to recapture some of the buzz from the pair’s 1998 hit “The Boy Is Mine.” Ironically, the song also serves up Monica’s most current reference, a cheesy lyrical play on the words “Macbook” and “Facebook.”

As a seventh studio album, and Monica’s first for RCA, New Life is a personal mile-marker. But it won’t be her defining record, and it’s far from being her best work. It engages her vocal strengths without ever really challenging them—for better or worse. 

More Music Review