Not since Joe’s My Name is Joe has the title of an r&b album been more accurate than...
DJBooth Album Review
It can be extraordinarily difficult for an artist to achieve true success after years away from the spotlight, so Monica has a long way to go if she wants to make it back to the top, but fortunately she sounds more than prepared for the journey. While Still Standing certainly has some potential hits, it’s first and foremost a deeply personal and soulful album. An album that’s unlikely to attract legions of new fans, but should grab longtime fans and not let go, and over the long run that’s exactly the kind of music that will last an artist a lifetime. If this album is any indication, there’s no reason Monica won’t still be standing for a long time to come.
This might feel a little soulless, but in today’s musical climate a smash single is more valuable than ever, so we might as well start thing off with Still Standing’s more radio ready material, starting with the album’s most recent single Everything to Me. Produced by Missy Elliott, who reaches into her soul playbook for a classic r&b jam, Everything to Me showcases Monica’s gospel roots as she delivers a dynamically hypnotizing vocal performance. Ok, bad example. Maybe I should have gone with Missy’s other contribution If You Were My Man, a bouncing and 80s influenced track that notably features a somewhat unfortunate quasi-rap from Monica. It’s the album’s most openly upbeat track, and it does briefly elevate Still Standing’s mood, but I still can’t see it gaining serious spins. Maybe the title track Still Standing will launch the album into the stratosphere. After all, it does contain a Ludacris verse…and unflinchingly powerful vocals from Monica…and inspiring lyrics. Maybe not.
Actually, now that I think about it, there really aren't any overt attempts to conquer the mainstream charts on Still Standing. Not only is there nary a club song to be found, but the aforementioned Luda is the album’s sole guest. Instead, Monica has made a deeply, deeply personal album full of tracks like the darkly intense Mirror, a track that women everywhere – real women – should be able to relate to, and be inspired by (shades of Mary J. Blige anyone?). While Here I Am’s intentions may not be as admirable as Mirror, Monica is revenge cheating on her man, it’s an extraordinary example of her development as a singer. She knows just when to hold back and when to unleash the powerhouse notes, a musical wisdom that only comes from experience. I’m listening to it as I write these words, and I’m officially announcing that Here I Am’s my favorite song on the album. It’s official. But these tracks are still really only the tip of the sonic iceberg. Once In a Lifetime is the album’s purest love song, Love All Over Me proves that Monica’s a more powerful singer than she sometimes gets credit for (at times she sounds like a pre-Bobby Whitney Houston) and Believing In Me is an acoustic ode to moving beyond heartbreak. These tracks may not be perfect, but they’re honest, and the blend of vulnerability and strength Monica displays on Still Standing is precisely what makes it stand above the crowd.
So, ultimately, what does Still Standing mean for Monica? While the album may not have blown you away by the time Monica’s last note has faded, I frankly don’t see how anyone could claim to be an r&b fan and not at the very least enjoy this album. Monica has done more than simply stand. She’s triumphed, and I recommend you celebrate with her.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Mar 23, 2010
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