88.1 Pick of the Week
In the three years since Monica Arnold’s last album, The Makings of Me, R&B music has become increasingly watered down, and drifted further away from its soulful origins. With her latest release, Still Standing, the Grammy award winner has helped to bring R&B back to its strong roots, where the focus is on vocal ability, meaningful lyrical content, and dynamic production.
We were first introduced to a 14-year-old Monica back in 1995, with the sassy, “Don’t Take It Personal” from her Debut album, Miss Thang. Since then, she has remained one the most consistent and powerful singers to emerged in the past 20 years. Still Standing chronicles the joys and sorrows of love, life and relationships and reminds us why Monica has been able to achieve such longevity in her career.
We begin the album with its title track, “Still Standing” featuring rapper Ludacris. The hard hitting anthem is a testament of Monica’s strength and resilience, despite life’s obstacles and trials. It’s one of the albums best and sets the tone for the emotional journey that is Still Standing.
Next up is, the Los Da Mystro produced piano driven, “One in A Lifetime”, where Monica stresses the importance of appreciating that rare love and recognizing it before its too late. “One In A Lifetime” is followed by, “Stay Or Go”. The Neyo penned tune has Monica demanding an answer from an indecisive lover as to whether or not he wants to be with her. On both up-tempo tracks and throughout the album, Monica sings with an intensity and urgency that penetrates the soul.
Stand outs on the album include, the sample heavy, Missy Elliot produced “Everything”, which samples Deniece Williams R&B classic “Silly” and “If You Were My Man”, sampled from Evelyn “Champagne” King’s, “Betcha She Don’t Love You”. On the albums first single,” Everything” Monica proclaims how her love means the world to her and on the up-tempo “If You Were My Man”, she boast of how good her love is to prospective mate.
Although Still Standing is very strong, it does not go without its share of missteps, including the generic and gimmicky, “Super Man”, where Monica croons how she will be her mans Lois Lane. Never fear, Monica shines on the other slower songs, showcasing her vocal prowess on the sensual “Here I Am”, the inspiring “Believe In Me”, and the Jermaine Dupri helmed “Love All Over Me”, where Monica explains the feeling of being covered in love. On another gem, the radio friendly mid-tempo urban pop “Mirror”, Monica relays how she has discovered that love and not material things makes life worth living.
Overall, Still Standing is a well balanced and cohesive collection of what we’ve come to expect from Monica, impassioned delivery and relatable music. What separates Monica from her female counterparts is her ability to tackle material with emotion, conviction and a sense of sincerity. Monica proves that she is able to remain current and relevant, while bringing a sense of maturity and timelessness to her music, which is why, in a fickle industry, she is Still Standing.
88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Thursday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.
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