new single, "It All Belongs To Me"
Grammy Award-winning and 10-million-plus selling singer, actress and entrepreneur Monica, returns to the music scene with her very personal J Records/RCA Music Group aptly titled offering, Still Standing. To define oneself as “still standing” is a bold statement, and as her album title actualizes, “whatever happens to me is just a part of my story. It doesn’t define who I am and it hasn’t deterred me from where I’m going.”
The musical part of the Georgia native’s story is filled with a track record of history making accomplishments. For any average recording artist, achieving chart-topping success during their early to mid-teens is no simple task, but we’re talking about Monica here. “It was the perfect life for me. I wouldn’t say any 12, 14 or 16 year old could handle it, but that was for me because it shaped and molded the person that I am” she recalls. With “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)” and “Before You Walk Out Of My Life,” Monica became the youngest female ever to have two #1 back-to-back hits on Billboard’s R&B chart from her 1995 debut album Miss Thang. By 1998, her next album The Boy Is Mine, garnered Monica pop success when she paired with Brandy to record the Rodney Jerkins produced first single of the same name. Spending a record breaking thirteen weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts, the duet earned a Grammy Award to add to Monica’s existing collection of American Music, Soul Train and Billboard Awards. “I was 16 and everything that I dreamed about was in front of me.” The album boasted two more #1 hits (“The First Night” and “Angel of Mine”) while establishing Monica as an undeniable voice of her generation. In 2003 Monica’s chart-topping success continued when her third album, After The Storm, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chart and spawned her sixth #1 single “So Gone.” Monica’s follow-up album, 2006’s The Makings Of Me, entered at #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart and added yet another achievement to the songstress’ extraordinary career.
Even after a four-year musical pause, Monica is still a pretty, young “thang” - present, accounted for and very prepared for everything life has to offer. The lessons Monica learned during her break not only pushed her desire to re-enter the music scene, but kept her focused on the importance of generating positive energy at all times. “Over the hiatus I learned that the more I did with a positive frame of mind, the better things went.” With that attitude and some swift negotiationsBlack Entertainment Television (BET) took their viewers and Monica fans on a 12-week behind the scenes journey of Monica’s life , in preparation for her new album release. Along for the ride were the nucleus of Monica’s life – her 2 sons, Ramone (Lil Rocko) and Romello, cousin/manager Melinda, mother Marilyn and album executive producer Bryan-Michael Cox.
With her suitably titled series, Monica: Still Standing, “I wanted people to get a clear look at why I do some of the things that I do. The show gave me a chance to be me at all times, so now people aren’t expecting something of me, they already know me,” Monica attests of the show’s value. Monica identifies Still Standing the album as, “my defining moment. The process of recording this album felt more like the first time where I didn’t think about what was playing on the radio. This album reflects who I am now.”
From the moment you press play on Still Standing, songwriter Adonis along with song producer Bryan-Michael Cox nailed the essence of Monica’s confidence while she makes a declarative statement of power on the album’s title track, which features her cousin Ludacris. With the equally emotional “Believing In Me,” produced by Stargate, Monica elaborates on her survivor instincts by adding, “sometimes you have to understand that your inner strength is the only strength you’ll need and it takes for some things to happen for that to come about.”
The official first single “Everything to Me,” reunites Monica with producer Missy Elliott alongside talented singer/songwriter Jazmine Sullivan. The refreshing R&B classic “Silly” by Deniece Williams is sampled on this track that showcases a more vulnerable side to Monica. The musical ode to all things good, positions Monica’s vocals atop the pianos, drums and chords. “When I heard it and thought about all the things that are surrounding me right now, they have one thing in common - love.” Missy also contributed “If You Were My Man,” the dance track Monica describes as the “most out of my character because I wanted to flip the storyline where the woman is out doing her thing and the man is 100% devoted, because it’s usually quite the opposite.”
Monica has always been straight to the point both personally and professionally. The Ne-Yo produced “Stay Or Go” is simple in nature, “if you’re not going to treat me right, then here’s the option.” With Ne-Yo’s radio-friendly ear, the music remains fun and light with pop sensibilities, even with its definitive lyrics. “He wanted to do a record that spoke to who I am and he reached back into my history on how I’ve delivered records in a sassy yet vocal way.”
The synthesized rock edge places the self-reflective tone of “Mirror” in perspective. “Quite frankly I think I am a little rock and roll. My body art reflects a rock frame of mind yet has meaning and serves as of my personal self-expression of joy and pain,” but it was the lyrics that kept Monica captive on the Jim Jonsin produced track. “Every single lyric in the song is eventually something you are going to say to yourself and ‘Mirror’ is saying I am at that point now; I am good with being me.”
“That’s my jam,” is how Monica describes the Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox produced “Love All Over Me.” The anthemic, harmonizing slow jam is “strictly about being in love where everything feels right.” The creation of the song was organic in nature reflecting love that has no boundaries.
Not only was Monica transparent on Still Standing, Cox became equally so in the song he penned and produced called “Superman.” Of the groovy slow jam with the syncopated drum pattern, Monica proclaims “I think he wrote that song because he really wants to be that for somebody and I really respected it because for a man to come up with those lyrics and to speak on being that type of person, meant a lot.”
As a body of work, Still Standing reflects an amazing introspective process of precision, purpose and release. “Ultimately what I wanted to get across on this album is that I have not lost the one thing that connected people to me from the beginning and that’s the voice. I never believed in being vocally trained, I just sing until I get it right. The organic, raw nature of my voice is what connects people to me. That’s my gift and I’ve learned to take care of it.”
Beyond utilizing her gift, Monica’s respect for Kimora Lee Simmons entrepreneurial endeavors coupled with her balance of motherhood, challenged Monica to take a stab at designing clothes for her sons. Thus, Regions of Rock was birthed. “Clothes should be universal so whatever region you are from, you should be able to rock these clothes. And it has two R’s for my sons’ names – Rodney and Romello. They’ll model the clothes but I want it to be fun for them, not work. I’m creating their legacy so they have options.” Still in its testing stage, Monica is exploring the marketing and manufacturing price points for her line.
As Monica prepares for the future, she has reconciled her past, all of her choices and she is very content with where she currently stands. “Yesterday gets in the way of me focusing on tomorrow and what I have to accomplish.” Her reality is defined by her peace. “I am successful because of everything that I am and everything that I am not. I feel I am successful now because I am happy with my life, my family, my children, the direction my career is going. I’m also happy with the things I accomplished before this moment.” Desiring her life to continue to be a reflection of “strength, positivity, ambition, love, outreach, the empowerment of women and selflessness,” Monica will continue to stand tall.