Monica | Put Your Faith in Me

monica smFrom beauty to talent to personality; she was the girlfriend everyone wanted to have.

 

Monica lg

Short hair was her signature style. An angelic voice was her mode of operation. Monica had it all and then some, from beauty to talent to personality; she was the girlfriend everyone wanted to have. From her first album Miss Thang in 1995, I knew she was going to have a longevity that went beyond just great vocal talent. I was five years old and I found myself glued to the TV when she came on. She was magnetic.

Her attitude was something that made her unique and she owned every bit of its sometime-y, flaky ways and anyone who knows us, women know that we have some at-ti-tudes. Her song, “Don’t Take it Personal (Just One of Dem Days) personified it exactly, “Just one of dem days that a girl goes through/ when I’m angry inside, don’t want to take it out on you/ Just one of dem days don’t take it personal/ I just want to be all alone and you think I treat you wrong?/ Don’t take it personal”

For simply owning that she values and needs her alone even at a young age of 15 makes Monica brown suga. The album solidified her as a ‘90s R&B singer. “Before You Walk Out of My Life” and “Why I Love You So Much” are still two of my favorite ballads from this album.

1998 was a grand year for Monica with the release of her second album, The Boy Is Mine, which featured another ‘90s R&B princess Brandy on its title track. As the biggest-selling album of her career, this album comprised so many remarkable songs on one disc or cassette tapes (yes, I miss those, too). You could hear her soul being poured out over each track as she sang a remake of Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue” among her signature contemporary-style good girl who loves a bad boy.

Monica was one of the first artists to not simply be confined to typical mold of an R&B singer belting love-filled ballads, cheating tales or relationships between girlfriends. She sang about her fighting temptation of sex on “The First Night,” which is something I’m sure we all have fought one time or another.

“I should make a move, but I won’t/ I know you probably thinking something is wrong/ Knowing if I do that it won’t be right/ I want to get down but not the first night.” Let’s face it: A relationship built on sex will simply always be based on the superficial and doomed from the start. There are exceptions to the rule; however, why subject yourself to consequences you’re not sure you can handle the morning after? Unprotected sex not included, I’m not talking about the mental anguish trying to figure out if you messed up any future potential with a mate by going too far, too fast, too soon.

The ballads on the The Boy Is Mine were nothing short of greatness. “Angel of Mine” with its sure certainty of love: “When I first saw you I already knew/ there was something inside of you/ something I thought that I would never find.” Then there was “Inside,” the song that identifies the emotion I feel as a girl who never quite lets my mate know what or how I feel. I don’t like feeling too vulnerable and being at the mercy of someone else, so as for me, like Monica, “I don’t want to let you see, baby/ what you’ve done to me so I’ll just keep it all inside.”

But of all the romantic songs, “For You I Will” trumps any song during its time. The theme song for the movie Space Jam really showcased her vocals and proved her artistry. It’s one of the best love songs, period.

“I will shield your heart from the rain/ I won’t let no harm come your way./ Oh, these arms will be your shelter/ No, these arms won’t let you down/ If there is a mountain to move/ I will move that mountain for you,” she proclaims to her love. She illustrates the person we all want to be to our loved ones: the hero(ine) who wants to remove every hurt from them, to be their inspiration for a smile or greatness. She goes on to make a powerful confession (that I’m not sure I’m selfless enough to say): “For you I will lay my life on the line/ For you I will fight, oh, for you I will die./ With every breath with all my soul/ I’ll give my word; I’ll give it all./ Put your faith in me and I’ll do anything.”

After this hugely successful album, she released a few singles from Big Momma’s House and Down to Earth soundtracks. One of which I think every person should be mindful of when s/he when it comes to being special in someone’s life, “Just Another Girl.” Truth be told, you can’t hold a piece of the heart being just another girl or guy.

As Monica reemerged on the scene with After the Storm, something was different about her. She had become extremely comfortable in her skin and with the woman she had flourished into. This album was more upbeat—a party album, you could say—but it had such a powerful message: After the storm you can be magnificent, because it is through that storm that you truly find out your capabilities and just how much you can withstand.

Monica gave us a peek into her gangster side with her rapping on “So Gone” and “Knock Knock,” which was pretty fantastic, might I add. She had always been that pretty girl with an affinity for guys who were completely her opposite based on appearances. She’d always showed herself well put together and sophisticated, but you would hear about her dating C-Murder or a gang member, so of course she had the opportunity to portray through her art what she loved in them.

In “What Hurts the Most,” Monica sang about a fear I’d always had about love and that’s letting it go. I’m not particularly fond of not getting what I want, but I’m also uncompromising in the lengths I will go to now, in my 20s, as it relates to career and love.

What’s described in this tune is how they’ve reconnected, as each of them have equally lived their lives without each other, only for her to come back and find that he’s got someone he’s decided to dedicate his whole life to and what they had has got to be through. She tells him, “Baby, what hurts the most is letting go/ I just want you to know that I love you so/ I know things are different now you’ve gone and settled down/ I thought for sure you’d always wait for me.”

And, of course, this album wouldn’t be complete without her adult version of “Don’t Take It Personal” in “Breaks My Heart,” and she confesses, “Baby, it breaks my heart to think that loving me is not easy to do/ and I don’t mean to make it hard/ Sorry for all the changes I’ve put you through/ and it’s hard to believe after everything that you’re still here right beside me/ Wouldn’t change you for this whole world thankful just to be your girl.”

I find layers of myself in this song because, I admit, I’m not always the most easygoing girl to have. I’m difficult, opinionated, and just downright surly sometimes, so I commend all the mates who have handled the challenge of me very well without fear. And for your bravery, I send a salute and will always hold you with a deep regard because, as Monica said, “That’s my man, ain’t gon’ let no one say nothing bad ‘bout my baby.”

Her subsequent albums, The Makings of Me and Still Standing, haven’t yielded the best record sales; however, they have provided an authentic, picturesque view through the eyes of Monica Arnold Brown of what a joy it is to live happily and jovially. It’s a life full of learning lessons, forgiving those who hurt you, being able to love yourself above all, building a family, and finally, giving that love to someone who reciprocates with the same intoxicating feel. And as only she can proclaim, she’s still standing with love all over her magnifying God being everything to her—the source of her strength, her life, and her joy. Brown suga on Monica has never looked better. | Ashley White

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