Monica | New Life (RCA)

220px-Monica New Life DeluxeShe effortlessly goes back to her R&B roots to pen a heartfelt, mature album about ending one thing to begin anew, fresh.

 

Gossip Girl once said, “The thing about new beginnings is that they require something else to end.” Monica’s seventh studio, New Life, gives us the step-by-step breakdown of the process. First, you have a moment that breaks the camel’s back, then an epiphany follows, and finally, you relinquish that old thing and go out into the world anew, discovering a new environment, a new self, and a new love.

In a personal conversation with her friend Mary J. Blige on the intro, Monica reveals that she has to pack up her yesterdays, and Blige replies, “Sometimes you have to remember where you came from to see where you’re going.” And not looking back, but remembering where she came from is exactly what Monica does in 12 tracks.

She revisits her past by teaming up with Brandy on “It All Belongs to Me,” a track produced by Rico Love. This time, they’re not fighting over the same guy, but giving their toxic, ungrateful boyfriends walking papers.

It’s like you got no heart, cold as ice and nothing can make you melt.
I know you’re mad, can’t take no more.
But put that back, that ain’t yours.
Have a fit, slam the door.
Leave them bags on the floor that sh-t belongs to me.
Those clothes, those cars, those rings, and that MacBook, that sh-t belongs to me.
So log off your Facebook, it all belongs to me.

The duet with Brandy is not the only much-anticipated reunion between Monica and those from her past. Here, she also re-teams with longtime producers Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott on “Until It’s Gone;” Jermaine Dupri on “Amazing;” Polow Da Don on “Without You;” and Lamb on the intro, outro, and “Big Mistake.” The album also features a first-time collaboration with Salaam Remi on “Cry,” each artist delivering robust rhythms to complement Monica’s incredible range.

Since part of the letting-go process is realizing that you were quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to him, her, or them. “Until it’s Gone” gives us everything we’re looking for, as she tells her former lover, “Just wait a little while baby, you gon’ see/ that this gon’ hurt you more than it hurts me/ One thing I know for sure is you gon’ miss me when I go,/ and it’s gon’ hurt that you’re all alone/ I guess it’s true what people say/ that you never know what you have until it’s gone.” But I have to disagree with her and quote K. Michelle: “Truth is…you knew what you had, you just thought you’d never lose it.”

This album feels very much like homage to Monica’s past and The Boy is Mine album. “Time to Move On” sends you on voyage to the inspiration she finds in Gladys Knight with the ’70s-style arrangement and vocals. Unapologetically transparent, Monica admits that one of her biggest mistakes was, in fact, staying with someone for years after she knew it was over.

She paints the heartbreaking and time-wasted picture in the first verse, saying, “Gave you a chapter of my life I wish that I could rewrite/ All the sh-t that was done in the dark finally came to light/ Ten years I was with you; I remember everything you put me through,/ and to think that I’m the blame for thinking you would change.”

There’s nothing like knowing you are to blame for wasting your own time. We all try to look on the bright side and proclaim that s/he made us a better person, but let’s be honest: If we could rewrite the story, we would delete them from the picture completely. Monica’s honest enough to admit it not only to herself, but to the world.

I’m saying goodbye to all the memories
I regret even trying to give you a chance
I’m not perfect, everybody makes mistakes,
but the one I made for choosing you after we were through
I made the biggest mistake, biggest mistake
To think that you would change, you would change
Saying bye-bye, what was this all for?
Make no mistake you won’t be my mistake no more.

One of the hardest things to do after a heartbreak is to “Take a Chance” on someone new. To put yourself willingly in a position where someone can, in fact, hurt you all over again, after you’ve seen what it can do to you has to make us all insane, but we do it over and over again anyway.

The sensitive, sensual and powerful ballad “Cry” personifies the type of love we all hope to find. Love that allows you to be purely you, all guards down, “So baby, cry if you want to, you can cry/ Put your pride aside ‘cause it’s just you and I.”

New Life is a capstone to heartbreaking, insecure, taken-for-granted past and a graduation to a new life, a better life filled with nothing but protection, love, and security, with a man who treasures you and all that you offer. It has to be the best feeling in the world and everyone can feel it in the ode to her husband, Shannon Brown, as Monica confesses that, “Everything I am, everything I was, has been elevated through the power of your love/ Everything I’ve lost, everything I’ve gained, no longer makes a difference since you changed my name.”

Seven proves to be the lucky number for Monica, as this album, while it revisits her past, doesn’t sound like the same Monica from any prior release. She effortlessly goes back to her R&B roots to pen a heartfelt, mature album about ending one thing to begin anew, fresh. It’s simply an amazing album. B+| Ashley White

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