Two years after releasing her sixth studio album, Still Standing, and its accompanying hit reality TV show, singer Monica returned with 2012's New Life. Once again working with a bevy of producers from Still Standing, including Polow da Don, Missy Elliott, Bryan-Michael Cox, and others, Monica delivered a sophisticated and mature collection of contemporary R&B that found the onetime '90s teen superstar finally moving on from her former fiancé and father of her two sons, rapper Rocko (Rodney Hill Jr. ), from whom she split in 2010.
”Gotta pack up my yesterdays,” Monica sighs on the Mary J.-style phone-call intro to New Life. But by the sound of it, the singer hasn’t closed her suitcases yet. Her seventh album is a thoroughly last-millennium set of self-help ballads about starting over (”Take a Chance”) and finding strength in tears (”Cry”), set to the kind of cheesy slow-jam beats that were hot back during Monica’s previous life as a ’90s teen phenom.
On the campy interlude that opens Monica’s new album, the singer receives a pep talk from Mary J. Blige before intoning, “I’ve gotta embrace my new life,” with such gravity that it sounds like she’s reading someone’s last rites. If nothing else, this opener suggests that New Life will at least bring some high drama and might even find Monica making good on the huge influence Blige’s brand of contemporary soul has had on her career.