Monica's highly anticipated sixth album is rich with songs about self-validation, love lost and subsequent recovery, and doesn't let up on that thematic gas pedal until the last tune. [rssbreak] Opening with a blazing title track full of dark synths, Still Standing finds the American R&B singer, who's always had one foot in the rap world, maintaining her hard edge on the Jim Jonsin-produced Mirror and outlining her physical desires over a dubstep-lite instrumental on Here I Am. Subtle allusions, like a surprise reference to Z-Ro's Homie, Lover, Friend on the latter tune, offer insight into Monica's past experiences; underground Texas rap is a strange bedfellow for what at first seems like a cut-and-dried R&B album.
After a four-year break, Monica returns with an assured ?album that seems entirely unconcerned with staying current. Though Still Standing features circa-now hitmakers like Ne-Yo, the ?appealingly unflashy CD feels like a return to the mid-’90s heyday of acts such as Deborah Cox and Total. With its old-school Deniece Williams sample, single ”Everything to Me” looks back even further.
Still Standing's title track was issued as a single weeks prior to Monica's BET reality series of the same name, which debuted in October 2009. Even though the song is a potent, low-profile anthem akin to a grown-up and feminized spin on T.I.'s "What You Know," it topped out in the 70s of the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album seemed like it might be dead well before release until "Everything to Me" -- based on Deniece Williams' 1981 quiet storm "Silly" -- trailed in February and was in the Top Ten within a month, significantly raising the profile for Monica's fifth album.
Monica has never been a top-tier R&B diva. Her sixth album, Still Standing, seems to hint at an unflinching resolve in the face of irrelevance but ends up succumbing to the vanilla, paint-by-numbers soul we’ve come to expect from her. The opening title track is the best of the bunch: Starting with an icy club-busting backbeat and a gothic, low-octave choir, it’s a usual heart-strong self-helper.