Seventeen years after the release of her debut Miss Thang, Monica stands tall on her sixth album New Life. Now married with two kids, the R&B veteran stays true to her R&B roots while collaborating with today’s hitmakers including Rico Love, Salaam Remi, and Polow da Don. She reunites with Brandy on the powerful duet “It All Belongs to Me” and explores new territory with Wale on “Take a Chance.” Did she win over the critics? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: 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. C+
Los Angeles Times: Even heavyweight producers Missy Elliott and Polow da Don seem asleep at the wheel, and it’s only on New Life’s final two tracks—”Cry,” produced by Salaam Remi, and “Time to Move On,” produced by D. Smith—that Monica tackles worthy material, and her seasoned, emotive voice soars. 2/4
The Washington Post: Most of New Life is middle-of-the-road R&B with a few electro flourishes baked in, and though Monica deserves something meatier than these passive done-me-wrong songs, she doesn’t get it until the penultimate track, the Adele-recalling “Time to Move On,” an old-school call that emphasizes her astounding range.
Reuters: It’s admirable that she wants to act her age and not her hip-hop shoe size, eschewing club bangers to focus on balladry that showcases her voice and befits a woman who’s enjoying settling down, which is something she seemed to have started to accomplish with 2010’s Still Standing.
The Associated Press: Vocally, Monica has never disappointed: Her voice is powerful and pure. But the album sounds uneven and underwhelming, perhaps due to the large number of producers, including past collaborators Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox and Missy Elliott, along with new blood like Salaam Remi and Rico Love. With all that talent behind Monica, it’s surprising this album has such a shortage of standout hits.
NME: New Life has its moments—Missy Elliott collaboration “Anything (To Find You)” is a strapping banger—but overall there are far too many limp ballads to really excite. 4/10
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “It All Belongs to Me,” “Man Who Has Everything,” “Anything (To Find You)”