This year has been an exceptionally satisfying one for music fans of those formidable figures that make up R&B’s high society. Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Brian McKnight, Brandy, Shawn Stockman (of Boyz II Men), Jagged Edge, and other legendary and well-established artists who have laid respective blueprints have released some sort of album or project in 2020.
Monica, who recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Miss Thang, and is an R&B staple, will soon release an album of her own. The new record marks the legendary vocalist’s ninth studio album and her first since 2015’s Code Red.
In the five years since Monica released her last album, the Grammy winner parted ways with her longtime label RCA Records, starred on VH1’s T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle, toured with Xscape, launched a non-profit (BeHUMAN), received an honorary degree from Global International Alliance, and landed her first number one Adult R&B single (“Commitment”) in nine years. She also spent a lot of time in the studio working on her forthcoming album.
As she peeks in her scope and targets another strong comeback, and readies her teased Apple Music talk show, here is everything we know about Monica’s impending album.
What is the title of Monica’s new album?
For at least a solid year and a half, Monica had her heart settled on titling her next album Chapter 38. Its name came from what she described to Shekinah Anderson as “one of the hardest chapters” of her life. One can deduce that the singer was speaking about her then-public divorce from her husband of eight years.
She tossed around the idea of having her fans select the album’s title, receiving suggestions to even self-title it. She wasn’t against it and shared an option to name it MDA, which stood for Monica Denise Arnold. However, on September 14, Monica officially titled the album Trenches.
“I’m always in the trenches to some capacity or the other, whether it be emotionally, sometimes physically—wherever my family is, that’s where I go,” Monica shared with TrueExclusives about the inspiration behind her album title. “I’m also in the trenches of this music [industry]. I’m working hard, I’m writing a lot, I’m basically doing everything you can imagine because now I’m independently owned.”
She expounded on the title significance in a recent interview with Volume West’s Lÿndsey Parker on SiriusXM, sharing that her father lived in the trenches. With her father’s environment feeding her will to survive, Monica also learned from her mother how to lead with love. That noted, Monica said that is ultimately why she decided to name her album Trenches.
“I grew up, I saw a whole lot and I had to sift through what I needed as a woman to grow and be who I wanted to be,” Monica told Parker. “So when I speak about trenches it can be a place emotionally, or a place physically. For us, when you grow up in the trenches, that means you know what it’s like to be without. That means you understand what trying to work your way out of a particular place feels like and you don’t take the opportunities for granted. But some people are in the trenches emotionally. When I was working on this album, I’ve never been in the trenches in a worst way.”
She went on to describe what it was like creating this album following the tragic death of a close uncle, as well as her adjusted life as a divorced single mother of three.
What are the album singles?
Last year, Monica released the Nova Wav-produced “Commitment” as one of the first songs to start the new era. It resonated with the urban adult contemporary radio audience and peaked at the top of the respective chart in July.
Before her tender ballad reached the summit, she shared “Me + You” in April 2019. It was another taste of what she had been cooking up with the dynamic duo Nova Wav (Beyoncé, Kehlani, Teyana Taylor).
This August, ahead of her historic Verzuz battle against Brandy, Monica debuted the album’s title track. It features Lil Baby and was produced by The Neptunes. Since its release, the attentive single has been streamed 3.5 million times on Spotify.
There is no word if her 2019 songs will appear on the upcoming album.
How will the album be released?
In 2016, Monica announced that she was leaving RCA Records. She wrote a heartfelt farewell post to the label that launched her long-standing career in 1995 when it was under the name Artista, and then, J Records, in 2000, where Clive Davis was the head. At RCA Records, she released albums like After the Storm, The Makings of Me, Still Standing, and New Life.
For Trenches, Monica is releasing it under her own independent label imprint Mondeenise Music, Inc. She already secured a number one single as an indie act.
Who are some of the album’s collaborators?
Monica has been in the studio laying down vocals and writing lyrics for her new album since as early as 2018. It was first reported that she was in the lab with her frequent collaborator and cousin Polow da Don. She had her fans on their toes when she spent time in New Orleans recording what she called “real music” with multi-Grammy winner PJ Morton.
The following year, while in the ‘trenches’ working on music with Nova Wav, Monica was seen in the studio with Tank crafting out songs that were related to her artistic journey of transparency.
Monica spent the last year in the lab with the likes of songwriters and producers The Neptunes, Felly The Voice, and Blac Elvis. The former hitmakers, who she had never collaborated with before in her career, worked behind the boards on the album’s modern version (“Trenches”) of “Street Symphony.”
In an October interview with the QuickSilva Show, Monica revealed that she had wrapped songs for the album with The Neptunes. She also shared that she wanted to finish the records she started with songwriter/producer London on da Track but wasn’t going to halt the LP’s 2020 release date to round off those sessions. But now that the album date has changed, there may be hope for those songs to near completion. She had studio time with him back in July.
One usual suspect that will have their name in the album’s liner notes is Missy Elliott. The creative genius first let the cat out of the bag that she was a part of Mo’s new album when her classic tagline went viral in August. From there, the two have been locked in the studio and cranking out new classics that can hold a candle to their previous bangers “So Gone,” “Everything to Me,” and “I Love Him.”
Aside from Lil Baby, Monica told TrueExclusives in August that Yung Miami of City Girls will guest feature on the album. It actually is on a song that will hear the legendary singer rapping.
Monica also collaborated with Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Tasha Catour for a standout song titled “Friends” that has an acoustic feel to it.
What are the album’s direction and theme?
Still Standing, the title of Monica’s Grammy-nominated 2010 album, is a personal mantra of sorts for the newly divorced mother of three. It also is the firm messaging that will be reflected on her upcoming album Trenches. Like many of her previous albums, she shared back in March 2019 that the new LP, which was then tentatively titled Chapter 38, will address “love, joy, pain, heartbreak, redemption, and the ability to stand strong.” She also said the new record “is not just an album it’s a story, My Story.”
Based on Instagram posts, you get the sense that Monica’s new album will zero in on principles she values as it relates to love and relationships. She also seems to size them up with purpose and pressure to get the best results for her life.
What is the album’s release date?
In a recent interview with Volume West’s Lÿndsey Parker on SiriusXM, Monica announced that she was pushing back Trenches from its November 20 date. The date change happened due to scheduling conflicts in conjunction with her much-teased Mo Talk, as well as the music video and growing reception for the title track and new single at radio. “We wanted to push back a little bit to give [the album] the extra things that it needed, so very likely January.”
Trenches will make Monica’s second studio album to have a first-quarter release date, preceded by Still Standing.
Editor’s note as of August 6, 2021: Trenches was not released in January 2021. The album’s release date has not been announced, as promotion and recording paused due to the death of her close uncle.
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