Monica is a living legend. Poised as a confident and tough-minded artist straight out the gate, the Grammy winner comfortably established herself as a name to remember among the greats to debut in the ’90s.
In the summer of 1995, Monica released her now classic debut album, Miss Thang.
At only 14 years old, Monica possessed flawless quality control in a vocal range as full-grown as Whitney Houston yet textured enough to be a direct progeny of Mary J. Blige.
In turn, she made Billboard history on the Hot R&B Singles chart for being the youngest star to score back-to-back number-one singles.
When her sophomore album, The Boy is Mine, arrived in 1998, Monica had claimed two out of three career chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot 100, including the title track duet featuring Brandy, which later won a Grammy in 1999.
Once signed to Clive Davis’ boutique label J Records, Monica returned after a five-year hiatus (and a false start with 2002’s All Eyez on Me) with After the Storm, an admired album that dawned a fruitful artistic partnership with Missy Elliott.
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The Makings of Me dropped three years later and was marked underrated in her rich catalog of street pathos and immaculate love songs.
Then, in 2010, Monica bounced back with Still Standing, her strongest J Records release to date. The album became her first to be Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Album.
She also picked up her first recognition in the category for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the inescapable ballad “Everything to Me.”
Monica released two additional albums between 2012 and 2015, New Life, Code Red. Without a proper album, she maintained her stature in the R&B world as an independent artist with beloved songs such as “Commitment,” which, in 2019, became her first number-one single on radio and Billboard R&B charts in nearly a decade.
1. “Catch Me”
Written by: Randy Edleman, Warren “Oak” Felder, Tiwa Savage, and Andrew “Oak” Wansel
Produced by: Pop & Pak
Album: New Life
This downhearted ballad should have been the lead single from Monica’s 2012 LP, New Life. Instead, RCA Records ordered the Pop & Oak-produced cut as one of the four songs featured on the deluxe edition.
“Catch Me” sees the central character as a forgotten woman in an unrequited relationship who desperately wants to be enraptured. Monica’s lovely vocal performance perfectly suits the old-school familiarity of its production, adding more pleasure to each spin.
2. “Here I Am”
Written by: Monica Arnold, Ester Dean, Mike Hartnett, Jamal Jones and Jason Perry
Produced by: Polow Da Don
Album: Still Standing
You have to love when a label blows it with a potential solid hit. This mischance happened with the Ester Dean-helmed track, “Here I Am,” which was initially said to be the second single from her 2010 comeback album.
While the banger failed to get notice on the charts, Monica delivers a justifying message of satisfaction to those who are longing for transient tenderness when their reckless lover is out gallivanting.
3. “Ring Da Bell”
Written by: Dallas Austin
Produced by: Dallas Austin
Album: The Boy Is Mine
There is no better feeling than knowing when to move on from a pared-down relationship. Monica finally saw her away through a thick fog of pipe dreams sold by a disrespectful lover who had an outside child.
On this eye-opener, produced by Dallas Austin, Monica uses a slow and deliberate vocal approach to convey the emotions of relief now that she’s ready to face the upsetting music and put herself first.
4. “Down 4 Whatever”
Written by: LaShawn Daniels and Monica Arnold
Produced by: Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins
Album: After the Storm
Finding the right person to give your heart to can have one willing to respond to their desires at any time, any place. Monica is head over heels on this flowing, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins production, which she co-wrote with the late LaShawn Daniels. She gracefully pledges to carry out various romantic aspirations if her cherished admirer can do that in return. Seems simple enough.
5. “Me + You”
Written by: Brittany “Chi” Coney, Denisia “Blu June” Andrews, Kyle Christopher and Monica Arnold
Produced by: Nova Wav
Album: N/A (promotional single)
Riding high on the success of her first knockout hit (“Commitment”) in almost a decade, Monica reentered the lab with the song’s masterminds Nova Wav for another collaboration. The result: “Me + You.” On this euphoric, mid-tempo, Monica circles her elastic voice with some deep bass as she, at length, counts out how eclipsed with complete happiness and peace of mind she is whenever she’s in the company of her helpmate.
6. “Anything to Find You” feat. Rick Ross & Lil Kim
Written by: Missy Elliott, Cainon Lamb, Jazmine Sullivan, Kimberly Jones, William Roberts II, Christopher Wallace, David Porter, Sean Combs, Herbert Magidson, Allie Wrubel, Nasheim Myrick, Nickolas Ashford, and Valerie Simpson.
Produced by: Missy Elliott and Lamb
Album: New Life
The first release from Monica’s album New Life originally featured two hip-hop heavyweights: Lil’ Kim and Rick Ross. Unfortunately, rap’s Queen Bee was removed for reasons out of the veteran’s control, and the album’s bonus track only included Ricky Rozay. However, it didn’t keep radio DJs from spinning the early version where deep-voiced Kim kicked stinging lyrics about ruling the world with her better half like the Obamas.
7. “Raw” featuring Swizz Beatz
Written by: Cainon Lamb, Harold Lilly Jr, and Kaseem Dean
Produced by: Swizz Beatz and Harold Lilly Jr.
Album: The Makings of Me
Some men these days get an absolute thrill out of their lady talking with aggression behind their voice. Monica obliges her man with this request over a monster beat arranged by Swizz Beatz, who works double duty as producer and featured artist. Here, Monica realizes this unusual display of affection suits a relationship with a man with a street mentality since “soft, sweet ain’t workin’ no more.”
8. “Tell Me If You Still Care”
Written by: James Harris III and Terry Lewis
Produced by: Tim Kelley, Bob Robinson and Dallas Austin
Album: Miss Thang
Perhaps, Monica was inspired by the husky-voiced chanteuse Toni Braxton when recording this mellow jam of affirmation. Her sophisticated voice bears a striking similarity to Braxton in various parts of the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-penned tune, pressingly asking for her man to confess his love and concern for her and their seemingly paused romance.
Written by: Andrew Frampton and James Scheffer
Produced by: Jim Jonsin and Andrew Frampton
Album: Still Standing
The reflection doesn’t lie. Monica realized this on the introspective track nicely composed by James Scheffer and Andrew Frampton. No, nothing is clichéd about this story, as it is uniquely specific to Monica and how she’s been able to expose the many underlying truths about her journey from then to now. Supremely riding the beat of this sure-footed anthem, Monica examines every crevice of her being, taking full credit for this renewed sense of conviction.
10. “Sick and Tired”
Written by: Dallas Austin and Alonzo “Novel” Stevenson
Produced by: Dallas Austin and Alonzo “Novel” Stevenson
Album: Diary of a Mad Black Woman Soundtrack
Monica comes to grips with a dead-end romance on this frustrating number taken from Tyler Perry’s box office blockbuster, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. She turns to frequent and longtime collaborator Dallas Austin and his protégé Alonzo “Novel” Stevenson to pen a relatable anthem centered around the battered wife in the play-turned-film. With her bags packed and her mind made, Monica’s naturally authentic vocal tone cruises over this swaggering production to show she means business with her farewell.
Written by: Attozio Townes, Jerome Simmons, LaDamon Douglas, Michael White, Monica Brown, and Tami Latrell
Produced by: Fatboi
Album: Code Red
Monica is a huge romantic and often doesn’t sufficiently get enough credit for evidencing this thrilling form of devotion through her art. “Anchor,” the final track on Code Red, is an ode to her previous songs pledging her allegiance to love and the relationship. She and her solid partner offer romantic comfort to each other, emphasizing the ups and downs that challenged their bond and how none of it was enough to unfasten what they got.
12. “Breaks My Heart”
Written by: Carsten Shack, Kenneth Karlin, and Shamora Crawford
Produced by: SoulShock & Karlin
Album: After the Storm
Men aren’t always doing wrong in the relationship, and women have a hand in causing unnecessary stress, too. That appears to be the case on “Break My Heart,” a SoulShock & Karlin-produced track from her 2003 gold seller.
While the title suggests Monica is pained from some sort of hurt inflicted by her lover, she is responsible for pointless desolation. Like the now-famous soundbite from The Steve Wilkos Show, Monica’s man simply said, “That’s mine, and I’m going to stick beside her.”
13. “Just Another Girl”
Written by: Carsten Lindberg, Lindy Robbins, Damon Sharpe, and Joachim Svare
Produced by: Ric Wake
Album: All Eyez on Me
Playing the side chick is not a compliment. Monica explains her dilemma on this self-respecting track, which appeared on the soundtrack for Down to Earth, and then repurposed for 2002’s All Eyez on Me. She is up to speed with her dishonest lover’s two-timing games and is unwilling to accept him grouping her with women who will settle for being the other chick.
14. “Now I’m Gone”
Written by: Tim Kelley and Bob Robinson
Produced by: Tim Kelley and Bob Robinson
Album: Miss Thang
Monica proudly wears the badge of a ride-or-die chick. When her companion isn’t taking care of business within the relationship, it makes it incredibly impossible for her to wait around for too long.
This soul-charged groove, courtesy of Tim Kelley and Bob Robinson’s handiwork, plainly lays it on the line for Monica’s young buck that she isn’t going to be down and out in love because he isn’t servicing her many pressing needs.
15. “My Everything”
Written by: Antonio Dixon, Damon Thomas, Eric Dawkins, Harvey Mason, Jr., Monica Arnold, Steve Russell and Tank
Produced by: The Underdogs
Album: The Makings of Me
Before 2010’s Grammy-nominated “Everything to Me,” Monica had this gorgeous ballad fathered by the ubiquitous Underdogs and its affiliates, including Tank, tucked away in her discography.
She stylishly sings about hitting the jackpot after discovering the definition of true love in her heaven-sent partner. She proves that sometimes it takes a while to weed out the bad ones to find a decent man.