Review: Monica takes a chance with 'New Life'

Monica, "New Life" (RCA Records)

After the success of her last album, 2010's"Still Standing," Grammy-winner Monica returns with a soulful yet less-than-impressive collection of R&B tracks.

The album's first single, "It All Belongs To Me," has deservedly attracted the most attention of all the songs on the album. Possibly the most talked about musical reunion of the year, it features Monica and Brandy with another powerful duet, 14 years since their 1998 classic "The Boy Is Mine." This one is an anthem for the ladies, all about giving the boot to a no-good man.

But there aren't a lot of songs as electric as that one. "Daddy's Good Girl" has a strong beat but lyrically seems out of place, with lines like "Shopping sprees might make me smile for now but what about later?" ''Big Mistake" is emotional and full of passion, but while it briefly grabs the listener's attention, it doesn't hold it. The same can be said for "Take A Chance" featuring Wale. Expectations are high, but a little more oomph is needed.

Among the highlights of "New Life" is "The Man Who Has Everything," a risky song where Monica experiments with a reggae beat, and pulls it off.

Showing off her vocal range on "Without You," Monica reminds us why she's still relevant, and she takes it further on the sad and sophisticated "Until It's Gone." The raw pain in her voice hits home to give you goosebumps all over.

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.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The killer ballad "Until It's Gone" is proof Monica hasn't lost that golden voice.

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