Imagine Monica in a convertible on a vast desert road, gazing in the rearview mirror with reflective eyes and airily singing, “Packing up my yesterdays and won’t look back / I know I’ve got to stay on track.” This mantra, threaded throughout “New Life” and the similarly titled new album, seems to uplift Monica as she skims over painful pockets in her past and looks forward with renewed vigor.
Monica smothers the listener with thick, sultry body-grinding R&B beats and fluttering falsetto solos that leave autotuned popstars like Ke$ha stammering. Case in point, “Without You,” where beats crisply thud to add dramatic backdrop to her honeyed vocals that fracture off in masterful precision like petals unfolding in bloom. She ditches her sweet croons for lung-bursting harmonies that rattle the clean bluesy guitar riffs and gospel choir backups in “Time to Move On.” Although effusing morn, saying, “Now when we used to argue at least you used to look at me / See now we lay next to each other and we don’t even speak,” Monica resists sulking, but instead juts her chin upward with dry eyes and emphatically warbles, “Time to move on when the love is gone.”
While New Life traces over heartaches, Monica peppers it with bursting upbeat tracks like, “It All Belongs to Me,” where she returns to her ’90s roots with a duet with Brandy. The pair synchronize sassy solos with ease, but flaunt their lavish lifestyles somewhat obnoxiously.
Battered by lost love and slumps in her career, Monica’s resilient voice pierces through as she nestles into a comfortable present with new L.A. Laker husband Shannon Brown and cruises toward an optimistic future.