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Still Standing is Monica's sixth studio album that was released on March 19, 2010 by J Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Still Standing (featuring Ludacris) 4:14
  2. One In A Lifetime 4:31
  3. Stay Or Go 3:40
  4. Everything To Me 3:17
  5. If You Were My Man 3:26
  6. Mirror 4:17
  7. Here I Am 3:44
  8. Superman 4:33
  9. Love All Over Me 3:50
  10. Believing In Me 4:00

Album BackgroundEdit

RecordingEdit

The recording for "Still Standing" took place during 2007 to 2010 at several recording studios, including Carrington House, Doppler Studios, and Zone 4 Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, and Studio at the Palms in Paradise, Nevada.

The producers and songwriters having collaborated with Monica on the album include longtime collaborators Jermaine Dupri, Missy Elliott, Bryan-Michael Cox, and his co-producer WyldCard, as well as writers and producers that she had not worked with in the past, including Jim Jonsin, Bei Maejor, Andre Lindal, Los Da Mystro, singer Ne-Yo, songwriters Ester Dean and Crystal Johnson, Norwegian production duo Stargte and her elder cousin Polow da Don.

Over the course of several recording periods, Monica worked on "hundreds of songs" for the album, herself serving as its executive producer and J Records A&R president Larry Jackson as co-executive.

Finally, only ten tracks were selected to be placed on the regular edition of "Still Standing" while three additional tracks were chosen to be released as free bonus tracks through different retailers.

Others songs from established hitmakers such as Dallas Austin, Babyface, Drumma Boy, J Ferrari, Sean Garrett, Jazze Pha and Soulshock & Karlin did not make the cut.

Monica's team also was in negotiations with R. Kelly to contribute to the album. In an interview, Lil Jon moreover stated that he was "about to do some work with Monica."

Although the debut episode of the reality television show "Monica: The Single" on Peachtree TV was filmed to promote the release of the album's leading single, J Records and Monica were not in agreement with "Still Standing" becoming the first single.

Monica set up additional sessions with Missy Elliott in August 2009 to find new singles. In parallel, she resumed recording with Polow da Don, Dallas Austin and Sean Garrett.

Whilst at Zone 4 Studios, Timbaland had some creative input into the project, voicing his opinion about "Everything to Me" being a good future single choice, but did not make any musical contribution to the project.

As part of her reality TV series, Monica revealed that she was planning to record all of her own backing vocals for the album.

Several tracks from the album's recording sessions leaked early which sparked a response from Monica on the eighth episode of her reality TV show.

She said: "I think it's unfair when a song like "Let Me Know" leaks. The fans don't get to hear it properly as it's not finished. It might not be a true representation of the album if it is not included on the final tracklisting."

As a result of the leak, a small internal investigation was launched at J Records to find the source.

CompositionEdit

The production of the opening track "Still Standing" (which was one of the first songs written for the album) was tracked by the reality television show format "Monica: The Single" on Peachtree TV in 2008.

A well-received anthem about empowerment, starting with "an icy club-busting backbeat and a gothic, low-octave choir," it features guest vocals by Monica's cousin, Ludacris.

It was initially considered to be released as the album's first single, but J Records rejected to promote the song.

Nevertheless, the track managed to debut within the top 80 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and was used as the theme song of "Monica: Still Standing" the following year.

The second track, Los Da Mystro-crafted "One In a Lifetime", was among a number of songs that leaked a year prior to the album's official release. Announced as the album's leading single at a time, the "lush, piano-laced" song deals with finding true love.

The Ne-Yo-penned third track "Stay or Go" (which is one out of several tracks that he and Monica worked on over a course of a week) deals with a "if you’re not going to treat me right, then here’s the option"–nature, according to Monica. "He wanted to do a record that spoke to who I am," she said, "and he reached back into my history on how I’ve delivered records in a sassy yet vocal way."

"Everything to Me", the album's fourth track and official first single, reunited Monica with producer Missy Elliott and saw the pair basically reprising the formula of previous successes such as "So Gone" and "A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me)."

A musical ode to all things good in life, written by singer Jazmine Sullivan, the retro ballad contains a prominent sample of the Deniece Williams' 1981 recording "Silly." Released to rave reviews among critics, who noted it as the album's "standout track; as solid as a brick house; great singing, great lyrics, great production, just a great all-around song."

"Everything to Me" became Monica's most-successful release in years. Elliott also contributed "If You Were My Man", one of the few up tempo songs on "Still Standing", which Monica described as the song, who was most out of her character.

Originally titled "Betcha", the track samples Evelyn "Champagne" King's 1982 record "Betcha She Don't Love You", featuring heavy elements of 1980's music, and garnered a mixed response by critics, whose reviews of the song alternated between "blemish," "brainless" and "funky".

"Mirror", the sixth track produced by Jim Jonsin, was recorded late into the production of the album.

A song about self-acceptance, Monica noted the composition one of her personal standouts on the album: "Its basically about being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be completely happy with the person that you are," she said. "Having no shame or feeling pain again, and I am at that place in my life."

The seventh track "Here I Am" was penned by Ester Dean and produced by Monica's elder cousin Polow da Don, marking their first collaboration.

Led by a "bluesy guitar riff," the song deals with unrequired love, and has been announced as an official single from the album at numerous occasions, only to be replaced at the last minute each time.

In April 2010, Monica confirmed on Twitter that she had re-recorded "Here I Am" as a duet with Jamie Foxx, but he was later replaced by R&B singer Trey Songz.

"Superman", another production by Bryan Michael Cox, is an acoustic guitar-dominated ballad with syncopated drum pattern, in which she idolizes her man as a hero, comparing him with the same-titled DC Comics superhero.

The track received a positive response among critics, who called it one of the finest moments on the album: "Monica shows her range [...] and gives it some muscle."

The album's ninth song and second single, Cristyle-penned "Love All Over Me", is producer Jermaine Dupri's only contribution to the record. Monica described the song as "about being strictly in love where everything feels right."

The last track "Believing In Me," an acoustic ode to moving beyond heartbreak, was contributed by Stargate.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"Still Standing" debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 184,000 copies, becoming Monica's second highest chart debut in the United States. It was certified Gold by the RIAA, following shipments of 500,000 copies in a month in the United States.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Still Standing" received generally positive reviews from music critics.

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 71, based on six reviews.

AllMusic writer Andy Kellman commented that the album "benefits from quality control and a handful of particularly strong ballads."

About.com's Mark Edward Nero called it "one of the stronger albums of Monica's career so far."

Entertainment Weekly's Mikael Wood called the album "a low-key delight" and perceived its sound as reminiscent of 1990s-R&B, stating "the appealingly unflashy CD feels like a return to the mid-'90s heyday of acts such as Deborah Cox and Total."

USA Today's Edna Gundersen called it "a gimmick-free set of cool R&B tracks."

Andrew Rennie of NOW wrote that it is "rich with songs about self-validation, love lost and subsequent recovery, and doesn’t let up on that thematic gas pedal until the last tune."

However, The Boston Globe's Ken Capobianco viewed its songs as "predictable" and wrote "Monica is a vivid singer with gorgeous tone, but she’s forced to breathe life into songs that don’t live up to her capabilities."

Luke Winkie of Slant Magazine described its music as "unembellished and bland", while calling the album "immediately forgettable, inhabiting the colorless world that has doomed the majority of mainstream R&B over the last decade."

Despite writing that Monica "puts forth her richest vocal efforts", Boston Herald writer Lauren Carter called the album's songs "uninspiring", describing it as "the middle ground" and "r & b blandness."

Mariel Concepcion of Billboard wrote that Still Standing lacks "Monica's spunk and sass", but ultimately commended her lyrical maturity and called the album "fluid lyrically and musically."

The Washington Post's Sarah Godfrey complimented its production and Monica's musical style, stating "The disc is a lean 10 tracks, and while the sound is more mature than her 1995 debut 'Miss Thang', as it should be, her mellow style of R&B remains comfortingly intact."

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