Monica

The Boy Is Mine

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On her second album, The Boy Is Mine, Monica is given a little more room to strut her own stuff. Previously, she was an inexperienced vocalist whose raw talent was sculpted by a bevy of producers. Here, she sticks with Dallas Austin; not only does he give her songs immaculately crafted musical backdrops -- both ballads and up-tempo dance numbers sound irresistible -- but he helps her cultivate her voice so she sounds more mature than her 17 years. That doesn't exactly camouflage the uneven material, but it does make it easy to swallow. She does have a better, more consistent batch of songs here than she did on Miss Thang, and the best songs -- such as the Brandy duet "The Boy Is Mine" or the bouncing "Street Symphony" -- are as good as mainstream urban R&B gets in 1998.

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