Monica

The Makings of Me

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Ten years and four albums deep into a career while many singers her age are just getting started, Monica has now been through enough in her life to fully relate to all the subject matter she works with. Despite the title of the album and all her talk about making a more personal set of songs than before, she isn't credited as a songwriter on any of these ten songs -- all the more peculiar given that the songs she co-wrote on 2003's After the Storm were hardly problematic. She evidently went through some more storms and significant life experiences after she last recorded (including the birth of her son and a perhaps predictably rocky relationship with Young Buck), and though she wasn't involved in the songwriting process, she certainly sounds more connected to her material. After the obligatory club track -- the decent but ultimately forgettable "Everytime tha Beat Drop," featuring fellow Atlantans Dem Franchize Boyz -- The Makings of Me rolls through a concise and mostly sweet (if occasionally unremarkable) set of songs that don't depart far from After the Storm. Missy Elliott remains a valuable collaborator: the Curtis Mayfield-sampling "A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me)" is practically a replay of the similarly nostalgia-tinted "So Gone," albeit a welcomed one; "Doin' Me Right" is the album's "Knock Knock," providing yet another sweet twist on a soft-soul classic; "Gotta Move On" is a kiss-off dipped in honey. (The minor drawback to each of these songs is that Elliott has yet to find a discreet way to put a vocal stamp on her productions.) The Underdogs-produced "Sideline Ho" is the clearest instance where Monica didn't have to dig deep or put herself in someone else's shoes to sell her material: "Ain't you tired of being on the sideline?/Tired of getting yours after I get mine?" If she's the least bit jealous, the other woman would have no way of knowing.

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