Ranking the Best Monica Albums

Name some of the best female vocalists in R&B history and you’ll undoubtedly turn to the icons – Whitney, Mariah, Gladys, Patti, etc. In modern times, you’ll hear names like Keke Wyatt, Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi thrown in to the conversation.

But we too often overlook Monica Brown, one of the most consistently spectacular vocalists of the past 20 years.

Since 1995, Monica has been the voice behind some of modern R&B’s most memorable hits, racking up an impressive catalog of ballads, midtempo burners, radio hits and even feisty rap verses that go harder than most of what clogs up radio airwaves today.

In celebration of Monica’s career, we’re looking back at her discography, ranking her albums from bottom to top, including her infamously jinxed third album that was shelved in 2002. As always,  this list will be determined by album quality, consistency and impact on the genre.

In case y’all forgot, let me remind you why Monica is one of the best vocalists in the game.
new life

8. New Life (2012)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: Let me preface this by saying that I don’t think that New Life is a BAD album per se. Unfortunately, it’s just woefully unmemorable. Loaded with well-sung but sleepy ballads and failed attempts to recapture lightning in a bottle (that infamous Brandy duet), New Life just doesn’t go anywhere. Monica’s voice was as impressive as ever, but everything here was painfully forgettable.

Forgotten favorites: “Anything (To Find You),” “Time to Move On”

all eyez on me

7. All Eyez on Me (2002)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: This album seemed doomed from the start. Production screeched to a halt when Monica’s boyfriend committed suicide; the album’s release date was constantly moved around; and by the time it was released in Japan – ahead of the U.S. release – it was bootlegged into oblivion and shelved. The album itself is pretty solid, filled with lots of familiar samples and loaded with promise. Most of the better tracks here were retooled to create the vastly superior After the Storm, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Forgotten favorites: “Too Hood,” “All Eyez on Me,” “I’m Back”

still standing

6. Still Standing (2010)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: After her previous release was met with a very lukewarm reception, Monica was determined to rebound strong. And that she did with Still Standing, a breezy release crafted by A-list producers like Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, Ne-Yo, Missy Elliott and Polow da Don. Reminiscent of her 90s-era heyday, this felt more like a classic Monica album than previous releases and still stands (heh) as one of her more underrated efforts.

Forgotten favorites:  “All Over Me,” “Everything to Me,” “Stay or Go”

code red

5. Code Red (2015)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: By the time Mo released her eighth studio album, she realized that R&B was in a state of emergency. Code Red looked to help get the genre – and her career – back on the right track. The results were good, a strong mix of ballads that accentuated her impressive pipes and fun radio cuts. Its only drawback is a lack of memorable, signature tracks. But for longtime Monica fans, it was good to have her back in the game.

Forgotten favorites: “Just Right For Me,” “Alone In Your Heart,” “Deep”

the makings of me

4. The Makings of Me (2006)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Listen, I get why many Monica fans dislike this album. No one wanted to hear Monica stoop to a gimmicky ‘snap’ track on her first single. But “Everytime tha Beat Drop” is an anomaly – take it out of the equation. As a whole, The Makings of Me is one of Monica’s most fun albums. She gleefully embraces her rhyme-spitting Ratchet Mo persona, telling off everyone from wack dudes (“Raw”) to wack side chicks (“Sideline Ho”). If you’re looking for soaring ballads, this is not for you, but trust me, this one is much better than it gets credit for.

Forgotten favorites: “A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me),” “Raw,” “Gotta Move On”

the boy is mine

3. The Boy Is Mine (1998)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Sophomore albums can be a tough transition, especially for young artists. But Monica deftly evolved from feisty teen to maturing woman here. Her gospel-tinged vocals were taken to a new level here, helping many of the album’s singles become some of Monica’s most beloved tracks. The Boy is Mine marked Monica’s ascent into womanhood.

Forgotten favorites: “Gone Be Fine,” “Across the Room,” “I Keep It To Myself”

after the storm

2. After the Storm (2004)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: You couldn’t pick a better name for this album. After All Eyez on Me’s disastrous rollout, Mo refocused and headed back to the studio to crank out one of the most beloved albums in her catalog. Missy Elliott comes through with the anthems (“So Gone” is one of my favorite songs EVER) while Soulshock & Karlin, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and others keeps things more grounded with midtempo grooves. It’s a very strong contender for Monica’s best work ever, with one exception…

Forgotten favorites: “Go to Bed Mad,” “Hurts the Most,” “Don’t Gotta Go Home”

miss thang

1. Miss Thang (1995)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: After the Storm rightfully gets a lot of love, but when it comes to first impressions, Miss Thang reigns supreme. It’s incredible that a 15-year-old could possess such incredible vocals and Monica held nothing back in showcasing every note. Miss Thang was a fantastic coming of age tale that proved she was a superstar in the making. It doesn’t get any better than this for Monica.

Forgotten favorites: “With You,” “Tell Me if You Still Care,” “Let’s Straighten It Out”

Which Monica albums are your favorites? Let us know below.

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1 Comments

  1. I’ve been a Monica fan since the beginning – hard to believe that tiny little girl with the gown voice is now a woman! Love your rankings except for Still Standing. To me that’s her second best album and came at a great time for her career. I hear she’s working on a new album and if history is any indication, she will be back with a banger.

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