JULY 18, 1995
When Monica released her debut album in 1995, she was the last of the Teen R&B star trinity to release music. Both Aaliyah and Brandy had come out with their albums, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number and Brandy respectively, in 1994. Monica was introduced to the public in 1995, the youngest of the three, with her debut album Miss Thang.
Producer Dallas Austin was captivated by the vocal ability and stage presence of a 12 year old Monica Denise Arnold, after seeing her perform a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” at a singing contest. She was so talented that Dallas Austin offered her a record deal on his own label Rowdy Records (an imprint on Arista Records, her idol Whitney’s home). Austin became her mentor and the executive producer of Miss Thang.
Miss Thang was designed to showcase Monica’s personality and voice, which was very mature for her age, but also to give her street cred and a youthful, energetic vibe. Unlike Brandy and Aaliyah’s albums, Miss Thang has a more accentuated Hip-Hop flavour that has always set her apart from her peers.
MISS THANG = MISS HIT-SINGLES
The first single released was the peppy and sparse “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” which became acclaimed and quickly topped the R&B chart. The two samples used for the track are part of its great appeal. The song is, in fact, built on samples of “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy and “Backseat of My Jeep” by LL Cool J, both of which are Hip-Hop classics.
“Before You Walk out of My Life” followed the success of the first single by also topping the R&B chart and giving Monica the distinction of being the youngest act to ever have consecutive #1 hits, at age fourteen. The R&B ballad was written by Andrea Martin and originally intended for Toni Braxton’s Secrets album, but it was given to Monica instead.
The third single “Like This and Like That” follows the same template as the lead, with Austin using a sample of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Spoonin’ Rap” to create the backbone of the track. It was released as a double A-side with “Before You Walk out of My Life” but received its own music video for promotion.
The final single was another ballad, written and produced by Babyface collaborator Daryl Simmons, who had worked on Toni Braxton’s debut album. “Why I Love You So Much” features the signture Babyface sound, but with a more prominent drumbeat and a passionate and emotive vocal from Monica, who sings it with such passion and confidence to make you forget her age. Whitney Houston’s influence is very audible in her singing, the powerful belting and the inflections.
THE STORY OF MISS THANG
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album, Monica teased the release of a documentary commemorating her entrance into the industry, entitled “The Story of Miss Thang.”
In the end, Miss Thang was a huge success. All four singles it yielded landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, and two grabbed the pole position of the Billboard R&B chart. Those hits weren’t flash in the pans, either. Monica’s debut hits continue to endure to this day as R&B classics, and opened the door for many more hits to come. Miss Thang certainly lived up to her name.