August 13, 2022

Now, on with the column.

Within the fall of 1997, Individuals have been so shocked and saddened over the loss of life of Princess Diana that we purchased 11 million copies of Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997,” sending that track to #1 for an insane 14 weeks. Instantly after that, the British and American singles charts, as soon as so intertwined with each other, went by an ideal uncoupling. It might be almost a decade earlier than one other British artist reached #1 within the US.

For a number of years across the flip of the millennium, British teams scored #1 hits within the UK by recording goofy-ass covers of previous American chart-toppers — Blazin’ Squad doing “Tha Crossroads,” Blue doing “Too Shut.” However that tendency lower the opposite method, too. In 1999, the younger R&B titan Monica landed her third #1 hit in 9 months by overlaying a track that had been a UK hit two years earlier. However Monica’s model of “Angel Of Mine” wasn’t particularly goofy. If something, it would’ve been slightly higher if it have been slightly goofier.

“Angel Of Mine” was earmarked for Monica earlier than it turned a UK hit. The track got here from two American songwriters, Rhett Lawrence and Travon Potts. Lawrence was the longtime studio musician who’d co-produced “Imaginative and prescient Of Love,” Mariah Carey’s debut single and first #1 hit. Potts had a background in gospel, and he labored as a programmer in Lawrence’s studio. Lawrence gave Potts the room that he wanted to work on his personal music, and Potts got here up with the rhythmic mattress for “Angel Of Mine.” He and Lawrence completed the track up collectively.

In Fred Bronson’s Billboard E book Of Number one Hits, Lawrence says, “The track is partially about my spouse and partially about our little Pomeranian canine, who’s the sweetest factor you possibly can think about. He was on the studio, and I sat him down in a chair and checked out him each now and again. I attempted to write down it from the attitude of whole innocence.” I like the concept of writing a love track to a canine and speaking in regards to the canine as an angel. That’s some actual sappy dog-person shit, and I respect it.

The “Angel Of Mine” origin story tracks. “Angel Of Mine” is a love track, but it surely’s not particularly involved with the bodily and even essentially the romantic. As a substitute, the narrator spends the entire track speaking to somebody, telling him that he’s come into her life like a divine presence: “After I first noticed you, I already knew/ There was one thing within you/ One thing I believed that I might by no means discover/ Angel of mine.” When Monica took “Angel Of Mine” to #1 within the US, it adopted R. Kelly and Céline Dion’s “I’m Your Angel” because the second love track about angels to prime the Scorching 100 in a few months. America was simply actually into angels round that point. I don’t know what that was about.

When Rhett Lawrence and Travon Potts completed writing “Angel Of Mine,” they despatched the track to Clive Davis. Davis cherished the track, and he wished it for Monica, so he put a maintain on it. The 2 songwriters waited for months for something to occur with the track, after which they bought one other supply. Everlasting, an R&B trio from London, had been round for the reason that early ’90s. Their 1993 debut single “Keep,” a canopy of a track that the American singer Glenn Jones had recorded a number of years earlier, had been a #4 hit within the UK and a #19 hit within the US.

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Within the US, Everlasting have been one-hit wonders. After “Keep,” they by no means charted once more. Within the UK, although, Everlasting racked up hits for the remainder of the ’90s. In about 4 years, Everlasting landed 12 singles within the UK prime 10. In 1997, Rhett Lawrence and gospel nice BeBe Winans co-wrote Everlasting’s single “I Wanna Be The Solely One.” Winans guested on the observe, and it turned Everlasting’s solely UK chart-topper.

After “I Wanna Be The Solely One” hit, Everlasting’s label wished to rush-release a greatest-hits album that will be prepared in time for Christmas 1997. They wanted two new songs to incorporate, and so they needed to have these songs finished in per week or two. Everlasting heard “Angel Of Mine” on a observe of Rhett Lawrence’s songs, and so they wished to file it. So Lawrence and Clive Davis labored out a deal. Everlasting might launch the track abroad, but it surely couldn’t come out within the US. Monica would get to launch the track’s American model. Lawrence produced Everlasting’s model of “Angel Of Mine,” which made the greatest-hits deadline, and the track reached #4 within the UK. It ended up being Everlasting’s final hit; they broke up quickly after.

None of this might occur as we speak. The very thought of two completely different variations of the identical track being marketed on two completely different sides of the Atlantic is a relic of a pre-internet previous. Clive Davis, the king of the late-Twentieth-century music execs, had an innate sense of the way to push a file, and he stored that trick up for an incredibly very long time, however his strategy was a decidedly old-school one. Davis made his bones by signing acts like Janis Joplin and Aerosmith, however he actually hit his stride when he loaded Whitney Houston up with vaguely comforting middle-of-the-road ballads and turned her right into a megastar. With Monica, who was so younger when she first bought well-known, Davis solely barely up to date the Whitney Houston playbook. “Angel Of Mine” is in the end an old school pop ballad, and an old school pop ballad might nonetheless hit #1 in 1999.

Like Whitney Houston earlier than her, Monica began off younger, and she or he sang in church buildings earlier than she reached in direction of pop. Earlier than she began working with Clive Davis, although, Monica was a protege of the younger R&B producer Dallas Austin. Monica’s 1995 debut album Miss Thang was just about simply Monica singing throaty melisma over chopped-up rap beats, like a much-younger Mary J. Blige. Monica might all the time mission perspective, and that’s an enormous a part of the explanation that “The Boy Is Mine,” her massively profitable Brandy duet, popped off the best way that it did. A sappy pop ballad like “Angel Of Mine” isn’t as geared in direction of Monica’s strengths as a clubby observe like “The First Evening,” Monica’s second pop chart-topper, however Monica nonetheless did her greatest with it.

Monica recorded her model of “Angel Of Mine” with Rodney Jerkins, the Brandy collaborator who’d co-produced “The Boy Is Mine” and who’d found out a glowing, streamlined tackle Timbaland’s bizarrely spacey R&B productions. On “Angel Of Mine,” Jerkins” stored the glossy acoustic-guitar line from Everlasting’s model of the track — a sound so clear that it feels nearly unreal. Jerkins additionally switched the tempo up a bit and added some delicate synth accents and a few itchy drum-machine programming. These touches aren’t sufficient to maintain “Angel Of Mine” from sounding sleepy, however they have been sufficient to set it other than a few of the different pop balladry that was on the charts on the time.

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It appears fundamental to match Brandy and Monica, however Brandy did get to #1 along with her personal pop ballad “Have You Ever?” simply earlier than Monica bought there with “Angel Of Mine.” Diane Warren wrote “Have You Ever?,” and David Foster produced it; it’s totally a creation of the ’90s pop institution. “Angel Of Mine” hits quite a lot of the identical marks as “Have You Ever?,” but it surely’s bought just a bit bit extra happening musically, and that helps. Monica additionally brings a touch of gospel to her vocal. She goes heavy on the melisma like each different ’90s R&B singer, however there’s a pleasant huskiness in her decrease vary. Like Brandy, Monica additionally sings her personal backup vocals and lets these backup vocals carry quite a lot of the melody. However I like Monica’s leads so much higher than her backups, which simply form of fade into the background for me.

Finally, “Angel Of Mine” is another sappy ballad from a time that had no scarcity of sappy ballads. However the track has caught in my head slightly greater than quite a lot of the opposite sappy ballads from that point; the refrain melody is robust sufficient to pop up in my head every time I see the track’s title. It’s nowhere close to Monica’s greatest work, but it surely’s not unhealthy, both.

“Angel Of Mine” additionally has the good thing about a reasonably enjoyable video. Diane Martel directed the clip, and it stars Tyrese Gibson as Monica’s love curiosity. On the time, Tyrese had already been a mannequin, and he’d solely simply began recording R&B and dealing as an obnoxious VJ on MTV. (Tyrese’s highest-charting single, 2002’s “How You Gonna Act Like That,” peaked at #7. It’s a 3.) Two years after he confirmed up within the “Angel Of Mine” video, Tyrese made his big-screen debut because the lead of John Singleton’s Child Boy, enjoying a task that Singleton had initially supposed for Tupac Shakur. Two years after that, Singleton made 2 Quick 2 Livid, and when Vin Diesel wouldn’t come again for the sequel, Singleton forged Tyrese. Nowadays, Tyrese largely simply appears to make Quick & Livid motion pictures and present up in crap like Morbius, and good for him. I like Tyrese so much higher as resident Toretto Crew comic-relief wiseass Roman Pearce than as an R&B singer or MTV VJ.

Within the “Angel Of Mine” video, Monica and Tyrese lock eyes outdoors a nightclub proper earlier than their pals get right into a fistfight, and we get a pleasant little proto-Matrix bullet time second. (The Matrix opened in theaters a month and a half after “Angel Of Mine” reached #1, so the Wachowskis presumably weren’t ripping off a Monica video, but it surely’s enjoyable to fake in any other case.) Quickly sufficient, we discover out that that is a type of golf equipment have been everybody goes into elaborate swing-dancing routines, which locations this firmly within the late ’90s. Most of what follows is fairly rote R&B-romance stuff with two extraordinarily handsome leads, however I like that Diane Martel did all the pieces in her energy to make a video for an old school pop ballad into one thing enjoyable.

Like quite a lot of the opposite hits of its period, “Angel Of Mine” did nicely in a number of radio codecs, touchdown excessive on Billboard‘s R&B and grownup modern charts. When the track reached #1, Monica’s album The Boy Is Mine was platinum, and it will definitely went triple platinum — a very good quantity, although you’d anticipate an album with three completely different #1 hits to promote greater than that. After “Angel Of Mine,” Monica wouldn’t present up on the Scorching 100 for one more couple of years, and that hole largely comes right down to a really cataclysmic life second.

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Monica had fallen in love with Jarvis Weems, a younger man from Atlanta who’d grown up tough and who was mourning his brother, who’d died in a automotive accident. In 2000, a distraught Weems known as Monica from his brother’s gravesite. Monica went to the cemetery to fulfill Weems, and Weems shot himself proper in entrance of her, dying and leaving her traumatized. Monica additionally dated Grasp P’s brother C-Homicide, who was convicted of homicide in 2003 and who stays incarcerated, although he maintains his innocence.

Monica’s subsequent album had a few false begins. Two soundtrack singles did anemic chart numbers, and All Eyez On Me, the album that was supposed to come back out in 2002, by no means noticed American launch. The early singles did badly, and the file leaked on-line. Monica reworked the album and launched it as After The Storm in 2003. The album debuted at #1 and went gold. Missy Elliott co-wrote and co-produced the one “So Gone,” which peaked at #10 and which discovered a second life as a viral-challenge factor a number of years in the past. (It’s an 8.)

Monica hasn’t had a top-10 hit since “So Gone,” and she or he hasn’t been on the Scorching 100 since 2010’s “Love All Over Me” peaked at #58. However Monica’s nonetheless within the combine. She’s finished some performing, and she or he had a actuality present on BET for a short while. She had a few children with the Atlanta rapper Rocko, and the oldest of these children is now the SoundCloud rapper and producer Rodneyy. (Rocko’s highest-charting single, the 2013 Rick Ross/Future collab “UOENO,” peaked at #20.)

After Monica and Rocko broke up, she spent eight years married to the NBA participant Shannon Brown, whom she met when he performed the love curiosity in her “Love All Over Me” video. Monica doesn’t make pop hits anymore, and she or he’s now not on a significant label, however she’s nonetheless very a lot an element on the R&B charts. Monica’s most up-to-date single is 2020’s “Trenches,” a Neptunes-produced Lil Child collab, and it peaked at #12 R&B. (Good track.)

These statistics are a testomony to R&B’s present place on the planet. Monica remains to be a significant presence throughout the style, but it surely’s been 13 years since she dented the Scorching 100. That claims much less about Monica herself and extra a few altering musical local weather. Monica got here alongside within the ’90s, a time when R&B singers had an actual shot at pop dominance. That point ended, however most people who reigned in that period are nonetheless round, nonetheless making music. On the time, I believed that period of R&B dominance felt slightly stultifying. Now, I form of miss it. We by no means know what we had till it’s gone.

GRADE: 6/10

BONUS BEATS: In 2018, twenty years after its launch, Monica sang a very nice model of “Angel Of Mine” on Jimmy Kimmel Dwell. Right here’s her efficiency:

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 through Hachette Books. You possibly can pre-order it right here.