14 year-old Monica Arnold emerged onto the urban music scene hot on the heels of her future arch-nemesis, Brandy Norwood. While Brandy's mystique was sweet, fun and innocent, Monica's voice, style and image projected a maturity that magically transcended her tender young age. Urban headz simply couldn't ignore this young lady when "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)" was released -- it masterfully wrapped LL Cool J's [then recent] "Backseat (Of My Jeep)" beat around strikingly mature subject matter for a 14-year old: PMS. Producer Dallas Austin was definitely experiencing a surge of creativity during this time period -- he had just completed duties on TLC's mega-watt 'CrazySexyCool' a year earlier. Now let's get to this album:
'Miss Thang' opens up confidently with the sassy title track, sonically reminiscent of LA-based rapper (then current) hit W.C.'s "West Up". Next up is "Don't Take It Personal" which continues to skillfully communicate the gritty brilliance of mid-90's urban music. "Like This And Like That" is a decent hip-hop infused cut (featuring a cool rap by Mr. Malik) along with the mid-90's grit of "Get Down", a solid album track. "With You" is a 'too-sensual-for-a-14-year-old' R&B track that should have been a single anyhow...it's an early highlight of the album that has never (!) been skipped in the eight years I've owned this album. We continue with "Skate", a fun jam that bounces along like kids at a roller rink; it cleverly samples "Cutie Pie" by One Way.
"Angel" is an uptempo track that also could have been a single, it reminds me of Brandy's "Baby" except this has more of an ATL (thanks to background vocals by Debra Killings) vibe to it. "Woman In Me" is a plush interlude that perfectly segues into "Tell Me If You Still Care", a stunningly on-target cover of Jam & Lewis's song performed by the S.O.S. Band. Pre-'My Way' Usher Raymond joins Monica for "Let's Straighten It Out", a bluesy duet featuring live instruments and some of the most impressive vocals either vocalist has ever laid down (for Usher, think Donny Hathaway).
"Before You Walk Out My Life" was Monica's vibrant second single, and is (to this day) a great sounding midtempo not to be missed. "Now I'm Gone" is a bittersweet ballad with a misty (yet warm) vibe to it. But it's "Why I Love You So Much" that had me floored the first time I heard it. Produced by ex-LaFace collaborator Daryl Simmons, the old Babyface sound (think 'Tender Lover-era') gets resurrected one last time for this wonderfully sincere ballad (and radio single). "Why I Love You So Much" is never *ever* skipped by this reviewer. Ever. The sheer beauty continues with "Never Can Say Goodbye" (not the Jackson 5 song), a pretty ballad that softly glides the listener back to earth after soaring among the clouds during "Why I Love You So Much"...
The "Don't Take It Personal (remix)" samples Jermaine Jackson's "Don't Take It Personal", creating an interesting mix. We end the album with "Forever Always" -- a jam featuring an acoustic guitar, delicate percussion, and trademark ATL background vocals by Debra Killings (her voice is most recognizeable on TLC songs like "Creep" and "Hat 2 Da Back"); leaving the listener ultimately satisfied. This is easily Monica's strongest album to date, and at 70 minutes long, is soooo worth your hard-earned benjamins, scrilla, fetti, pesos, greenbacks, paper...you get the picture. 'Miss Thang' is an album that Monica, Dallas Austin, Rowdy Records, Arista Records, and Clive Davis ought to be very proud of. The best (and most solid) Pop/Modern R&B album by a female recording artist in the year of 1995. Grade: A+