By Julee Greenberg
NEW YORK — It’s been a while, but she’s back.
We last heard from Monica in 1998 when her album, “The Boy Is Mine,” won her a Grammy Award and megastar status. At just 17, she became the youngest artist ever to have a number-one hit in the U.S. with the title track, “The Boy Is Mine,” which she famously sang with Brandy as a duet. The song spent 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard 100, and in the process became the all-time, number-one female duet in U.S. chart history.
So, with her new CD, “After the Storm,” hitting stores on Tuesday, Monica, now 22, has a lot to live up to. She was previously with Arista, but this will be her first production with Clive Davis’ J Records.
“It’s so close to coming out,” Monica says, “I can’t think about it.” She shouldn’t have much to worry about. Her first single off the record, “So Gone,” is currently number one on the Billboard R&B chart.
Monica calls her latest offering a “record of empowerment” and a reflection on recent hardships in her life. In a three-month span in 2000, her boyfriend committed suicide, her grandmother passed away and her 25-year-old cousin died of a brain aneurism. The CD’s title, “After the Storm,” is appropriate.
“I was spending a lot of time with my family,” she says. “I experienced a lot of happy times and difficult times. My album expresses so much of what I have become.”
Monica collaborated with some of the best in the business to create the new R&B and hip-hop sounds. Missy Elliot was the executive producer on the album, which features songs by DMX and Tyrese.
Of Missy Elliot, she says: “It was so easy to work with Missy. She’s a great friend of mine, and we really became close around the rough spots. She really understood what I was going through, and she helped me to bring that out in the music.”
As for collaborating with Brandy again, Monica notes that there are no plans at the moment. “I just flew back from L.A. to Atlanta with Brandy and we spoke about a tour, but her album doesn’t come out until November,” she explains.
Currently, Monica is busy promoting “After the Storm.” She is scheduled to guest cohost “The View” and perform live on CBS’ “The Early Show.” So what’s a girl to wear?
“I love the classics,” she said, referring to designs by Louis Vuitton and Chanel. She says she would like to team up with Karl Lagerfeld to design a sports line.
“He was so kind to me at the Chanel show and I am such a Chanel fan, so I think it would be great,” she says. “I have such respect for those designers who can create the things that never go out of style.”