In Party Like It’s 1999, I’m marking my birthday June 25th by reviewing every Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit from my birth year 1999 along with other notable hits from the year.
Monica- “Angel of Mine”
HIT #1: February 13, 1999
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
There’s always something comforting about a satisfying love song. You meet this special someone and you immediately want to spend the rest of your life with. Nothing but happiness in the relationship. With most songs dealing with a lot of the drama that comes with relationships, it’s a welcome relief to hear a song about being happy with the person you’re with. Case in point: Monica’s “Angel of Mine” a pretty song about relationship bliss and being so enamored with a guy that he’s treated as an angel.
“Angel of Mine” had a bit of a history before Monica made it big. The song came together by songwriters and producers Rhett Lawrence and Travon Potts. Potts had gotten together with Lawrence after taking a few years off from music. He mainly had success writing for R&B acts. One day alone in the studio, Potts began working on a song inspired by his wife and his dog. Explaining to Fred Bronson in Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, “The song is partially about my wife and partially about our little Pomeranian dog, who is the sweetest thing you can imagine. He was at the studio and I sat him down in a chair and looked at him every once in a while. I tried to write it from the perspective of total innocence.” (Isn’t that sweet.)
Potts said he pulled the title from a list of potential titles he had as he wanted it to capture the mood of the song. He then brought it to Lawrence where he came up with the first verse and chorus while Potts came up with the second verse and bridge. Lawrence sent “Angel of Mine” to music exec Clive Davis, head of Arista Records, who immediately loved the song giving it to teenage R&B diva Monica, who was signed to Arista, to record and include on the new album she was making The Boy Is Mine which Davis was the executive producer of.
“Angel of Mine” did not happen right away as months went by before Monica recorded it. All of this happening while Lawrence was enjoying worldwide chart success with “I Wanna Be the Only One” a song he co-wrote with BeBe Winans for the British R&B girl group Eternal going to #1 in several countries. Due to that success, the group’s label quickly demanded another hit song that would be included on a greatest hits album to be released around Christmas.
With only a couple weeks to record new songs, Eternal came across “Angel of Mine” while listening to several Lawrence written songs. They asked Lawrence if they could record “Angel of Mine” to which he noted that Clive Davis was holding it for Monica. Lawrence and Davis managed to work out an agreement that would allow Eternal to record “Angel of Mine” for a worldwide release while Monica’s version would be exclusively released for the US market. Lawrence would also produce Eternal’s version while someone else would produce Monica’s version.
Eternal’s version of “Angel of Mine” was released in September 1997 and quickly became another hit for the group peaking at #4 in the UK. (In the US, Eternal have never gotten a Top 10 single. Their highest-charting single, 1994’s “Stay,” peaked at #19.) Lawrence noted both versions of “Angel of Mine” aren’t all that different aside from differing tempos. He’s right about that. Eternal’s version is a bit more fast-paced than what Monica would record. Eternal’s version is also in a higher key and more breathier than Monica’s version. Their version is certainly fine but listening to it, it sounds like a footnote. Something’s missing.
Like Brandy and “Have You Ever?,” Monica was also coming off big success by the time “Angel of Mine” hit. (The #1 song in America the week of Monica’s birth: Barbra Streisand’s “Woman In Love”) After spending a few years in the ‘90s landing in the Top 10 many times, Monica’s team up with Brandy on “The Boy Is Mine” gave her her big smash spending 13 weeks at #1 in the summer of 1998. (It’s a 7.) She even outdid Brandy with #1 hits as the Diana Ross sampling “The First Night” hit #1 in October 1998 a month after “The Boy Is Mine” fell off the top spot. (It’s a 5.)
Monica wound up recording “Angel of Mine” in one day with Rodney Jankins producing. Talking to Bronson, “My voice was going through some different types of changes, so we made a lot of changes once we started working on it. I enjoyed it tremendously. To this day I still love singing that song and that’s rare. Usually, you get tired of singing the same song.”
You definitely get that impression listening to “Angel of Mine.” In Monica’s version, the key is lowered and the vocals sound fuller than they did on External’s version. Monica sings about being instantly enamored by a guy. She saw him and immediately develops her love crediting him for making her life better, “How you changed my world you’ll never know/I’m different now, you helped me grow.” She gets so lovestruck by this guy that she considers him her angel. Monica delivers it in the innocent style that Lawrence intended along with perfect gospel-style runs. She sounds like she’s at peace and that nothing could tear her apart from her guy.
Musically, it’s a pretty song. It has a peaceful satisfied blissed-out vibe that fits with the innocent love theme. The production has a glossy sheen prominent in most late ‘90s R&B: processed acoustic guitars, synth strings, hip-hop style drum beats, angelic backing vocals. The acoustic guitar does some nice flourishes and chords throughout that bring the song home to me. It’s not a song that will change your life but if you ever find that special someone it doesn’t hurt to have this song playing.
After “Angel of Mine,” Monica wouldn’t get back to #1. She would continue to release music but couldn’t keep up the momentum from her ‘90s releases. She would land in the Top 10 only one more time after “Angel of Mine” with 2003’s “So Gone,” a song co-written and produced by Missy Elliot which peaked at #10. (It’s a 5.) Like Brandy, Monica soon turned to TV after her music career faded appearing in her own reality show Monica: Still Standing on BET which lasted a year. She’s also appeared on other reality shows, The Voice, and various movies.
Her personal life would not be as innocent as she sang about on “Angel of Mine.” During the song’s success, Monica was in a tumultuous relationship with a boyfriend who would later kill himself while visiting the gravesite of his brother in 2000. She got engaged and had two kids with rapper Rodney “Rocko” Hill but never got married. In 2010, she married NBA player Shannon Brown having a kid together before divorcing last year. She’s still trying to find that angel.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s “Angel of Mine” being performed on a 2019 episode of The Voice:
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