One of the few silver linings around the dark cloud that is 2020 is that since live concerts have been cancelled left, right, and sideways due to COVID-19, various recording artists have taken to their social media pages to perform free shows and/or they’ve had battles via the Verzuz web series. Some of the most popular battles featured on Verzuz to date have been Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott, Babyface vs. Teddy Riley and Snoop Dogg vs. DMX. Sadly, I’ve unintentionally overlooked all these battles, but there’s an upcoming battle that I refuse to miss: Brandy vs. Monica.
I consider myself to be a child of the ’80s and ’90s (born in 1981; do the math), and Brandy and Monica helped provide the soundtrack of my teenage and young adult life. My friends and various media outlets would always compare these ladies or try their best to pit them against each other (I was saddened to hear that there was an actual rivalry between Brandy and Monica at one point in time; I always believed it was something media people just made up for the sake of publicity), but I loved Brandy and Monica equally. They both made great music. However, there can only be one winner in this challenge. So who’d win? Allow me to break down some of the biggest hits from these legends to see who has the best chance!
Brandy – “I Wanna Be Down”
Although Brandy previously starred in the sitcom Thea in the early ’90s, her debut single, “I Wanna Be Down,” was my official introduction to her. “I Wanna Be Down” was the perfect R&B/pop anthem: it was relatable enough for teenage girls that were dying to have the cute boy in school glance their way (like me), and the dope beat was funky enough for adults to enjoy. Just from the video alone, I could tell Brandy was destined to be a star. She could sing, and she was beautiful, but she also had a down-to-earth vibe that reminded me a lot of my friend girls at my junior high. What’s even cooler is that “I Wanna Be Down” became such a big hit, it spawned a major collabo remix with Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, and Queen Latifiah (imagine the female version of the “Flava In Ya Ear remix).
Monica – “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)”
“Don’t Take It Personal”—or “The PMS Song,” as Video Soul host Sherry Carter affectionately called it—was my official introduction to Monica. I remember hearing the song and thinking that she had to be in her early 20’s. She just sounded so…mature. Even though I was about 13 at the time this song was released, I could certainly relate to it. I entered “womanhood” not too long after my 11th birthday, so when those fetal-position-inducing cramps hit and I was too bloated to fit into my jeans, I didn’t feel like being bothered with anyone. To be honest I still don’t, especially now that all the other wonderful symptoms like fatigue and irritability came along as I grew older. Y’all wanna know what the best thing about this song is? Monica sampled LL Cool J’s “Back Seat” (LL was my teenage love, y’all). Not only she did prove to have great taste, but Monica effectively transformed the track from a jam about a dude gettin’ his freak on at the drive-in to a song about one of the many struggles women go through.
Brandy – “Best Friend”
When I was in 8th grade, I had the pleasure of attending a Boyz II Men concert in Columbia, SC that featured Subway and Brandy as the opening acts. During Brandy’s set, I heard the song “Best Friend” for the first time, and it became one of my favorite songs of hers. I loved the dance sequences in the video too, as well as the fact that Brandy reveals her little bro Ray J as her best friend (aww…). I know that’s a well-known fact now, but in 1995, that was news (I didn’t even know they were related up until that point). Two funny things about that concert, by the way: Brandy ended up dating Boyz II Men member Wanya Morris not too long afterward, and I attended the show with none other than my best friend. We still remember that night fondly. 😀
Monica – “Why I Love You So Much”
I was about 14 when this banger came out, and every time it came on the radio or aired on Video Soul, I’d sing like I was Monica herself. Hell, there were times that I fooled myself into thinking that I sounded just as good as she did (those dreams got crushed when I recorded myself singing a Prince song and listened to the playback. Yikes!). Again, despite Monica being about 16 or so when recording this song, the topic seemed so grown up. I believe it was around this time that I learned Monica wasn’t that much older than me. Needless to say I was surprised.
Brandy – Moesha Theme
I know, I know. Technically, this isn’t a real song. However, I remember when the Verzuz battle was first announced, I saw a tweet stating that Brandy could use the Moesha theme song against Monica since it was a certified banger. When I really thought about it, that was actually true. I’ve always loved the Moesha theme. As a matter of fact, I was jammin’ to the theme a few weeks ago when Netflix added the series to their roster. I posted the season two version (Brandy changed the theme nearly every season, which is one of the other reasons it kills), because that’s my personal favorite. It’s also the best season of the show, as far as I’m concerned. If you watched Moesha, tell me your favorite season in the comments section.
Monica – “Like This and Like That”
This was the first uptempo song I ever heard from Monica, and it didn’t disappoint. The beat was bangin’ (I’m jammin’ to the track as I’m typing this), and of course, Monica delivered with the lyrics. Plus, there’s something about the rapper’s line, “I’m Monica! Monica!” that always stayed with me. Don’t ask me why; I just always liked it.
Brandy – “Sittin’ Up In My Room”
In the fall of 1995, Brandy dropped her “Sittin’ Up In My Room” single, which was part of the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack. This was another one of Brandy’s songs that spoke to me. After all, I was a freshman in high school around this time, and I spent plenty of time sitting in my room thinking about all the cute boys at my school and male celebrities I liked…and realizing I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell with either of them. Brandy’s vocals and the beat were on point, as well. I loved the bass guitar they used, and I still get ASMR when Brandy hits the final note. It’s a trip how certain songs have that effect on me.
Monica – “For You I Will”
Monica recorded “For You I Will” for the Space Jam soundtrack circa 1996 (it was released as a single in ’97) and it was later included on Monica’s sophomore album, The Boy Is Mine. This is one of the most beautiful songs in Monica’s catalog, in my humble opinion. Her declaration to do anything for the person she loves (and the actual person is interchangeable: it could be a lover, parent, sibling or best friend) is inspirational. This was another song I used to belt out like whenever it played on the radio. I knew good and well I couldn’t really sing.
Brandy – “Have You Ever?”
Brandy released her second album, Never Say Never in 1998, and now it was her turn to have a more mature sound. “Have You Ever?” was the perfect song to show how much Brandy grew up since her debut. The way she sings about suffering through heartbreak makes you want to cry, and the visuals for the video are absolutely beautiful. In ’98, the DJs played this song so often that I’d get tired of hearing it, but I never stopped loving it. Over twenty years later, it still holds up, like most of Brandy’s catalog.
Monica – “The First Night”
When it comes to my favorite Monica songs, “The First Night” is definitely in the top five. This song debuted when I was about 16 or so, and I loved everything about it, from the funky beat to the classy white and khaki ensemble everyone wore in the video. Plus, during an era where you either had to be sexually experienced or have a driver’s license in your possession (and at 16, I had neither), it was refreshing to hear that Monica shared my feelings in not givin’ up the goods on the first date.
Brandy – “Almost Doesn’t Count”
Just like “The First Night” is one of my favorite Monica songs, “Almost Doesn’t Count” is another one of my favorite Brandy tracks. It’s another song from the Never Say Never album that features a mature discussion on relationships. This time, Brandy’s dealing with a lover that’s not reciprocating the love she gives him, and she’s tired of the foolishness. In my opinion, I always felt this song doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. There’s not as much said about “Almost Doesn’t Count” as “Have You Ever?” or “I Wanna Be Down.” On a lighter note, I find myself quoting the title of this song often in my everyday life (i.e. “I almost made that dude notice me, but like Brandy says, ‘almost doesn’t count.'”). Don’t judge me, y’all.
Monica – “Angel of Mine”
“Angel of Mine” was one of the prettiest ballads from The Boy Is Mine, and it’s my second favorite track from Monica’s catalog. This was yet another one of Monica’s songs that my off-key ass would sing to the top of my lungs. I also loved Monica and Tyrese’s chemistry in the video. Ah, the days when Tyrese wasn’t whining about Rock doing the Hobbs and Shaw reboot. God, I miss the ’90s. Here’s some trivia: the arm band Monica wore around this time was to cover a tattoo she had. She felt it sent the wrong message to young girls to have the tattoo revealed. This didn’t stop me from getting a tattoo when I was 22, though.
Brandy – “What About Us?”
After the success of Never Say Never, Brandy took a three and a half year hiatus from music. When she hit the scene again in the spring of 2002 with the single “What About Us?” I was psyched. I loved the song right off. You can’t help but get up and dance the second the electronic groove starts. I loved this song so much that I had an 8-bit version of it as a ringtone for my first cell phone (y’all remember the Nokias with the covers you could change? That’s the one I had!). On a side note, I don’t know what it was about early 2002, but there wasn’t a song I heard back then that I didn’t like. Those were the days, my friends.
Monica – “So Gone”
I’ll always look back on Monica’s “So Gone” with fondness. Not only was it her big comeback after a lengthy hiatus, but the first time I heard it I was days away from my college graduation. This is another one of Monica’s songs that are on my top five list. I loved it from jump, especially the ambiguity portrayed in the video. Was he cheating on her or did she imagine it all? To top it off, Derek Luke played her boyfriend. That man is so fine!
Brandy – “Full Moon”
Remember when I mentioned that just about every song released in 2002 was slammin’? Brandy’s title track to her Full Moon album was no exception to that rule. Many consider “Full Moon” to be one of Brandy’s best songs to date, and I can’t argue with that. The beat is strong, but at the same time, the music is so soothing that it makes you want to kick back and drink a glass of wine while listening to it. “Full Moon” always takes me back to spring semester of my junior year, one of the happier moments of my college career. Another bit of trivia: Brandy was pregnant with her daughter while filming this video. I remember finding how she was having a baby and thinking to myself, “What!? Brandy’s gonna be a mom!”
Monica – “Knock Knock”
A few months after my college graduation, Monica released her second single, “Knock Knock.” Even though I was in a not-so-great space at the time—working a dead-end job I couldn’t stand and unsure if the career path I chose was really for me—at least I had good music to help get me through. “Knock Knock” was one of the songs that settled my spirit and took my mind off the outside crap, if only for a little while. Missy showed out with the production as well as the backing vocals, and dare I say that “Knock Knock” is my favorite Monica song.
Brandy feat. Kanye West – “Talk About Our Love”
To think, I actually forgot about this song! I have a Twitter member to thank for jogging my memory. Back in 2004, I adored “Talk About Our Love.” The music makes you wanna move immediately, and the lyrics speak nothing but truth. Even though my love life is damn near non-existent, I know what it’s like to date a dude and have everyone and their mama in your business. Plus, this song features old school Kanye. Lord knows I miss that guy. By the way, the same Twitter member mentioned that once Brandy plays this little ditty, it’s a wrap for Monica. I won’t call it just yet, but this song definitely provides some serious competition.
Monica – “U Should’ve Known Better”
“U Should’ve Known Better” is definitely one of Monica’s sweetest songs. In it, she sings about her undying devotion to her now incarcerated lover, and how she plans on sticking by his side even though he’s locked up for an undisclosed amount of time. I have to be honest, I know some folks that won’t even try to be bothered with that. I think it’s safe to say that this song was about C-Murda, Monica’s on again, off again boyfriend that’s currently doing a life sentence.
Brandy – “Long Distance”
“Long Distance” is another melancholy ballad that Brandy blew out of the water. I fell in love with it right off the bat, and the video was off the chain. One of the best things about this song is that Bruno Mars (my future husband) wrote it. He and Phil even appear in the video (don’t blink; you’ll miss them)! If anyone’s interested in hearing Bruno’s demo for “Long Distance,” just click here.
Monica – “Everything To Me”
I still remember when “Everything To Me” came out. It was in early 2010, and it played nearly every hour on the hour on The Steve Harvey Morning Show. That was fine by me, because I thought the song killed, and Monica was sangin‘. Yes, you read that correctly. She was sangin‘. Y’all know the difference. If I remember correctly, I believe this song was dedicated to Monica’s then husband, which explains why she poured her heart and soul into the vocals. I loved the sample of Deniece Williams’s “Silly,” too (for years I thought Minnie Riperton sang that song).
Honestly, I’m still undecided. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I love both Brandy and Monica. I always have. They’ve both had illustrious 25 yr. careers, each with phenomenal songs that followed me from my teenage years up to adulthood. Not only that, but their music still stands the test of time. I can just as easily jam to “Like This and Like That” and “Best Friend” today as I did when I was 13 years old. I had to leave a lot of songs I loved off this list (i.e. “Baby,” “Top of the World,” “Before You Walk Out of My Life,” “Ain’t Nobody,” etc.), otherwise we’d be here all day discussing Brandy and Monica’s catalogs. No matter who wins the battle, I’m proud of everything these women have accomplished, and they should be, too.
I’ll just leave one of my all time favorites from both these ladies here:
Brandy & Monica – “The Boy Is Mine”
Be sure to check out the battle Mon. Aug 31!
—Written by Nadiya
So who do you think will win the Verzuz battle: Brandy or Monica? Why do you think your pick will win? Growing up did you prefer one over the other? Were you sorry to hear that Brandy and Monica had an actual feud? Are you excited for the battle (I know I am!)? Let me know in the comments section!