From child star to one of the most famous faces in Indonesia, Agnez Mo is an award-winning singer/songwriter and actress who evolved over the decades with continual reinvention. After releasing a trilogy of kids' albums in the mid-'90s, the part-time actress embraced R&B and hip-hop in the 2000s as Agnes Monica, issuing another trio of records, including the hit Whaddup A..'?! (2005). For her third act, she rebranded as Agnez Mo, making her international English-language debut with 2017's X.
Born Agnes Monica Muljoto in Jakarta, she made her debut in the early '90s at the age of six with Si Meong. Her sophomore album, Yess!, arrived in 1995, followed shortly thereafter by her final children's record, Bala-Bala. Though not hugely successful, her early trio of albums kept her in the public eye and she soon kicked off an acting career, starring in teen dramas and soap operas such as Lupus Millenia, Mr. Hologram, and Pernikahan Dini. The latter series marked the start of her late-teens musical transition to more mature content, embracing American R&B vocals inspired by major influences Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Fantasia, Lauryn Hill, and Brandy.
Her reintroduction to the music market arrived in 2003 with And the Story Goes, which incorporated ballads and a youthful blend of hip-hop and pop/rock production. The set went multi-platinum in Southeast Asia and scored the singer -- still performing as Agnes Monica -- multiple awards, including Best Female Newcomer. Follow-up Whaddup A..'?! sold even more copies, helping Muljoto expand her presence into Taiwan, co-starring in a pair of soap operas. In 2009, her third adult solo album -- and sixth overall -- was issued on longtime label Aquarius Musikindo. Sacredly Agnezious dialed up the confident and energetic style she honed on her previous two efforts, adding sultry tones and synth-heavy production similar to contemporary output by Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Kelly Clarkson. She closed the "Agnes Monica" era with a greatest-hits compilation, Agnes Is My Name, which collected a dozen singles from the period, from the 2001 soundtrack cut "Pernikahan Dini" to 2009's "Janji-Janji." Between releases, she joined the cast of judges on Indonesian Idol and signed with Sony, primed to expand to a wider international audience.
In 2014, Muljoto returned as Agnez Mo, issuing a self-titled English-language LP in Indonesia to test her new sound. Well-received, she returned to the studio to record with American producers. Her international expansion started with 2014's "Coke Bottle," a trap-rap-flavored single with Timbaland and T.I. released via Sony/The Cherry Party. The next year, she released the Kesha-esque "Boy Magnet," which was embellished with an EP of dance remixes. While recording the next Agnez Mo album, she signed on for a season of both The Voice Indonesia and The Voice Kids Indonesia. In 2017, she shifted focus back to her music with the single "Long as I Get Paid," which unveiled an explicit, hard-edged side to the singer. The track found a home on her official international debut, X, which arrived in late 2017. Full of hip-hop attitude, trap beats, and seductive R&B, X was produced by Timbaland associates Danja (Britney Spears, Keri Hilson, Ciara) and Jim Beanz (JoJo, Chris Brown, Demi Lovato). Muljoto quickly returned to the studio, this time joined by Chris Brown, to record the passionate duet "Overdose," which was released in 2018. ~ Neil Z. Yeung