OK so for some of us who haven’t heard of Ms. Fiona… She’s the Canadian R&B/Soul singer/song-writer with Guyanese heritage who burst unto the scene earlier this year with the infectious & to die for, ‘Give It To Me Right‘… Well actually, Melanie Fiona, real name Melanie Hall, has been on her grind since 2002 and we first heard her (as Syren) on the Reggae Gold 2008 compilation C.D by way of the Supa Dups’ produced ‘Somebody Come Get Me‘… She’s been billed as one of Toronto’s finest musical exports since… well since like forever! & Ever since she mesmerized a 500-Strong audience including the most sought-after industry tastemakers at New York’s Canal Room back in January for her first artiste showcase, we’ve been paying very close attention! Her passion, she says, has always been music & she’s received major accolades from industry luminaries such as ?uestlove, Kanye West, & Jay-Z (which led to her ROC NATION management deal)…
So why the question, ‘Is Melanie Fiona Here To Stay?’… Well her debut album ‘The Bridge’ fell into our laps last month, all courtesy of ITunes (you should get yours HERE) and we’ve had a few good listens. The album which sees its US release this tuesday (August 18th) is a as diverse a mixture of sounds as you’ll hear in a very long while. It fuses Classic Soul influenced by the likes of Sam Cooke & Gladys Knight with the traditional R&B sounds that’ve been championed by Mary J. Blige & Faith Evans, sprinkled with doses of Reggae inspired undoubtedly by Ms. Fiona’s Carribean roots & an ever so slight dash of modern Pop music to create a very enjoyable 45 minutes of listening pleasure BUT in an era nowadays where so many artists seldom get any chance to leave an impression on their world, the question is whether Ms. Melanie Fiona fully takes her ‘ONE’ chance on ‘The Bridge’???
Now we could go back & forth on here about why we can’t just judge Melanie Fiona on one 12-track album (her first at that) & how it is little basis for deciding whether or not this woman is here to stay… Funny thing is, you’d probably be right BUT lets be honest, this is the way of the world & you know it… SO… What do we really make of Ms. Fiona’s debut offering, ‘The Bridge’?
We’ll quickly get the bad bits out of the way, shall we? Because true say, there are really NOT that many… The first thing I picked up from listening to ‘The Bridge’ is its ecclectic sound! It’s got everything… R&B? Hip-Hop? Reggae? You name it and you’ll probably hear it on ‘The Bridge’ & this is not necessarily a bad thing because you could say it shows the diversity in her music & it lets her reach out to a wide range of audiences but it does make the album sound like a less cohesive body of work, almost like a mixtape even. On the other hand however, you can hear the definitive & consistent SOUL on each and every record on this album… On ‘The Bridge’, what you get is a woman that’s passionate about her music & you can feel the passion for the 45-odd minutes that you experience Melanie Fiona beautifully sing her heart out
The highlight of this L.P for me is the Andrea Martin & Jay Fenix produced ‘It Kills Me‘! It is quite literally a four-minute (& 10 seconds) showcase of BEAUTIFUL music. The vocal ability, lyrical content, the production & the way they come together PERFECTLY are so far above anything I’ve heard in a long while. There’s really no other way for me to describe it except you hear it… I have to give special props to Ms. Fiona & Andrea Martin (who, together worked on songs for ‘The Bridge’) for some exceptional track arrangement on this L.P because preceeding ‘It Kills Me’, you will be blessed by the eternal lover’s pledge ‘Priceless’, which for the life of me, is another ample testament of Ms. Fiona’s beautiful music-making abilities… & on the latter side of ‘It Kills Me’, you have the sombre sounding ‘Teach Him’ as produced, again by Andrea Martin to serve as the curtain call for ‘The Bridge’. ‘Teach Him’ is another of my favorite Melanie Fiona records not only because of the simplicity of Andrea Martin’s production (it’s near enough just the vocals of Melanie accompanied by an acoustic guitar, it’s that pure!) but also because of the subtle yet commanding vocal presence that Ms. Fiona combines with those powerful lyrics to create such an amazing song. It also features on the Idris Elba/Beyonce movie ‘Obsessed’.
Now unto one of my very few disappointments of ‘The Bridge’… The song ‘Monday Morning’. Why? Well Melanie Fiona & ?uestlove released a mixtape titled ‘WQST presents Melanie Fiona meets The Illadelphonics‘ sometime in early July as a prelude to the release of ‘The Bridge’ and on it, she does a song ‘Monday Morning‘ off of her album and err… it’s AMAZING so Granted, I cannot wait to hear it on the album BUT the album version proves to be so underwhelming compared to the mixtape version… On the album, ‘Monday Morning’ is this 80’s retro upbeat record that’s not bad to be honest BUT on the mixtape, ‘Monday Morning’ is this perfect soul record and as Ms. Fiona rightly admits, she ‘put her soul into it’… The wrong version made it on the album is ALL I’m saying!!!
There’s however NOTHING remotely underwhelming about the reggae induced ‘Ay Yo‘ which by all accounts, is one of the most enjoyeable records on ‘The Bridge’ and the dreamy love-song ‘You Stop My Heart’ which musically lands you into one of The Supreme’s 60’s albums for 3.46 minutes, both of which are produced by London’s production duo, Future Cut (Lily Allen’s Smile & L.D.N) BUT I find myself going back to ‘Walk On By’, listening to it over and over and over again, trying to figure out how & why it features on ‘The Bridge’… & YES I get the whole overriding diversity that Ms. Fiona aims to bring on this album but asides the fact that it’s NOT a very good record, those lyrics don’t quite cut it for me either. Talking about making it hell in his life? Making sure things don’t go right (for him)? Erm… I dunno!
It is NOT a ‘5-mic’ debut album BUT overall, ‘The Bridge’ is a very stellar effort by Melanie Fiona who seizes the opportunity of her ‘first chance’ admirably and makes bloody sure that there IS a ‘second chance’ and damn well a third… Infact ‘The Bridge’ makes it so that we’re gonna be used to the name ‘Melanie Fiona’ for a long time to come and records such as ‘Johnny’ which channels her 70’s punk rock music influences and the Andrea Martin’s produced refreshingly Caribbean ballad ‘Sad Songs’ only add to the musical spectacle that ‘The Bridge’ creates…
SO to answer the earlier question… Is Melanie Fiona here to stay? Well Of Course she is… Her Music is UNDENIABLE!!!
Until the Next Time…