Cover Story: Melanie Fiona
By Teryl Warren
Since releasing her debut album The Bridge in 2009, Melanie Fiona has rocketed to the top of the music industry. Before inking her own artist deal, the Toronto, Canada native – who briefly performed in a group called The Renaissance with fellow Canadian Drake – co-wrote songs for notable acts like Rihanna and Kardinal Offshall.
The multicultural star born to Guyanese parents is of Portuguese, Indian and African descent. Like many artists, she grew up in a house filled with music. Her father, a guitarist in a band, and her music-loving mother exposed her at an early age to artists like The Ronettes and Sam Cooke.
Her signature song “It Kills Me” earned her a Grammy nomination in 2009. Her collaboration with John Legend, The Roots and Common on the remake of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ call to action song “Wake Up, Everybody!” earned her a second Grammy nomination in 2011. And her duet “Fool for You” with super-producer and recording artist Cee-Lo Green has garnered her her third Grammy nomination in three consecutive years.
Often compared to soulful songstresses like Marsha Ambrosius and the late Amy Winehouse, Melanie Fiona is, all at once, uniquely vintage and thoroughly modern. Melanie is pure energy onstage and is a true artist who doesn’t need to rely on elaborate dance routines and pyrotechnics to keep an audience spellbound.
She effortlessly blends genres like blues, soul, pop and retro rock into a musical tapestry that is evocative and eclectic. And although the influences of artists like Whitney Houston and Bob Marley are evident in her music, she is far from overpowered by those influences. While deftly tapping them, she maintains a fresh approach, integrity and authenticity that are pure Melanie.
As Melanie told us, she likes to take her audience on a melodic journey of the entire emotional spectrum of relationships. “I write about the different sides of love,” she shared. “Love can be a beautiful thing – when everything is going right,” she said. “But sometimes, without knowing we can end up on the wrong side of love.”
On tracks like “Ay Yo” and “Somebody Come Get Me” - a popular track which she originally recorded under the stage name Syren Hall – she salutes her West Indian roots. In typical Melanie fashion, “Somebody Come Get Me” boasts rich, passionate lyrics which, in this instance, are begging for an intervention from a woman on the brink of killing a lover who had pushed her to the limit – Lawd ‘a Mercy!
Her heart-wrenching single “4AM “– about a cheating lover – features lyrics like “I don’t deserve this life, I’d make the perfect wife” which showcase a vulnerability, and transparency that are like windows directly into her soul.
The first single from her second album “Gone and Not Coming Back” is reminiscent of 1980′s woeful tales of love lost like “Separate Lives” and “Against All Odds.” And the melodrama of her Grammy-nominated single “It Kills Me” is the confession of a woman who just can’t help herself from loving the wrong man.
“I’ve been through some things, we’ve all been through some things,” she confided. “We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about the mistakes we’ve made in our relationships.”
The Savoy Entertainment Center in Inglewood, CA recently rolled out a red carpet welcome for singer-songwriter Melanie Fiona and her Band, and Wiles Magazine was there to capture it all. From the go-go styling of her back-up singers to channeling a young Tina Turner in her movements, her stage presence and showmanship are reminiscent of the days before video killed the radio star.
Here is just a sample of what we saw:
The night featured performances of songs like her upbeat admonishment “Monday Morning” and “Bang Bang” - both retro, danceable tracks that cleary ode to super-girl groups from the ‘60’s like The Supremes and The Ronettes. From there, she gently eased the audience into “Give It to Me Right” – a smooth, steady groove featuring a sampling of The Zombies’ 1968 hit “Time of the Season.” With lyrics like “Give it to me right or don’t give it to me all,” Melanie Fiona exudes a powerful sensuality that is utterly feminine and undeniably confident.
Melanie is also an artist who is deeply committed to using her celebrity to make a positive impact on the world. She has leant her time and talent to philanthropic shows like Stevie Wonder’s annual House Full of Toys holiday benefit; and she teamed up with 80 other artists including Lil Wayne, Faith Evans, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean, Kid Cudi, and more to remake the classic “We Are The World” for relief in the wake of the severe earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
Her show at the Savoy was, as it turns out, a benefit, as well, in support of an organization that is close to her heart: A New Way of Life Re-entry Project.
“I was inspired by their story when I first became aware of it on CNN Heroes,” she told us. “They do important and amazing work and I’m really proud to support them.”
A New Way of Life Re-entry Project is a grassroots, non-profit organization in South Central Los Angeles with a core mission to help women and girls break the cycle of entrapment in the criminal justice system and lead healthy and satisfying lives. A New Way of Life provides sober home environments, job training and skill-building opportunities, and advocacy for the rights of women inmates, and formerly incarcerated people and their families.
During the show, Melanie invited New Life Founder and Executive Director Susan Burton to briefly inform the crowd about the critical services they provide. Donations for the organization were collected throughout and after the show.
Melanie’s second studio album is slated for release in February of 2012. Melanie ended her show with a performance of the album’s titular track – “The MF Life” – her version of “A Hard-Knocked Life” from the Broadway musical Annie. As she performed the song, she left her audience with words to live by – encouraging us all to “live life to the fullest every single day.”
For more information on Melanie Fiona, please visit: www.melaniefiona.com
You can learn more about A New Way of Life Re-entry Project at: www.anewwayoflife.org