2012 allan slaight honour recipient
Melanie Fiona crossed many bridges to arrive at The MF Life. Conceptual bridges. Spiritual bridges. Actual bridges. Stadium-thumpin' bridges. Hard-lovin' emotional bridges. The MF Life, the Grammy-nominated soulstress’s second album for SRC/Title 9/Universal Republic, evinces the charmed life of an immensely gifted vocalist in forward motion, hurtling up the road, the radio dial, and the charts to a unique place where myriad listeners can soothe their souls and hear the beat of their own hearts.
“It’s all in the interest of growth,” explains Melanie Fiona, a Los Angeles-based native of Toronto, Canada who is co-managed by JAY Z’s Roc Nation. “The key thing I want to impress upon anyone who listens to The MF Life is the idea that it’s possible to learn from everything that comes at you,” she continues. “That’s been my process. It’s why on the surface, the ‘MF’ in the album title represents my initials, but it also gets at the many facets of myself as an artist and a young woman. It can be viewed as the ‘Mighty Fine Life’ in times of triumph and success, but also the ‘Mother-F-ing Life’ when I’m dealing with frustration or misfortune. I celebrate both. I feel it would be dishonest if everything was all about glitz and glamour. It’s about the balance of life, the yin and the yang, the good and the bad, all of that.” The maturity Melanie Fiona displays on The MF Life is underscored by her remarkable versatility and cosmopolitan panache. The album showcases a stunning mix of vibrant new sounds from a host of A-list R&B producers and songwriters, each partaking of the originality that has made Fiona a sought-after collaborator, by superstar producer No I.D (“Break down these walls” and “This time”), Rico Love (“4AM”), fellow Canadian hit maker Drake who co-wrote (“I been that girl.”), as well Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse), and Andrea Martin (Melanie’s #1 hit, “It Kills Me”).
The MF Life is definitely less retro-sounding than my first album,” says Fiona, who credits her parents, Guyanese émigrés to Canada, with giving her a solid foundation in the time-honored classics of Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder, among other greats. The transformative impulse is one Fiona relishes. “Making the leap from Canada,” she explains, “I was recognized for two things: Being a powerful vocalist and an emotional storyteller. It’s clear to me that with those traits in place, the sky’s the limit. I think if listeners feel that they can believe what you’re singing, they’ll stick with you no matter what you try.” With the release of her debut album, The Bridge, Melanie Fiona emerged as one of 2009’s finest new breakout stars. The album’s breakthrough ballad, “It Kills Me,” topped Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for nine weeks and earned Fiona her first Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. Popular favorites such as “Give It to Me Right” and “Ay Yo” demonstrated Fiona’s unique ability to mix classic R&B/soul influences with a street-smart attitude and hip-hop swagger, resulting in an entirely fresh sound all her own, which she has developed into an electrifying live show.
In fact, in 2010, Melanie Fiona was the only artist to be invited to perform on BET’s Rising Icons program for the second year in a row, and she has toured with Kanye West and Alicia Keys, in addition to co-headlining the 2009 Heineken Red Star Soul Tour and the 2011 BET Music Matters II Tour. Since the release of her first album and 2010’s The Bridge Acoustic EP, Melanie Fiona has received a multitude of awards, nominations, and honors. Among them, she was named iTunes’ Best New R&B/Soul Artist of 2009 and won the trophy for Best New Artist at the 2010 Soul Train Awards, in addition to picking up four nominations at the 2010 BET Awards, plus a 2010 NAACP Image Award nod for Outstanding New Artist, a 2010 Juno Award nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, and a 2011 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for her guest appearance on “Wake Up! Everybody” by John Legend and The Roots, featuring Common.
In addition to her previous accolades, Fiona has been nominated for a 2012 NAACP Award for Outstanding Song and she has received two 2012 Grammy awards for Best R&B Song and Best Traditional R&B Performance for her collaboration with Cee Lo Green for "Fool For You." The New York Times has declared “She has a muscular voice but still manages a bright tone, making her equally convincing whether she’s getting bruised or doing the bruising." Clearly, The MF Life points the way forward for a boldly captivating new voice with an auspicious future.