Every now and then, a new female R&B-soul singer pops up on my radar, and I just have to stop and pay attention. These days, that songbird is Guyanese-Canadian artiste Melanie Fiona, whose debut release The Bridge is a potent, heart-warming elixir, laden with 12 tracks that walk the line between contemporary R&B, neo-soul with hints of reggae and world music. I’m telling you, this girl is the truth.
This is music like it was meant to be enjoyed: sultry vocals, self-assured lyrics, and lush instrumentation. Lead single “Give It to Me Right,” which earned her incredible buzz stateside, is peppered with heavy percussion, but it’s Fiona’s sass and take-no-mess attitude that gives the song its true grit. Other must-hear highlights include the recently Grammy-nominated smash “It Kills Me,” which shows off the singer’s throaty vocals at their best.
She shines, too, on singles like the tender and sparsely produced “Teach Him,” the up-tempo gem “Ay Yo,” and the soulful cuts “Priceless” and “Sad Songs.”
Fiona blends the soulfulness of Alicia Keys and the gritty edge of songbirds like Chrisette Michele with great results. Unlike too many of her contemporaries in the industry, for Fiona it’s about having it her way on The Bridge.
And yet there is a sad postscript to this review, as the failure of Fiona’s label to release the album this past summer caused the album to miss out on a possible Grammy nod for Best R&B Album. Bummer. What’s more, fans have been anticipating this album for months, and the delay has undoubtedly affected sales.
Nevertheless, The Bridge is a solid introductory album from a promising and talented vocalist and songwriter, who makes her presence felt. She is a bad chick. Her voice is strong and passionate, and, thankfully, she has appeal. For my money, you can’t get more than that.