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Album review: Melanie Fiona's 'The MF Life'

March 19, 2012 |  5:45 pm

A review of Melanie Fiona's

The next-big-thing hype around Canadian R&B singer Melanie Fiona was deafening leading up to the release of her 2009 debut CD, The Bridge, and though the collection spawned two hit singles — “It Kills Me” and “Give It to Me,” the former of which was nominated for a Grammy — it failed to make a real impression. Part of the problem, as with most modern R&B, was that the songs were more attitudinal than memorable.

The songs are a bit stronger this time around, but few offer much in the way of great lyrics or real insight as they stick to themes of heartache, heartbreak and the occasional romantic triumph. Fiona’s voice, at times reminiscent of Mariah Carey, is fantastic throughout, though she often lapses into hard, hyper-emotive singing that underscores the fact that it’s merely a simulation of genuine human emotion. While she climbs inside smolderingly forlorn tracks “I Been That Girl” and “Wrong Side of a Love Song” for heartfelt readings, elsewhere she relies too much on a lump-in-the-throat effect to suggest despair. On songs like “Running,” she blows the roof off with her voice, and the whole point seems to be to show that she can.

The best tunes on this producer-driven collection are retro in vibe: the girl-group torch song “Bones,” “L.O.V.E.,” with John Legend, and the pounding “Watch Me Work,” which opens with a nod to the Temptations' “Cloud 9” before settling into a generic Motown-style backbeat.

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— Ernest Hardy

“The MF Life”
Melanie Fiona
Universal Republic
Two and a half stars (out of four)

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