“It’s 4AM and my lover won’t answer. He’s probably with a dancer, sipping champagne while I’m in his bed.
It’s 4 AM and I think I might lose it.
This [expletive] thinkin’ I’m stupid. He must have bumped his head.”--Melanie Fiona’s “4AM”
If you listen closely, everything Melanie Fiona wants to tell you about her life can be found in her songs.
“I Been That Girl”; “Wrong Side of a Love Song”; “Give It to Me Right”; “It Kills Me”; “Sad Songs”; “Somebody Come Get Me”; “Gone and Never Coming Back”; “Monday Morning”; “Fool for You.”
“4 AM,” Fiona says in an interview from New York, “I actually lived that. Four a.m. is one of those songs...women know the feeling of what it is to long for someone. ‘It’s 4 a.m. and maybe he’s somewhere with a dancer? Where can he be?’
"People know that record because it is cleverly put. It’s one thing to sing the song, ‘Oh it’s 4 a.m. I’m alone. Where are you?’ But when you paint the picture, describing seeing the clock and wondering, ‘Hey I wonder where my partner is?’ I have been there. I dated a fellow or two who liked the club better than his house. I’ve been there.”
Fiona, who is set to perform on Sunday with Mary J. Blige and D'Angelo at Verizon Center, says what she has to say about her life is all in the music. Fiona, a two-time Grammy-winning artist with a voice so rich one critic said it was “reminiscent of Mariah Carey,” says she doesn’t talk much publicly about her personal life.
At the end of the day, says the Canadian-born Fiona, “an artist is an artist, but they are still people. We come with our flaws. The sad thing is public artists have to live their flaws in public.
“Personally, I try to give only what I want people to see of me. And I keep some things for myself, my privacy and sanity. Because they will take it all if you give it and you are left with nothing. If you give everything to the world, you have nothing left for you.”
On stage, Fiona holds nothing back. The singer won Grammys for Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for "Fool For You," a collaboration with Cee-Lo Green.
Her career has taken off like a rocket. In 2009, her debut CD, “The Bridge,” produced multiple hit singles, including the ballad, “It Kills Me,” which topped R&B and hip-hop charts and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Fiona toured with Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Alicia Keys. This year, Fiona released “The MF Life.”
The initials, she says on her website, could stand for her name, but also can represent “a ‘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.”
Fiona grew up in Toronto, to parents who were immigrants from Guyana. "I remember my house was filled with music--my mom playing Whitney Houston and Barbara Streisand and cleaning the house and yelling at me and my brother. I remember my father playing guitar in the basement--Sam Cooke songs and Bob Marley."
As a teenager, she sang in Toronto with another artist who would soon blow up--Drake. "I've known Drake since he was 17," she says. "It is a nice feeling when you know something in development so many years ago."
When she was 24, she started shopping her demos to major labels that loved her. "They said, ‘Here's a young girl. She looks great. She can sing.’ But they wanted me to sing a different type of music. It didn't fit well with me. That is why I didn't end up with other labels. They wanted to change my approach to music.”
Some singers might have taken the opportunity, Fiona says, “just for the opportunity, but I didn't want to do it."
That music, she says, lacked substance. “It had no honest representation of my vocal ability, song-writing or story-telling ability," she said. "It was void of emotion or limited to one emotion. I always thought music was therapeutic for me. That was my purpose. I needed to stay true to that."
"I have a platform to tell stories and share stories. I think that is my responsibility,” Fiona says. “That is what drives me. I've been in love. I've been hurt, down and out but I will always get back up. There is strength in owning who you are and what you've been through. I have an old-soul perspective."
The Liberation Tour: Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, Melanie Fiona. 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW, Washington, 202-628-3200.
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