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Melanie Fiona, J Holiday, Silk 

When: Fri., Nov. 8 2013
Price: $35

MELANIE FIONA

Released in advance of Canadian R&B diva Melanie Fiona's 2012 LP The MF Life, Europop ballad “4 AM” illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of Fiona's torch-singer-meets-retro-soul oeuvre. A powerful rejoinder to R&B's trend towards glossy tales of male conquest, “4 AM” benefits from Fiona's husky, airy alto which marries Whitney Houston-style virtuosity to the stark emotion of Lauryn Hill. Yet the tune is undercut by an overly precious arrangement that hews too closely to Fiona's previous hits like “It Kills Me”. This is Fiona's dilemma. Though no newcomer – she formed teen R&B combo The Renaissance with Drake and recorded reggae songs in her twenties – Fiona's identity remains blurred between the sassy Motown retro of Amy Winehouse and the overly-emotive histrionics of Mariah Carey, and her songs are more memorable for attitude than melody. At her worst, Fiona coasts at Joss Stone-lite altitude. A recent break with her label seems to have helped Fiona overcome her musical schizophrenia. Recent track “Cold Piece” weds moody phase-shifted Motown and Krautrock electro in a cut that is sexy, clear-eyed and incredibly cool. (Pat Moran)

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