Melanie Fiona’s ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song’ Catapults Her Back to the Grammys
Melanie Fiona won two Grammy Awards in 2012, for ‘Fool for You,’ her collaboration with Cee Lo Green, and this year’s nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance for ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song’ is even more personal because of the suffering it represents. As the painful face expressed in the photo that promoted the song so graphically indicates, Fiona lived that experience and was a victim of love.
“I was emotionally abused,” she tells TheDrop.fm. “I took that photo in a very volatile point in my relationship. I remember feeling I had nowhere to go. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I grabbed my camera. It was one of the lowest points of that relationship and my life. That picture set a bar. I looked at myself and I said I never want to look like that again.”
Fiona was quietly involved in a three-year relationship with ‘CSI: Miami’ television star Adam Rodriguez, who ironically was featured in the video for her 2009 No. 1 hit ‘It Kills Me.’
The Toronto, Canada native says the photograph reflects how she’s expressing her real life through her music. “l wanted people to see the truth. So often we are afraid to show the truth,” she says. “Love is not always beautiful. I wanted to empower my fans, empower people. This is real. We feel this way. You are not alone. I showed my truth. There are women who are being abused. They hide the truth with makeup everyday. People look up to me as a public figure.
“The reaction that I received was that I was brave to show this side, being honest and real. Singers are usually glamorous with their makeup and hair and clothes in their photos.”
When Fiona was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song,’ she knew it was a validation of her courage to expose distress. “I cried. 2012 was so challenging in the best ways for me personally and professionally,” the 29-year-old admits. “I allowed my vulnerability to show. I got to perform the song at the BET Awards. I fought for the song and promoting it at radio. This was a true, honest story of life and love. Now it made it to the top five R&B songs of the year. I am overwhelmed with humility.
“Wow! The people recognized it. I cried tears of joy. What I lived, I wrote about and represented to the people. I am so thankful and I feel like it is already a victory.”
In the Best Traditional R&B Performance category, Fiona competes with Beyonce and Anita Baker, who have won a combined 24 Grammys — Gregory Porter and SWV are also nominated. Fiona knows it will be difficult to win the category two years in a row. However win or lose, she will always remember receiving her first Grammy last year for ‘Fool for You.’
“I will never forget when they called my name and Cee Lo’s name,” she recalls vividly. “I was sitting way in the back. Of course, I was excited that I won but what I most remember was my mother hugged me in a way she had never hugged me before. It made me cry. I realized how a parent feels when they raise a child and do everything they can to provide a good role model. That made me see how a parent feels. I felt her joy as a parent.”
She also had a wonderful time when she sat with nominee Corinne Bailey Rae later in the evening. “I like to eat. The show is long,” Fiona says. “Corinne said she was so hungry and I bought some snacks and we ate popcorn and we had our shoes off watching Adele and Rihanna perform.”
Growing up in Toronto, Fiona moved to Los Angeles for her career and for love. Last year, following her breakup from Rodriguez, she moved to New York City and she loves the change.
“L.A. was a shift in my life,” she comments. “I moved to L.A. for opportunity and for love. It appealed to my hippy, hipster side, going to the beach and riding my bike. But growing up in Canada, I am an East Coast girl. I love New York City. The energy, it inspires my creativity. L.A. is very laid-back. Its a place to unwind. In New York, I ride my bike, I ride the train, I work out in the neighborhood [the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn].
“New York motivates me. Also, I love being on Eastern Standard time as are most of the people I know.”
With signature songs such as ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song,’ ‘It Kills Me’ and ‘4 AM’ about begin victimized in relationships, Fiona has become a role model for women coping with the pain. She says a fan encounter early in her career at the all-female Spelman College in Atlanta made her realize she has a responsibility to empower her female fans.
“A girl said to me at a meet-and-greet, ‘Oh my God you are here. I have to go and get my best friend,'” Fiona remembers. “Twenty minutes later, she came back with a very cute girl. She said, ‘My best friend came and got me. I was heartbroken. I was depressed. I could not get out of bed. Then my friend introduced me to your music.’
“She was crying as she told me, ‘You are beautiful, and for you to go through being heartbroken and to be so strong showed that I could go through it also.”
Those words changed Fiona’s career. “It was a new experience,” she explains. “I saw her passion. I said, ‘Wow this is serious.’ This is not just about having fun. It is about affecting people.”
The singer that most affected Fiona was the late Whitney Houston. She performed a tribute to Houston during ‘VH1 Divas’ in 2012, and regrets that she never met her idol. “I almost met Whitney when I toured with Alicia Keys,” she states. “We were in Atlanta and someone said, ‘Did you meet Whitney? She was at the show.’ I almost cried. I was so close. She is the one voice that made me want to sing.”
Her singing career began in Toronto where she performed in a group called the Renaissance with Drake before both of them found success in America. “It was a movement with another vocalist and a piano player,” Fiona says. “I felt like the elite of the city came together in this group. It was a nice thing to create and jam and perform live and then to see us sign record deals and have success and remain friends. We followed the path to be creative and we continued that on ‘The MF Life’ as [Drake] wrote ‘I Been That Girl.’
“It would have been easy just to do a rapper-singer collaboration but he said it was important for him to write a song for me so we talked about the content and he wrote it and it became a fan favorite.”
Returning to Los Angeles for the Grammys reminds Fiona of one of her first performances in America. In an odd way, it was influenced by one of her hobbies: collecting fortunes from fortune cookies.
“The fortune read, ‘A proposition will soon find you. Say yes.’ It was early in my career before I had a record deal. I had an offer to open for Keyshia Cole and Robin Thicke at the House of Blues in L.A.,” she discloses. “It was my first show. My mother was celebrating her birthday that weekend in Toronto so I was torn between doing the show or being with her. She said, ‘Yes, go do the show.’ So like the fortune told me, I said yes and I did the show.”
Now five years later, Fiona is a multiple Grammy winner after only releasing two albums, and she’s currently recording her third. “I hope to have it ready for the fall,” she says. “After the first two albums I feel great. I feel strong. It will reflect my growth and my strength. I am at an enlightened time of my life.”
Watch Melanie Fiona’s ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song’ Video