Melanie Fiona's debut single, "Give It to Me Right," was a perfect 2009 pop-R&B recording. The single coupled a timeless classic (the Zombies' "Time of the Season") with roof-raising vocals and infectious pop hooks that stick like peanut butter. Fiona's single was perfect, albeit a touch formulaic. Because of this, it's no surprise that a large chunk of her debut album, The Bridge, is much of the same. Like any good 2009 pop-soul recording, the album offers influences from decades of soul music; Fiona, a Kanye West protégé, collaborates with about as many styles of music as she had producers and writers, who include most prominently Canadian R&B singer/songwriter Andrea Martin, Rob Fusari, Peter Wade Keusch, Sidh Solanki, Vada Nobles, Bill Blast, Future Cut, Stereotypes, Dan Strong, JK, Jay Fenix, and Affiliate. This mash-up of masterminds is a good thing; it offers the listener generous portions of put-together pop songs which color outside the lines in terms of genre. A little hip-hop doesn't hurt the album, either, Fiona does quite well on "Ay-Yo," which is more than just a little bit Lauryn Hill. Ultimately, Fiona's not uncovering much new territory on this release -- Amy Winehouse had already released something in the vein of "Walk on By," Divine Brown has tunes that could easily be swapped with "Bang Bang," and much of Solange's second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, can be intermixed with this album (although Fiona's "Please Don't Go," which is retro-R&B in total Technicolor, is much stronger than anything Knowles ever recorded. And if you like the aforementioned artists, you'll love the tracks that remind you of them). Still, Fiona's release may not venture into unknown realms, but where it does go, it goes masterfully. "Johnny" is a recording that truly does mash up genres, and it does so in a beautiful way. "You Stop My Heart," with its soft drumming and immaculate vocals, is a contender for strongest crossover track of the year by a debut artist. Overall, though, The Bridge is an R&B album which doesn't offer much in terms of strict rhythm & blues -- the only true track in that vein is the haunting (and clichéd) "It Kills Me." Even so, Fiona's debut seems to tackle many styles and techniques that constitute good music in 2009, regardless of defined genre, and tackles them in an exciting and fresh way. The Bridge is the perfect launching pad for a solid career where she can further explore her possibilities as an artist, seeing as she appeals to the masses as well as the critics.
AllMusic Review by Matthew Chisling