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The MF Life
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2012 release from the Grammy-nominated Soulstress. The maturity Melanie Fiona displays on The MF Life is underscored by her remarkable versatility and cosmopolitan panache. The album showcases a stunning mix of vibrant new sounds from a host of A-list R&B producers and songwriters, each partaking of the originality that has made Fiona a sought-after collaborator by everyone from Cee-Lo Green ("Fool For You") and John Legend & The Roots ("Wake Up! Everybody") to Reggae superstar Stephen Marley ("No Cigarette Smoking (In My Room)") and U.K. rapper Tinchy Stryder ("Let It Rain'').
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I will be as objective as possible. Yes, she is beautiful but that has no bearing on my opinion toward her music. There are plenty of gorgeous and boring or untalented singers out there. She just happens to be beautiful and talented and soulful.
First off, there isn't a bad track on the album. Every song shows some attention to detail, effort in writing and production. THERE IS NO FILLER HERE! Every song on here is better than the majority of the music released these days. Most artists could only hope to create songs with a fraction of the quality that she puts forth. This is not the greatest album I've ever heard but it would definitely go down as notable and worthy of listening to. I've listened through the whole thing about 8 or 9 times, at this point in time, and I find something new to love about it every time I listen.
I think one of the things that made her last album stand out was its old school feel. She has a more modern sound on this album, although a few songs still reflect an "old soul". She did not sell out, just upgraded. Another quality that she possesses that a number of R&B/Soul artists lack, is the ability to pull off an uptempo song without it sounding forced or corny. She is not restricted to ballads. "Bang Bang" was my favorite song on the first album because it was so rhythmic and authentic.
I was a little nervous initially when I saw all of the rapper cameos on the track listing. Usually when a singer starts to co-mingle their work with rappers, its not good (i.e. Mariah Carey). Surprisingly enough, they all fit well and they all worked for me. Most of the rappers featured, I'm not really a fan of, but they were matched well with their respective songs. There's nothing I hate worse than a rapper cameo that doesn't match the song. Fortunately, they must have all listened to the song lyrics several times before they laid down their tracks. So let me give my opinion track by track:
1) This Time (feat. J. Cole) - All I can say is wow! If this track doesn't grab your attention right off the back, you have no soul! The beat, for lack of a better phrase, "goes hard". The song itself has great lyrics and gets stuck in your head. J. Cole represents on the track and adds to it. On the right sound system, the track is absolutely amazing. Probably my favorite overall. (5 stars)
2) 4 AM - Great song, as most people have already heard. Wasn't crazy about on the radio before but now I love it. Grew on me immensely. The words of the song grabbed me after a while, really captured the emotion. Very unique sound. (5 stars)
3) Break Down These Walls - Could be considered a great folk song. Again great writing and amazing production. I love stringed instruments and piano, so this track has my full attention. The guitar duet at the end of this song is SICK! Even though its a minute and a half, you don't want it to end. Absolutely amazing artistry, like something Kravitz, Santana or Clapton would do. (5 stars)
4) I Been That Girl - Mellow, poignant. This one is for ladies who have been in that not-so-unique situation. Very nice. (4 stars)
5) Wrong Side of A Love Song - Deeply soulful with an old school sound to it. Rich and engaging. Full of emotion. (5 stars)
6) Running (feat. Nas) - Old school uptempo sound. Riding down the street, blasting-out-of-your-car-type track. Nas is no longer one of my favorite rappers but he pulls off an admirable cameo, which adds a lot to the song. He tells the rest of the story that she doesn't have time to do. (4.5 stars)
7) Change the Record (feat. B.O.B.) - You will get sucked in as soon as you hear the opening and then the beat drop. You have to hear it to appreciate it. This contends with "This Time" for hottest beat. And the real surprise was B.O.B. I'm not a huge fan of his but he destroys this track! One of the best cameos I've ever heard. He made an amazing track incredible. Have to listen to this one in the car. (5 stars)
8) Gone and Never Coming Back - If you've ever heard this track, then you know how amazing it is. I wore it out within a week but still love it. I was so impressed with this track when I heard it, that I was afraid that it would be the best track on the album, and overshadow all others. Not the case. If you've never heard it before, then it will probably be your favorite. The only reason that its not still my favorite is because she released it more than 8 months before the rest of the album, and I've played it to death. (5 stars)
9) Bones - Great song, old school feel, kind of cool, kind of creepy at the same time. Just reminds me of how deep some people's feelings can be for someone else. I like it but don't love it. (3.5 stars)
10) Watch Me Work - New anthem for the sexy single person. Old school funk sound. Amazing guitars and drums. If I could have theme music played everywhere I went, this would definitely be one of the songs I would choose. This one stands out from the rest of the album. It appeals to both males and females but it is obviously about a woman. (5 stars)
11) Can't Say I Never Loved You - Sounds like a cross between Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat with that ukelele sound. A lot more soulful than those two. Its not an imitation of anyone else but reminds me of other songs I've heard. Great song nonetheless, really cute and carefree. (4 stars)
12) L.O.V.E. (feat. John Legend) - Kind of cheesy hippie-type song. I admire John Legend but I'm not a huge fan. This sounds like his song featuring Melanie Fiona. Its a great song for MLK day but other than that, doesn't do a whole lot for me. (3 stars)
13) 6 AM (feat. T-Pain) - Let me start by saying, I am not a fan of T-Pain in the least. Often, I can't stand his buffoonery or coonish behavior, but for some reason this track works. Understand that the only justification for this song's existence is that it is a continuation of the story of "4 AM", basically when her man finally gets home. It is urban contemporary and auto-tuning (not Melanie) at its finest. Great beat, I could imagine dancing to this in a party, right after they played "4 AM". It is a little ignorant on his part but in the appropriate environment, very enjoyable. (3 stars on this album, 4.5 stars in the club)
14) Rock Paper Scissors - Old school feel but a little formulaic. Doesn't strike me as the most original song, guess that's why it is a bonus track. I like it, I just don't love it. Nice beat, slightly cheesy chorus. Lyrics are cool when you catch the concept of the song. (3.5 stars)
15) Can't Do This No More - Nice production, great lyrics, great hook. Don't know why this one is bonus track. I would have replace "Bones" or "L.O.V.E." with this one. (4.5 stars)
16) What Am I To Do - Interesting song. Really like the piano. Doesn't really do anything for me but not a bad song. Maybe a little formulaic. (3.5 stars)
17) Like I Love You - Dancehall reggae classic sound. Absolutely love this song! Makes me wanna go to a reggae party. Don't know why this was a bonus track, just like "Can't Do This No More", could have easily replaced "Bones" or "L.O.V.E.". Great way to end the album. She really embraces her Guyanese roots on this track. It will make you want to get up and dance with someone. (5 stars)
Well, that's my overview of the album. If you enjoy R&B/Soul or good Urban Contemporary, you should pick up this album. Drop a few extra bucks and get the deluxe edition, two of the tracks are definitely worth it, you might also really like the other two.
Good Job Melanie!
This is a great album and seems to follow my personal theory that artists go "all in" when constructing their sophomore albums in an effort to build on the success of their debuts. Melanie certainly fits my theory - this album has a great variety of sounds from old school r&b to hip-hop influenced contemporary r&b which should appeal to a wide audience...if only her label would release more than 1 or 2 singles.
My favorite tracks are:
WATCH ME WORK - this uptempo rock/soul track could've arguably been the perfect lead single since it's such an unexpected sound from Melanie;
4AM - smoking ballad about a woman done wrong by her man;
THIS TIME (f/ Jay Cole) - uptempo hip-hop sounding track this is great way to open the album;
BONES - features lyrics about loving a man so much that she wants to invade his body right down to his bones (love the almost eery sounding chorus of "ooo's");
6AM (f/ T-Pain) - yes Mr. Auto-Tune himself. I am NOT a fan of T-Pain but I really like this track as he & Melanie trade verses arguing about him coming home at 6AM (I was however appalled at the very long list of contributers/producers of this track);
WRONG SIDE OF A LOVE SONG & CAN'T DO THIS NO MORE - remind me of tracks from the 70's production wise with their searing lyrics;
I BEEN THAT GIRL - track containing a message from the ex-girl to the next girl;
RUNNING (f/ Nas) - anthemic smoky track on which Nas complements the song without taking over;
WHAT AM I TO DO - beautiful melodic track