When Melanie Fiona first released “Cold Piece” three months ago, she never thought the Alan Nglish-produced track would ever get the video treatment.
“I probably could have [shot a video] if I wanted to,” the newly-independent Fiona said about her recent work of art. “But it wasn't really an official single. It was just a song that I put out for free... for my fans.”
Little did she know that Pepsi and Complex were part of that audience. After generating post-The MF Life buzz with a cappella recordings of tracks like Kendrick Lamar's “Don't Kill My Vibe” and Drake's “Started From the Bottom,” Fiona caught each brand’s attention, and eventually, their support to shoot a clip for “Cold Piece.” Cue a hot summer's day in Brooklyn, an ice cream truck, and Fiona's surge on Pepsi Pulse with a directorial assist from Ryan Wick.
With Pepsi, you're in the company of present and past ambassadors like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Michael Jackson. Which would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Duh—it'd be Beyoncé! She is the girl of the moment, obviously, and I admire her so much. I just think that what she represents as a performer is everything, every one of us performers aspires to do. That type of work ethic, that type of respect! When she steps on that stage, it's amazing; and then of course, vocally, she's incredible.
What music are you listening to now that you're recording new work?
I find new artists that I like—definitely, absolutely—but I always tend to listen to the Lauryn Hill’s of the world, and Kanye West, and Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston, and Bob Marley. Sam Cooke. Oldies. That's really what I listen to all the time. Especially when I listen to Sam Cooke, I feel like [he] puts me in a really great mode of writing because it's simple, and it's about melody, and it's about the story.
As for new music, I'm really listening to a lot of hip-hop. Again, storytelling is the thing that I'm feeling right now, so I just stay on repeat with the J. Cole album and Kendrick Lamar. My favorite album of the year is the Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience, part one.
How has the transition from being a songwriter, behind the scenes, helped prepare you for the spotlight?
When it comes to being in the spotlight, you either are or you aren't. You either stand in the light or you run from it. I've always been thrown in to it. When I say ‘thrown in to it,’ I always think about my first tour with Kanye West, which was wild! I had no idea what I was doing, but here [I was on] an international tour with my favorite artist in the whole wide world. Go! You've just kind of got to go... [You learn] how to work an arena of 15,000 people or a room of 500 people. I love it for both reasons.
Speaking of Kanye, what's the most valuable piece of advice you got from him while on 2008's Glow In the Dark Tour?
Watching him every night—this is when he was on 808s and Heartbreak—it was like watching a musical. I realized at that moment that it doesn't matter if it's hip-hop, or rock, or reggae, or R&B, or pop. People want an experience. They want to feel something. Whether they feel you, or they feel the experience of what you're giving them artistically, they have to be able to walk away with something.
When I first got a chance to talk to Kanye after he watched my show, he said to me ‘You got it. You've got the look, you've got the songs. You've got everything. As you grow as a performer, don't ever be afraid to do anything that will allow people to remember you.’ We can all see that Kanye lives his life by that because he's outspoken, he does what he wants, he says how he feels, and he believes in what he talks about and what he's doing. You have no choice but to believe him as well.