Judging a book by its cover in this game is never wise, but the sleeve of Melanie Fiona's debut album should say it all: it's a dark portrait of the singer looking as earnest as possible, with moody lighting and gloomy colour shades. I know what you're thinking: North American balladeer who's had a couple of moderate hits, signed to a major label for a European release, and promptly brushed over for not fitting into 'the market'. It happens all the time.
The thing about Melanie Fiona Hallim - a Canadian of Guyanese extract, actually - is that she has the potential to be enormous on this side of the pond. Despite the fact that 'The Bridge' was produced by a ton of names you've never heard of, it's an extremely accomplished album, commanded by Hallim's rich voice that sounds steeped in soul and experience.
Don't expect a high proportion of originality, though. Much of this record could easily have been sung by Amy Winehouse, right down to the Ronsonesque horns of 'Monday Morning' and the 'Valerie'-aping 'Johnny', while other soul legends like The Supremes are brazenly simulated on the likes of 'Please Don't Go (Baby)'. Even still, the Motown-mimicking 'Give It to Me Right', with its tooting Hammond organ, and the softly-brushed drum roll on scratchy '50s love song 'You Stop My Heart' are surprisingly enjoyable.
The modern spin comes in the form of radio hit in-waiting 'Ay Yo' and the reggae-dappled 'Sad Song' - but in truth, 80% of this album consists of radio hits in-waiting. Unfortunately, it tails off with several bland, forgettable ballads, but 'The Bridge' could well be the surprise hit of the summer.