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Fifth Grammy nomination comes at key moment for Toronto's Melanie Fiona


Melanie Fiona poses for photos at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on Sunday, July 8, 2012. The Toronto native has been nominated for a Grammy for best traditional R&B performance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cheryl Gerber/Invision

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - When Melanie Fiona wrote the spurned-lover lament "Wrong Side of a Love Song," she was actually in quite a happy place relationship-wise.

But you know what they say about life imitating art.

"When I wrote 'Wrong Side of a Love Song,' I was on the right side of a love song — it was ironic that I would in turn, shortly thereafter, go on to live this record," Fiona said Thursday night.

It's just one reason why the Toronto native's fifth Grammy nomination — for best traditional R&B performance for that forlorn tune — came at such a crucial juncture.

Reeling from the aforementioned personal crisis, the 29-year-old packed up and moved to New York while simultaneously dealing with turbulence in her professional career.

Not long after winning two Grammys at last year's gala, Fiona found herself switching record labels and once again having to prove herself anew.

"That was definitely a challenge — facing heartbreak, switching cities ... and I had some changes within label situations," she said. "It really forces you to have to really find yourself, so that you don't lose yourself in the chaos of it all, personally and professionally."

Well, Fiona found herself in a familiar place on Thursday, at a glitzy annual bash celebrating Canada's Grammy nominees in balmy L.A.

Held at a posh club in Hollywood, the soiree was simultaneously a celebration of Canadian music and harmless Canuck stereotypes.

A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was on hand to pose for photographs with curious guests (one of whom, perhaps confusing the Mountie with a Buckingham Palace guard, asked: "Are you allowed to, like, talk?"). A food truck serving premium poutine pulled up out back, and this being Hollywood, the messy plate cost a steep $7.50. And every time the noise of the tittering crowd got too loud, a local TV host stepped to the mike and urged the throng to act the part of "polite Canadians."

Celebrating a class of Canadian nominees that includes Toronto rapper Drake, B.C. pop wonder Carly Rae Jepsen and crooner Michael Buble, the evening also included performances from the Sheepdogs, Jarvis Church and Toronto R&B crooner Divine Brown, whose set had Fiona dancing and shrieking in support.

The respect is mutual.

"I'm a huge fan, a huge, huge fan. I love her music. She's a very, very talented songwriter," Brown said of Fiona before she performed.

The 38-year-old Brown said it was encouraging to see the Grammy support for Fiona and Tamia, the Windsor, Ont.-born R&B crooner who's up for two awards this year.

"It just establishes some footprints for someone like me, who is absolutely ready to break internationally."

Over the sometimes-bumpy last 12 months, Fiona's Grammy wins helped inspire her too.

The pair she won last year were both for the Cee Lo Green collaboration "Fool For You." She says the honour didn't really sink in until the shiny trophies were delivered to her apartment. She actually recorded video of their arrival.

Now, the awards are perched atop her bookcase, next to her Juno. When she feels self-doubt creeping in, she needs only to scan her eyes up for a dose of reassurance.

"It's just a really nice, humbling reminder that you're doing the right thing and what you're doing is respected," she said. "I don't worship them every day or anything ... but they're just the nicest reminder.

"When I'm having a bad day, whenever I feel the pressure of anyone else doubting my abilities or anything, it's a nice reminder that I'm on the right path and doing something good."

And she said her past Grammy success hardly muted the joy of this latest nomination.

"This one was very, very special," she enthused. "The song — I think it's my best work as an artist to date, my best writing, my best vocal performance, my best live performance, and I think my most vulnerable storytelling.

"I was really emotional about this one. Because I really wasn't expecting it. I really never expected any of them but this one especially, with the last year that I've had ... this one felt really special."

And now that she's a polished Grammy veteran, she approaches Sunday's gala at the Staples Center with a newfound ease, free of the "jitters" she once felt.

Although she does have one item remaining on her Grammy to-do list.

"Now I kind of know what it's about on all levels — on experiencing it as a nominee, as a winner, as a spectator. I've kind of worn all the hats at the Grammys. All that's left is (being) a performer," she says with a laugh.

"I would love to do that. But I'm just gonna go and enjoy it and feel like a winner. Right from the beginning of the day, right till the end, no matter what happens."


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