NEW YORK (AP) -- Melanie Fiona still cries when she thinks about her ex-boyfriend. He is the main reference in her R&B smash, the haunting ballad "It Kills Me."
"I hope he's happy," Fiona said with a laugh in a recent interview.
"I was with somebody that wasn't necessarily right for me, and I really went back and forth between my heart and my head — should I stay? Should I leave?" she wondered. "And everybody relates to that."
Her ex may be the one crying now.
The tune, which has spent its fifth consecutive week on top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart, is up for best female R&B vocal performance at Sunday's Grammy Awards.
Though other nominees include Jazmine Sullivan, Ledisi and Lalah Hathaway — it's Beyonce's rousing anthem "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" that will be Fiona's top competitor. "Single Ladies" is also up for song of the year.
"I could say, 'You know what, yeah, she's going to win.' And also at the same time, I could be like, 'I had no idea I'd be Grammy-nominated,'" Fiona said.
"If I don't win the Grammy, that's OK 'cause the company I'm in feels like a Grammy (win) already. And that's Beyonce — like I have to pay a lot more dues before I get to Beyonce's status," she added.
Andrea Martin, a songwriter and producer who worked on Fiona's album, says the emotions in "It Kills Me" could be compared to that of the trying economy — and that's why the song resonates with listeners.
"With the recession and everything right now there's more pain than happiness right now and I feel like that's the reason why 'It Kills Me' is happening," Martin said, who's written hits for Toni Braxton, Monica and Leona Lewis.
"When you don't have money, you lose your job, you break up with people ... I feel like 'It Kills Me' explains it all," she added.
Fiona's debut CD, "The Bridge," was released in November, though its initial drop date was planned for the summer. The delays caused the album to miss the Grammy eligibility date ("It Kills Me" was released before the cut off). She possibly lost out on best new artist and album nominations. But Fiona says she plans to fuel her current buzz throughout 2010 — and gun for those trophies in 2011.
"It's the type of thing now with word of mouth, people are hearing about it and falling in love and it's getting the notice that I hoped people would take from it," she said of the CD.
The album was recorded in United States, London, Jamaica and Canada, where Fiona was born and raised. The newcomer, whose parents migrated from Guyana, hopes to release each of the CD's tracks around the world. The old-school flavored "Monday Morning" was No. 1 for six weeks in Switzerland.
"The Bridge" is a retro-soul record that has samples from The Zombies, the Softones and Martha & the Vandellas, among others. Though eight of the 12 tracks borrow from older songs, Fiona says her goal was to pay homage to the records that reminded her of her childhood.
"It wasn't anything that lacked on a creative level, it actually was a choice to really showcase and give light to these artists that came before me that really influenced me," she said. "It was all part of the story."
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