To be honest, I sorta hated Nelly Furtado when she first burst on the scene in 2000 at the ripe old age of 21 with "I'm like a Bird". In addition to the slightly annoying saccharine warbling of that particular track I was annoyed by Furtado's whole Portuguese/Brazilian/Latin image when really she's Canadian. Okay fine, her parents are Portuguese and they supposedly spoke the mother tongue at home, but still. I wished she would take her own advice and fly away.
Her second album, Folklore, was more interesting musically, inspired as it was by Portuguese folk music, but it was somewhat of a commercial dud, partially due to its release during a merger between Dream Works and Universal Music, and partially due to its near total lack of pop appeal. The album was a hit in Portugal, though, and the song "Forca" was even used as the theme song for the 2004 Euro Cup hosted by Portugal. Then a few things happened: first, Nelly was eventually not 21 anymore and thus not so much into fronting; she had a kid at age 25 and sorta dropped out of the music scene for awhile; and in 2005 Pharrell Williams gave her a shout-out in "Can I Have It Like That". Finally, and really this should be first because it's what really swung me and, if skyrocketing sales are any indication, the rest of the world around to Furtado's charms: she got Timbaland to produce her 2006 album Loose and discovered rhythm. She also learned how to dance. Seriously. Timbaland taught Nelly Furtado how to dance. "Timbaland was making a beat, and I was in the vocal booth jamming," Furtado explained in a 2006 MTV interview. "When I started dancing, he was like, 'Stop! You're offbeat! You're throwing me off! I can't make music when you're dancing like that!' I came to Miami with my British-Columbian hippie rave dance, but Timbaland made me learn how to shake my booty, how to dance on the beat." [note the reference to British and Columbian now...what happened to Portuguese, or Canadian?]. According to Furtado she was always into R-B and hip-hop growing up, she just started her professional musical career off thinking that the songs she wrote and recorded needed to be about more than making people want to dance. Now her booty-shaking hip hop, R-B, and reggaeton beats - a mix she calls punk-hop, although we can't figure out where the punk comes into play - have club dance floors and even His Royal Highness Prince William bumping. The young Prince sent a flurry through the British tabloids when his hips went a-swiveling to Furtado's set at the 2007 tribute concert for Princess Diana. "I was cracking up - they were so cute dancing," Furtado told the British rags. She can use any label she likes to describe her new style - Furtado is on fire at the moment, selling more than pretty much everyone with the exception of Rihanna and dominating dance floors from San Francisco to Sydney with a sound that she says was all about having fun and experimenting, from the songwriting to the actual production of the album. "The whole album is a board mix theoretically," Furtado told Rolling Stone in 2006, "We didn't bring in the fancy mixer at the end. That was my dream, because for so many years I've liked my demo tapes more than my finished albums. That's why the album has such loud volume. It didn't have that final wash over it; it didn't have the final pressing at the end, save for a couple sounds." And just as the album was all about experimentation and having fun, Furtado's latest public persona is free, sexy, and completely without pretense. Not only has she embraced the fact that making music and listening to music can and should be fun, she has gotten comfortable with a new sexiness lacking from her earlier folk days. Many of the tracks on Loose are overtly sexual, a fact Furtado attributes to a comfort within her own skin, regained recently after giving birth to and nursing and her daughter for two years, and to the steamy, sultry influence of Miami, where the record was recorded. "It's a body record," she told MTV. Not that she has put the folksy innocent to rest. That Nelly is still here, but she's grown up a bit too and she's at her best when collaborating, as on the excellent "All Good Things (Come to an End)", which Coldplay's Chris Martin co-wrote and performed. In fact, the success of that collaboration caught the ear of another crooner-turned-dancefloor-favorite: Justin Timberlake is now reportedly desperate to work with Chris Martin. The evolution of Nelly also attracted the attention of Timbaland's sound engineer, Demacio "Demo" Castellon. The two met while recording Loose, and after an 18-month romance announced their engagement in late July 2007. Actually Timbaland sort of announced it, via an interview in People magazine, but still there you go. Some very cynical bloggers out there have called this Furtado's way of making sure she always has access to Timbaland, now that he's the go-to guy for everyone from Gwen Stefani to Bjork, but Nelly's not discussing it at all, which makes it seem pretty legit. Where Nelly goes from here is anyone's guess. One thing she seems pretty sure of, though, is that she won't be leaving Toronto any time soon. "Toronto is the most multicultural city in the entire world," she told Rolling Stone, "There are a hundred languages spoken in Toronto; you can be anything you want in Toronto. You can be Jamaican, you can be East Indian. I can be Portuguese when I feel like it. And the other great thing about Toronto is that it's a city where gay marriage is legal, grassroots political activism is encouraged and easy to find. I'm raising my daughter there." And we may see Furtado transition from the club to the theater some day soon. She began taking acting classes a couple of years ago to prepare for an Indian film. The film never materialized, but Nelly was hooked. "I was taking crash courses in acting and then I discovered I really liked it. That's what kind of opened me up to this whole, new loose vibe of this album. Acting teaches you to let go of your ego and feel really grounded," she told Rolling Stone. Furtado was also supposed to appear in an indie film called Nobody's Hero in 2006, but had to give up the role to tour and promote Loose. Now she has an agent and says she is open to the idea of acting on the big screen. "But it's totally scary," she says. Scary or not, there's no going back to the safe and folksy Nelly. The looser, dancing Nelly is here to stay and who knows what she'll try next.
Nelly Furtado is havinghergreatestyear. Herplatinumsellingalbumhaslanchedseveralnumberonehitsongs; she is a constantfixtureinthemusicawardsshowsand is preparing to conquertheworldwithherupcomingtour: throughitallsheremainsrelaxedandcarefree, thoroughlyenjoyingthesuccesssherichlydeserves.
"I like a goodsenseof humor. I like a confidentguywho is compassionate. Confidentandcompassionate" - Nelly Furtado
"I justgrew a lot. I reallylike to makestatementswithmymusic. Eachofmythreealbums is completelydifferent" - Nelly Furtado