Nelly Furtado: Whoa, Nelly!

Ben Varkentine

Nelly Furtado

Whoa, Nelly!

Label: Dreamworks
US Release Date: 2000-10-24

Nelly Furtado is a 21-year-old first generation Canadian, the daughter of Portuguese parents, and sings in English, Portuguese, and Hindi, which goes a long way towards proving to my satisfaction that multilingual is not the same as multitalented.

She is one of those artists of whom the question of what her songs are about can be answered with: About four minutes. Furtado has nothing to say, no comment to make on our culture, no great and provocative or thoughtful and ruminative statement to make. Her lyrics sound like the result of too many years of creative writing classes and MTV and not enough actual life.

Dig these song titles: "Hey, Man!" "...on the Radio," "Party's Just Begun," "I Will Make U Cry," "My Love Grows Deeper (Everyday), and "I Feel You." These are boring titles. These are boring songs. Her melodies don't last for one day in your consciousness and her lyrics are in the main unmemorable, banal I-don't-want-to-be-this-to-you-I-want-you-to-be-this-to-me-gosh-you-is-swell variations.

And as if they knew the songs stunk, Furtado and co-producers Track & Field (Gerald Eaton and Brian West) have crammed them with strings, bird sounds, snatches of radio transmissions, wind effects, the pop! of old records, electronic squeals, bleeps, bops, and chattering synth. I'm a sucker for a good gimmicky production -- I like the Art of Noise, for crying out loud-but when you go so completely over the top with such insubstantial material, it's a sign of something. This kind of production is like trying desperately to wrap the empress in new clothes, without realizing that the more you put on, the more skin we can see.

Speaking of which: I'd be stumped, frankly, as to how this woman got a record deal, were it not for the back cover photograph of the artist stretched on the ground, eyes closed blissfully and arms above her head, pulling her too-short T-shirt up to expose Nelly's belly. Okay: Question asked, question answered. Furtado -- your basic brown-haired blue-eyed babe in blue jeans -- is awfully pretty, and if her music is not exactly notable, neither are it drunken ramblings (actually, in some cases, that would be preferable). One supposes that is enough for some record companies: A good-looking person who is not a complete incompetent in the studio, well lordy, lordy, Jeb, let's watch the cash roll in.

I've been fortunate enough to get to listen to a great number of fantastic women musical artists in the past 15-odd years, from those in otherwise mostly male acts like Jo Callis of the Human League and Alannah Currie of Thompson Twins, to all-girl bands like the Go-Go's to solo artists like Tara MacLean. Listening to these women's work has been most rewarding throughout my life. Apparently, there's a tax you have to pay, and this year that tax is named Nelly Furtado.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

The husband and wife duo DEGA center their latest slick synthpop soundscape around the concept of love in all of its stages.

Kalen and Aslyn Nash are an indie pop super-couple if there ever were such a thing. Before becoming as a musical duo themselves, the husband and wife duo put their best feet forward with other projects that saw them acclaim. Kalen previously provided his chops as a singer-songwriter to the Georgia Americana band, Ponderosa. Meanwhile, Aslyn was signed as a solo artist to Capitol while also providing background vocals for Ke$ha. Now, they're blending all of those individual experiences together in their latest project, DEGA.

Keep reading... Show less

On "Restless Mind", Paul Luc establishes himself as an exceptional 21st century bard who knows his way around evoking complex emotions in song.

The folk-rock swing of Paul Luc's upcoming Bad Seed is representative of the whole human condition. Following his previous track release in "Slow Dancing", the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter is sharing another mid-tempo, soulful number. This time, it describes the way too familiar feelings of uncertainty and diversion can, at times, sneak up on all of us.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.