others might be the current "big thing," but this girl's
the real thing.
the sea of teen queens and boy bands dishing out faux hip-hop and
blue-eyed soul, 19-year-old Nelly Furtado stands out in more ways
than one. Beyond her raven hair and piercing blue eyes, it's her
distinctive voice and sound that separates her from her bottle-blonde
peers. A listen to Furtado's Dreamworks debut "Whoa, Nelly!"
gives one the immediate sense that
claims diverse influences from Portoisehead and Tricky to De La
Soul, from Janet Jackson to U2 and Sade to Ice-T. Prince, she says,
is firmly entrenched somewhere among all of these. Surprisingly,
Furtado smoothly blends this mish-mash of styles and sounds into her
own unique brand of "urban folk alternative music," a label
she draws from this melding of hip-hop, rock, jazz and world
captivates from the opening strains of disc-opener "Hey,
Man!" Laying hip-hop inflections--from vocals to scratching and
heavy bass at times--over decidedly rock music beds, Furtado has
found a style both distinctly her own (she wrote or cowrote all 12
tracks on the disc and shares production credits) and extremely
appealing. And refreshingly different.
something delicious about "I'm Like a Bird," the
Canadian-born Portuguese singer's first single. Perhaps it's how
decidedly different it is from anything currently at radio--a
dual-edged sword to be certain. Radio programmers looking for the
next piece of teen fluff could easily shy away from this delectable
piece of pop, which is undeniably more complex than most tracks
currently on the air.
those that give it a chance are likely to agree that the song is
masterfully crafted. "Bird" seeps into the listener's mind
without even making him aware. The chorus ingrains itself; the beat
takes hold. Furtado's soaring vocals, mature well beyond her teenage
years, are akin to a slightly less raspy Macy Gray--a woman whose
surprising 1999 breakthrough the youngster could only hope to mimic.
With her first outing, Furtado lays a solid foundation for what is to follow.
heavily steeped in hip-hop than many other tracks on the disc,
"Radio" could provide the 1-2 punch necessary to establish
Furtado as a star.
of hit-worthy, radio-friendly nuggets like "Well, Well"
and the aforemen-tioned "Hey, Man!", "Whoa,
Nelly!" shows Furtado is poised for the long haul. "...On
the Radio (Remember the Days)," a realistic look at how popular
opinion can change once an artist achieves success, is one of the
more radio-ready tracks.
(right) hanging out with rock superstar Sheryl Crow
Off the Lights" is similarly accessible. Intelligent, sing-along
lyrics and a likeable, funky groove could prove the key to capturing
the radio audiences so vitally important for her long-term commercial
"I'm Like a Bird" already performing well in her homeland
of Canada and catching on around the globe, signs bode well for this
young woman whose family is steeped in musical heritage that goes
back generations. It shouldn't be long before American audiences,
which tend to be painfully "behind the times" when it comes
to new artists, to catch on. (Again, look how long it took Gray's
"I Try" to make an impact Stateside.)
content to be merely a face, albeit a very beautiful one, and a
voice behind someone else's music, Furtado here shows that she's
highly capable of doing it all. Writer, singer, musician,
producer--Furtado has covered the bases. Furtado makes a powerhouse
debut, and it won't go overlooked. Come Grammy time, whether radio
paves the way or not, expect critics to reward this youngster for her
efforts. "Whoa, Nelly!" indeed.
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