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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fashion Magazine (Canada, 2006)

Fashion Magazine (Canada, April 2006)
Nelly Furtado
Her Sexy New Look and Hot New Album

On the Loose
Jamming with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and strutting on South Beach in a bikini, Nelly Furtado mixes worldly experience with an edgy new sound for Loose.
By Ben Rayner
Photographed by Alison Dyer: Click Here

A cinematic sunset is bathing the chic glass-walled penthouse suite atop Toronto’s Cosmopolitan Hotel in picture-perfect golden hues, and the pressure’s on to wrestle a supremely glammed-up Nelly Furtado away from an intense hair, makeup and wardrobe session and get her in front of a camera before the magic hour is lost.
There’s consternation in the face of one of Nelly’s powder boys, though, as he catches wind of the grinding stoner-metal track by Queens of the Stone Age emanating from an iPod someone has carted along to the shoot.
“I don’t know if this is really Nelly’s thing,” he says, darting over to the player. “Maybe we should ask her if there’s anything else she wants to hear.”
Turns out, however, Queens is exactly Furtado’s style this evening. As she takes her place before the widescreen view of the lake offered by the $3,500-a-night suite’s sitting room, she relays a request through her chuckling publicist for System of a Down. Yep, Nelly Furtado likes it one louder.
“That was fun. My little trick so that no one watches me while I’m taking photos is I listen to System of a Down,” she laughs a few days later, de-fabulized and dicing up potatoes to make soup for her 2-year-old daughter, Nevis. “I like listening to System while I’m taking really glamorous photos. I don’t know what it is. I like working to that music. I guess I like juxtapositions. And it’s a good way to clear a room.”
Furtado’s penchant for heavy metal isn’t the only surprise she’s guarding these days. This month signals the arrival of her third album, Loose, a brash, big ’n’ dirty stylistic about-face for the Victoria-born, Toronto-based songbird still best known around the world for her sprightly 2000 pop single “I’m Like a Bird.”
To say Loose will turn heads is probably an understatement. Composed in large part with A-list hip-hop producer Timbaland in Miami last year, it’s a raunchy, beat-heavy electro/R&B romp loaded with monstrous, distorted bass lines and danceable techno-pop grooves destined to ricochet off club walls for months to come. It’s the 20-something Furtado’s best work yet, and the “urban”-informed record we’ve been waiting for her to make ever since she ripped it up so exquisitely with Missy Elliott on that “Get Ur Freak On” remix five years ago.
“It’s called Loose because I really let myself go,” says Furtado. “I really let myself go, ‘Hey, I haven’t tried this before.’ Because, you know what, when you’re an artist, if you really want to change your sound, you have to exaggerate—you have to be, like, I’m not only gonna work with a different producer, but I’m gonna sing differently.
“I was kind of leaving hip-hop out of the equation for a while, even though everybody told me, ‘You’re so good at R&B. Why don’t you do it on your own albums?’ And I thought to myself, Wow, that’s really pretentious of me. I’ve gone and done hip-hop collaborations with Missy Elliott, the Roots, Jurassic 5 and Swollen Members, but it was almost like I was too pretentious to put it on my own albums.
“I’ve had good material before, but it was nothing that was blowing my socks off. Now I feel really, really relaxed.”
Loose might not be the album to reclaim all of the 6 million–plus fans who loved Furtado’s 2000 debut, Whoa Nelly!, but were put off somewhat by the endearingly earnest though somewhat awkward Portuguese-flavoured folk-pop fusion of 2003’s Folklore. It does, however, definitely seem like the disc to introduce her to a whole new audience.
Birthed during a year’s worth of studio sessions in various locales and with various high-powered collaborators, Loose is the product of an “indulgent” recording process. Furtado flirted with various producers—Madonna/Dido knobsman Rick Knowles, London electronic auteur Nellee Hooper, Shakira overseer Lester Mendez and long-time collaborators Track and Field (a.k.a. Philosopher Kings Brian West and Gerald Eaton)—before landing in Miami to cross paths with hip-hop heavy hitters Scott Storch, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland.
In addition to falling in love with the city, she hit major creative pay dirt with Timbo, who wound up producing and bringing his rhythmically intricate touch and “junkhouse” beats to a number of the record’s tracks.
Furtado—who recently split with Nevis’s father, Toronto turntablist L’il Jazz—spent three glorious months hanging out with her daughter (“She’s going to be smarter than me by the time she’s five. I’m a little worried about it”) on the beach by day, then “escaping into the crazy, beat-driven world of Timbaland” in the studio by night.
“I don’t know what it is between us. I call it ‘love,’” she laughs. “It’s like musical love. You know how it is when you fall in love and it’s inevitable, it’s mysterious and you don’t know where it comes from? When Tim and I are making music together, there’s that same sense of mystery and fate about it. It just feels right.”
Furtado and Timbaland hit it off well enough that they’re already talking about touring together in the summer. There’s also been some idle chit-chat about starting a band together, “kind of like the Gorillaz or something, but we’ll be real people.”
Providing a little extra star power to Loose with an appearance on the burbling electro-soul track “All Good Things” is Coldplay front man Chris Martin. He and Furtado met on the European summer festival circuit several years ago and stayed in touch, so when the two ran into each other at the MTV Music Awards in Miami last August, Furtado extended an invitation to come by the studio. Much to her amusement, she very quickly found herself in the midst of a raging mutual-admiration society.
“Chris is a huge Timbaland fan, and Tim is, like, a huge Coldplay fan,” she says. “All he does is sing Coldplay songs all day long. So Chris came in and we just jammed for four hours straight, and Chris channelled his inner James Brown. It was really something to see. I was just so happy, and Tim and Chris looked like little kids in a candy store. They started really tentative and really shy. I had to force them to sit down at their keyboards and shove a guitar into Chris’s hands. They were completely nervous.”
The next step for Furtado is bringing the technologically oriented tunes from her new album to life onstage. The harder edge in songs like “Maneater” and “Glow” isn’t much of a step, she says: “My live show has always been a bit more rock ’n’ roll than my CDs.” She will acknowledge, though, that the electronically orchestrated sounds of modern hip-hop and R&B running through much of Loose don’t always translate well to performance. But whatever—she’s up for the challenge.
“I’ll never be tired of trying to prove myself,” says Furtado. “I have a lot more to prove still. I really admire artists who change all the time, like Madonna or Neil Young or Caetano Veloso—it’s like you can never really put your finger on them because they’re always changing. They’re not two-dimensional. They’re evolving as human beings, and I guess I’ve always bought into that whole live-and-die-for-art thing, where your personal life goes on a roller coaster ride with your art. Unfortunately, I kind of like that. It’s kind of sad, but at the same time it’s really romantic.”


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