Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nelly Furtado's International Dance Party Extravaganza Lives Up

The Good: Great voice - when you can hear it, Catchy tunes, Good lyrics
The Bad: Interstitials, Guest artists, Overproducing over voice
The Basics: On her third album, Nelly Furtado creates music with heavy bass and great lyrics, but dilutes the experience with ridiculous dialogue between tracks and overproduction.

The irony of my review of Nelly Furtado's album Loose is that what I don't like about the disc is almost entirely what attracted me to the experience in the first place. Nelly Furtado's first three singles from Loose, were dance tracks designed to get people moving. When I first heard the licks of Furtado's voice with the instrumentals to "Promiscuous" on a cell phone commercial, I was entranced. I barely caught "Maneater" on the radio, so it always was a pleasure to hear and "Say It Right" is a great pop-rock song that I still enjoy hearing. But all three singles are essentially dance tracks. They are designed to get the listener to move.

With thirteen tracks, Loose finds Nelly Furtado stretching out as an artist, though she was certainly artist enough before. Furtado continues her tradition of writing her own lyrics (or writing them with other people) and she sings and does her own background vocals. Unlike her first album, Whoa, Nelly! (reviewed here!), Furtado does not play any instruments on Loose.

Much of the review of Loose can be boiled down into the following concept: Nelly Furtado is a talented singer/songwriter but on Loose, the emphasis on production and not voice obscures most of her best work. The album becomes obsessed with occupying the border of pop and hip-hop and Furtado's lines that could be soulful are sent to the programmer for the DJs to spin as dance tracks. Almost all of the songs have a pounding drum that is designed to resonate within the listener. If one were to dance to all of Loose the way the beats dictate, they would likely collapse before "Showtime," the first slow track (there are only three on the album).

That said, Furtado's production is generally very slick and cool. The songs are designed to make one dance and the strong combination of drums and keyboards with very catchy tunes makes it easy to listen to this album. And for the intent of the album, to be a hip-hop/pop/dance album, the disc is remarkably consistent, so many other tracks like "Afraid," "Glow," and "Do It" could have been singles.

I am pleased - because ultimately I would prefer the singles from this album on some future "Best Of" album to the actual album Loose - that Furtado has released "All Good Things (Come To An End)" as her fourth US single off Loose; it is by far the outstanding track of the disc. It is the lone track that Furtado's voice is not stepped on by the production or she is not encouraged to sing with a nasal sound ("Te Busque" suffers in her performance because she foregoes her natural voice at times for the somewhat nasal sound she - and other pop artists - seem to be encouraged to affect).

"All Good Things (Come To An End)" is a beautiful poem with - essentially - two intertwined poems. Furtado softly laments, "Flames to dust, lovers to friends / Why do all good things come to an end?" and quietly harmonizes, "The dogs were whistling a new tune / Barking at the new moon / Hoping it would come soon / So that they could die." It's beautiful and eerie and Furtado's voice so amazingly captures the poetics that it resonates in the listener's head long after she finished the song.

It's too bad it's followed by the bonus track "Te Busque" (in Spanish!). The thing is, outside "All Good Things (Come To An End)," this could be anybody's album. Most of the tracks are produced by Timbaland or Attitude, who both appear on tracks on the album (Timbaland is well known for his appearance on "Promiscuous," but he also appears doing background vocals for "Say It Right" and "Maneater," Attitude opens the album with "Afraid"). But the tracks lack any real distinction in sound, so the generic dance sound feels like could be coming from anyone. "Do It" sounds like Paula Abdul, in fact. Only "In God's Hands" and "All Good Things (Come To An End)" play out with vocals that are distinctly Furtado's.

What disappointed me even more was the obsession with creating an album that was more recognizable as a pop/hip-hop album. That includes, in this case, intertrack remarks and dialogue. Furtado and Timbaland open "Promiscuous" with a conversation that detracts from the experience of the music; the song loses any seductive quality through their breach, which is closest to a break in the fourth wall that a c.d. could have.

That and the tradition - prevalent in rap, r&b, and hip-hop albums and now making its way firmly into the pop arena (there's another thing for me to hate Justin Timberlake for!) - of including guest artists on almost every track of the disc. I don't want a Timbaland disc (he does drumming on most of the tracks), I want a Nelly Furtado disc. I don't care how Attitude would produce the album, I want something that screams "Nelly Furtado!" to me.

That's not to say that I do not welcome growth from an artist, I certainly do. The growth I would like to see from Furtado is to utilize her voice, unabashedly. To put her poems to music that does justice to her lines. I would like to hear an album by her that is acoustic and intimate and clever, perhaps where she is playing an instrument. At the very least, I would love to hear her utilizing her words, lyrics, voice and vision.

But then, that's not what hooked me to give this album a chance from the outset.

The best track is "All Good Things (Come To An End)," which is haunting and brilliant and will never achieve the dominance on the charts it deserves (fourth singles seldom go as high as they ought), the low point of the album is the terribly repetitive "Showtime."

For contemporaries of Nelly Furtado, check out my reviews of:
Monkey Business - Black Eyed Peas
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
One Cell In The Sea - A Fine Frenzy


For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment