I’m getting quite used to listening to an album for a week in the car now, I do enough journeys to get several spins out of it. This week was the turn of Nelly Furtado’s fourth English-language album, which I picked up from a bargain bin last year. A bit of a shock that it was such a commercial comedown from 2006’s “Loose”, I wonder what went wrong.
Well of course the six year gap certainly wouldn’t have helped. In that time she released Spanish album “Mi Plan” and what I assumed was a contract-fulfilling Greatest Hits album, though she’s still with Universal now. In terms of visibility (at least in the UK) these releases didn’t make much of a ripple, and it was her guest spots that kept her profile afloat, notably James Morrisson duet “Broken Strings”.
Either way, “The Spirit Indestructible” was a big old tank worldwide. While I’ve kept a close eye on Nelly, I think “Folklore” is the only album I’m that familiar with, and that was great so I felt I should give this album a spin since it seems few others did.08 Spirit indestructible – The more accessible second single, and it’s a pretty decent track. I think you just need to get used to her voice, it used to get on my nerves, it’s quite nasal isn’t it? It’s a good melody, and while the intro is nice enough, it’s only when the kitchen-sink-full of beats and zappy noises that this really comes alive. Catchy track, with hindsight I wonder why it wasn’t the lead single.
08 Big Hoops (bigger the better) – A bit of a WTF moment really, I think this might have stalled the campaign in the UK at least. It has grown on me though, it’s a bit harsh-sounding but that chorus is unmistakeably Nelly and it really got stuck in my head. A hard sell as a single, but I guess coming off the back of “Loose” it sort of make sense.
08 High life – I love that whiplash sample in the intro, haven’t heard something like that before. Not exactly new ground lyrically, bemoaning the perils of fame and money. I wish I had the chance to learn about this first-hand though… That la-la-la chorus is a bit sloppy but it’s a decent hook. I like this one, the rap by Ace Primo (whoever that is) reminds me of Eminem, especially when the pitch is messed with.
08 Parking Lot – It’s like Gwen Stefani never left! It’s perhaps a bit more Fergalicious than that, but it’s a big brassy banger. I like it, it’s an easy listen and sounds like an easy hit. It didn’t turn out like that in the end but it’s perhaps the most commercial thing on here so far. I’m not sure I like those lazy vocals on the verses though.
07 Something – A bit of a slow burner but there are still all these little hooks in the production. It’s not the most immediate track, I love that creepy little bassline though. A pretty repetitive song but the Nas rap does break it up.
07 Bucket List – I quite like those little asides between tracks. They sometimes sound a bit rehearsed but that cackle she gives just before this track must be genuine! Some acoustic guitar-led MoR with some pretty cheesy lyrics about her life ambitions. It sounds a bit like a shared inspirational Facebook picture; she wants to sky-dive, go to the North Pole, cry at Ground Zero, follow butterflies etc. A bit too cringey for me but the tune is decent.
07 The most beautiful thing – Apparently Sara Tavares (featuring on this) is a famous percussionist and even a Eurovision entrant for Portugal! I guess she’s not singing on this though. It’s a nice dreamy little love song, a bit wishy-washy but still appealing, I guess it’s more of a mood piece. A bit distracting to have the monologue intro for the next track at the end though.
09 Waiting for the night – Rather lazily compared to a J.Lo song, presumably just because of the similar name. It’s easily one of the most commercial moments, it’s a shame it didn’t take off. A cute intro with some minimal bleeps in the background before it kicks into a sort of ethno-dance track, complete with accordion breakdown in the latter half. It’s much better than it sounds (see the video below).
07 Miracles – A bit of Eastern promise in this one, not sure how to explain it, Nelly’s sort of got her own hybrid of world music. This album feels a lot more spiritual than “Loose” anyway, it’s slow but steady. It’s good but I tend to forget it in the tracklist.
07 Circles – More modern production on this one, but that doesn’t stop it being another pretty little midtempo when it hits the chorus. It’s a bit laboured and I end up wishing she had tried a few more dancey tracks on this album. But it’s alright.
06 Enemy – I love the dramatic strings on this one, it’s a good backbone to the track. I just don’t like the chorus very much, lyrically it’s a bit of a flop and it makes the worst of her nasal voice. I do love that percussion, especially when the big drums kick in for the second chorus, but it hasn’t own me over.
08 Believers (Arab spring) – A great intro, sort of indiedisco almost, her voice sounds great on those verses too. I love the bridges too, there’s a great pace to the song that culminates in a pretty solid chorus. Lyrically (again) it’s a bit of a crappy climax but as a whole I think this track is a good one to end on, even if it’s an odd choice for a closing track.
Well that was pretty good – I think I may have overplayed it a bit this week, I sort of like all the tracks, but only a couple really set me alight. Her voice is a bit of an acquired taste sometimes, but I think this album is as solid as you could hope for. I still prefer “Folklore” but it’s certainly a lot better than its commercial reception suggests.
Keepers for the iPod: Spirit indestructible, Big Hoops, High Life, Parking Lot, Waiting for the night, Believers.