"If I expect this all to be there, like a next record, or whatever, then I'm pretty much screwed."
-Nelly Furtado, on the hype surrounding her debut
Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, to parents of Portuguese descent, Nelly Furtado has always been surrounded by music. Her mother is a former church choir singer, while her father -- a fan of Portuguese music styles, known as "fado" -- sings as a pastime. Her grandfather played instruments, and even her great-uncle was a renowned Portuguese marching band score composer.
All of these family elements inspired Nelly's passion for music and a broad spectrum of musical genres at that. By the age of four, young Nelly was playing the ukulele and singing in Portuguese and English, and was the trombone player of a jazz band, concert band and marching band, from nine to eighteen. Her vocal chords and dance skills were also useful with her involvement in musical plays.
hip-hop's what she's got
She knew early on in her childhood that she wanted to be a performer, and her dreams were realized via several chance opportunities and events throughout her life. Nelly received a tape recorder and microphone when she was eight years old, which served as a key part of her musical influences.
Exposed to the rush of new hip-hop acts spawning in the early '90s, Nelly became fascinated by the sounds of TLC, Bel Biv Devoe, Ice-T, Mariah Carey, and the new sampling methods used at the time. With the help of her tape recorder, Nelly would sample the sounds that impressed her, similar to those used by popular '90s acts. She sang into her microphone and recorded original sounds with the "scratch effect" of her keyboard.
A self-proclaimed R&B and hip-hop lover, Nelly was later exposed to the British rock sounds of the mid '90s, after a trip to her ancestral Portugal. Teenage Nelly's eyes were now open to groups such as U2, Radiohead, Oasis, while she discovered Portishead thanks to a mix tape that a friend of hers made. The tribal beats and bossa nova sounds evident in her music come from the music she was exposed to later on, such as a Brazilian compilation album that combined African and Portuguese styles.
whoa, nelly, wow!
The album is the product of her participation in a Toronto young performer's talent show at the age of 18. The manager of the Philosopher Kings, a popular funk/pop group, who was also present at the show, was impressed by Nelly's talent.
The only real recording experience she had up to this point was singing back-up vocals for her friend's Toronto-based hip-hop group. But that was enough to cut a demo tape with the recording team of Gerald Eaton and Brian West (of the Philosopher Kings). After much convincing on the part of Eaton and West, Nelly returned to Toronto to record more tracks.
The fruit of this work is what led to Nelly's record-contract with DreamWorks Records. Her album, entitled Whoa Nelly!, which has already spawned the hit singles "I'm Like A Bird," "Turn Off The Light" and "...On The Radio," was released in the Fall of 2000.
No stranger to touring, Nelly was part of the Lilith Fair tour, with a bill consisting of female performers such as Beth Orton, Chrissie Hynde, and of course, Sarah McLachlan (who is one of Nelly's idols). The singer-songwriter also contributed a track to the soundtrack for the film, Brokedown Palace.
a soaring bird
And she has her share of fans. Elton John praised Nelly's work and talent "on the record"; she was invited to pay tribute to Aretha Franklin at a tribute concert for the queen of soul; she released a duet with rap producer and singer Missy Elliot, "Get UR Freak On," appearing on the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider soundtrack; and she was invited to perform at the Area: One tour, and was named one of the most talented and beautiful women in the world by the tour organizer, Moby.
Her critically-acclaimmed debut album not only showcases the mix of musical backgrounds -- African beats, hip-hop, folk, urban style, bossa nova, and the Portuguese "fado" -- it also highlights a new talent that will definitely soar like a bird.
With so many musical acts today sounding like the same homogenous contrived and formulated "noise," when something original and fresh comes along, it's easily noticeable. That's what happens when you listen to Nelly Furtado's debut album Whoa! Nelly. Her first single "I'm Like A Bird" has etched its way up the charts, and appearances on Jay Leno only cemented her place as a rising star.
Nelly's eclectic sound can be traced back to her assorted cultural background. Though she was born and raised in Canada, her Portuguese roots helped introduce her to Portugal and Brazil's top performers, giving a well-rounded international feel to her music often lacking in her counterparts. Like her music or not, you'll appreciate the refreshing break from Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
personality & talent
Nelly Furtado is one of those people that probably walks around carrying a smiley face stamp so that she can mark everyone who is down in the dumps and make them as content as she is. Her upbeat and tempo-filled album translates to her performances on stage, where she performs like she's having a party in her bedroom with her walkman on (except there are no New Kids On The Block posters, and thousands of people are watching).
She writes her own songs, which always scores big points with us, and she's able to sing in English, Portuguese and Hindi. She was inspired by Beck, which isn't a bad thing because Beck always delivers original material. Her other major influence, Portishead, is obviously inherent in her music (sometimes you think you have the wrong album on). Other times you'd think you were listening to Erykah Badu or Macy Gray, two women no one would mind being compared to (at least musically, what's up with Macy Gray's Welcome Back Kotter afro anyway?).
Nelly is a beautiful girl, it doesn't take much of a genius to realize that. Why else would she have done magazine spreads before having released only one song? Her skillful naughtiness plays right into the hands of men everywhere who say they want a nice girl, but really want a woman who will whip them into submission (or is it the other way around?).
accomplishments & fame
She was asked to appear for 4 tour dates with Lilith Fair in 1999, which helped catch the album a studio label. Though it took a while for her talent to be recognized in the US, she has had much success in her two home countries of Canada and Portugal.
The good news for her though, is that she has Dreamworks backing her, and they hate to lose money on their investment, so look for them to cross-promote across their huge distribution network.
Her easy smile and contagious laugh only add to her natural beauty. If she was always seemingly depressed like Fiona Apple, her appeal ratio would drop faster than Charlie Sheen's pants. Keep that sorriso (smile) going Nelly.
Nelly's personal style crosses two fields. Sometimes she looks like an extra in a hip-hop music video, and other times she looks like a back-up singer for the Indigo Girls or Sarah McLachlan. She has the hip-hop, urban, lost hippie look going. Let's call it the "Nelly" style; "Cher" style it isn't.
We like her. We wish she remains a big star and hope she always remembers the little people (yes, that's us).
« ME ON ME »
I am impressed when music matters, when genres are broken, when spirits are lifted, when people make a difference, and when people are true to themselves. I am impressed by: Leonard Cohen, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Woodstock, Free Tibet, free shows for tens of thousands, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, De La Soul, good films, visual art, Andy Warhol, jazz, improvisational anything, artists who I watch perform and they bring me to tears, Jeff Buckley, going to a rave, writing poetry about the city, tripping out on a good book, traveling to a foreign city and not knowing anybody...the list goes on and on.
I have always been in awe of nature and all things innovative. Although I grew up in Victoria, B.C, a mere suburb of a city, I know what independence is, I know what soul is and I know what God is. I know what it feels like to sing on the top of a mountain as if God is pumping Abraham straight into me from heaven. I was performing in both Portuguese and English by age four, and playing ukulele and trombone through ages nine to eighteen. I played the trombone in a jazz band, concert band and marching band, and sang and danced in musicals.
I've seen lots and grown lots in my short life span. I have been the bully, I have been bulli