In Retrospectives, we’ll be checking in with some of the hit albums of yesteryear and seeing how they hold up today. For our first album, we’ll be looking at Canadian-Portuguese artist Nelly Furtado’s third album, Loose.
Nelly Furtado has had an interesting career in the music industry after arriving on the scene with her folk and r’n’b influenced debut Whoa Nelly! featuring now-classics such as I’m Like A Bird. Second album Folklore never managed to reach the success of its predecessor and has lead to Furtado being seen now as a victim of the cursed ‘sophomore slump’. However, three years after the muted response to Folklore, Furtado was once again one of the biggest names in the industry, topping charts worldwide thanks to her third album Loose.
Famously named after the free-wheeling recording process behind it, Loose saw Furtado taking on a new, more provocative and assertive persona than before. The song titles, Maneater and Promiscuous point towards this change in character, which was then further solidified by the music videos and promotional material released around the album – all exposed midriffs, club lighting and sexually charged lyrics. The press at the time was divided on this rebrand – some felt that Furtado was asserting her own sexuality, while others felt she was selling out in an attempt to recover from the disappointment of her previous release. Regardless, the album was a massive hit, having now gone on to sell over twelve million copies since release.
While the mid-noughties were no stranger to somewhat sexually-charged club-inspired pop music, very little of it can say that it has remained as iconic, as fresh sounding as the best tracks from Loose. Maneater is a tour de force in sexuality done right – while many songs attempt sexy, they can often come across forced or try-hard. Furtado is cool. Her goading, braggadocious voice taunts the listener as it throbs over Timbaland’s slick beat. The way Furtado says ‘maneater’, stretching out the ‘a’ sound, leaves it hanging around in your head long after the song finishes. Even during the song itself, you find yourself excited to hear it again. You need it like a hit.
We also have the sultry, hazy Promiscuous featuring Furtado and Timbaland as they trade barbs on the dance floor. The backing track is stellar – all slick drum beats and full of tension. The contrast between Timbaland’s earthier talk-singing and Furtado’s slippery, gliding vocals keeps things exciting and adds a nice dose of dynamism to proceedings.
Then, nestled in the album at track eight, comes the titanic Say It Right, the Grammy-nominated single which is still so cool, so mystical, so vibey. Say It Right is, to put it simply, immaculate, and presents the peak of Furtado and Timbaland’s collaboration. The song is electric and weird – Furtado’a voice hypnotic as it weaves over atmospheric synth beats which hang in the mix as they wash over you. Timbaland’s iconic ‘eh’s have never been put to better use as they further highlight this element of mysticism which permeates the song and helps elevate it from simple pop song into something much more fascinating. There is no doubt in my mind that if Say It Right we’re released as a single today, it’d be just as big as it was back in 2006.
We’ve covered the big singles so far, but the whole project is stellar, with album cuts such as Afraid being other standouts. Every now and again the perfect singer finds the perfect producer and they manage to bottle lightning – see Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, for instance – and it’s clear that Furtado and Timbaland manage to bring out the best of each other. This whole era, from the singles, the albums, and even their collaborations on other singles sees both at their most charismatic and their most captivating – just take a look at Timbaland’s own Morning After Darker to see how Furtado just owns track compared to the other singers involved. Timbaland and Furtado are a match made in heaven, and Loose is a brilliant crown jewel in their series of collaborations.