Nelly Furtado: The stories behind my hits
Published: 17th Nov 2010 02:50:48
In the decade since Nelly Furtado first came to our attention with I'm Like A Bird, the Canadian songstress has dabbled in pop, folk, hip-hop, electronica, dance and world music.
"I've definitely confused people," the singer laughs, "but I guess that's part of what I do".
"I've always listened to a really broad spectrum of music, from British rock bands to Canadian folk music to Brazilian samba music, it's all stuff that turns me on.
"The one unifying thread is, clearly, I'm a pop singer and pop songwriter and melody and lyrics are central to what I do."
Furtado concedes that the scattershot approach means she has had to "find a new fanbase with every record", but it seems to have worked.
Loose, her collaboration with hip-hop producer Timbaland, went platinum in 32 countries. The follow-up, a Spanish language disc called Mi Plan, may have seemed like career suicide - but it won a Grammy and topped the Latin album charts.
"My goal is to always record albums where pretty much every song sounds just as good with only an acoustic guitar and a vocal," Furtado explains. "That's always the test."
As she releases her first greatest hits compilation, the singer-songwriter told the BBC about the stories behind her biggest songs.
Try, which is a ballad from the second album, Folklore. I was about six months pregnant with Nevis my daughter at the time. So that album has a lot of sincere, emotionally poignant moments for me. I was really inspired.
The second half of the song was totally improvisation. It captured a lot of emotion. So every time I sing it in my live show - all around the world it's had the same reaction - fans get quite emotional, and there's a lot of crying. And I have cried when I sing it. A lot of people have told me the song gave them hope or helped them through a difficult situation.
This is true - there are many witnesses who were there: When we recorded Maneater a speaker caught fire. It started smoking and a flame shot out of the speaker, which nobody at the Hit Factory in Miami had ever seen before in the 40 years the studio has been there.
We put that beat on, and it was so rumbling and rapturous and pagan that it incited a fire! We actually were scared of the beat. We felt like it had the devil in it, or something. We put it away for a few weeks, until we had the courage to play it again. It was life-threatening! Someone almost got first-degree burns.
Say It Right. I had no idea what a giant song it would become. The thing that still perplexes me about the song is that I still can't put into words what it's about. I think it's maybe about personal, visceral abandon. Throwing yourself into something without inhibitions.
It has a mystery to it - which is something I always wanted to do with a pop song. When Timbaland and I were creating Loose, we were really inspired by the Eurythmics and songs like Sweet Dreams. Songs that are definitely pop songs, but that draw you into certain abstract states of mind. And I think Say It Right has that quality. It's quite haunting.
We wrote it really late at night. It was four in the morning and it just kind of came out of nowhere. We'd been watching Pink Floyd's The Wall on a huge screen all day long on mute - so I think it was playing into our subconscious a little bit.
When we were recording Loose, we really liked the sounds we were creating in the studio. My whole life, I had grown up making beats in my friends' basements and loving the rawness of this direct sound, before you fix what is broken. For major records, you smooth down and master the sound but on Loose we did the opposite. We wanted it raw, we wanted it visceral, we wanted the speakers to buzz. We fought for that. The label asked us to do better, smoother mixes and we refused. I said, "no, it needs to sound this way".
Sonics are everything. A lot of the beats and the sound on Loose are louder. When Timbaland put out my album and then Justin Timberlake's album, there was an actual volume increase. I think everything on the radio became louder after that, for the next five years. Because what we did in the mix stage was creating the illusion of having the speakers turned up to 11. We were maxed out on all fronts. You're getting volume - which is what people want, because that's what you feel at a live show.
I really like Say It Right, because it was directed by the British photographer, Rankin. He just knows how to create beautiful portraits - and I think he captures the chemistry between Timbaland and me really well.
And I just did one for a song on my Spanish album, Bajo Otra Luz. I did that with my friend Aaron, in Toronto on the street. We went to the costume store together and we picked out a bunch of costumes - and it captures my fun side. I'm a jokester, I'm just a big clown at the end of the day. Actually, I ended up being a clown for Hallowe'en this year and I went back and got the exact same costume I wore in the video. I loved it so much. Who wouldn't want to be a clown all day long?
Turn Off The Light. We've done electro versions, hip-hop versions. Timbaland came and surprised people when we played it at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. We did my regular version, then it was Tim's urban remix, and then we rapped, and then we went into a heavy metal ending, where I played guitar and traded licks with my guitar player. It just got rowdy, and the crowd would really move and jump in that part.
It's a great festival song, too. I played it at Glastonbury and people jump and move. It's got a lot of groove potential, so if you want that, you can really get it going on that song. It's got a bluesy raunchy sounding solo in the middle. It's great for moshing to.
My daughter, Nevis, has been singing the new single, The Night Is Young, a lot. She just goes "free, free, free, the night is young" She likes singing that. And she was obsessed with the beat of Say It Right for a long time. She would tap it out on different things, pots and pans.
I really wanted the Get Ur Freak On remix I did with Missy Elliot. That was really important for my career, because it opened the whole hip-hop world to me, right after I'm Like A Bird came out. So there was a cool duality going on.
There's a funny story behind it, too - People would play that remix on the seriously urban, street radio stations in New York and the DJs said: "Oh, Missy's done a duet with a Jamaican boy."
I also wanted my duet with Michael Buble, Quando Quando Quando. It's like my jazz tune. The duet with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake [Give It To Me] isn't on there, either. And I have a really cool duet with Josh Groban. We wanted to do a collaborations album for a while, because I've done so many - and I'm still doing more. I'm not in a band but I have a thirst and a desire to be around musicians. When I was 12 I would sneak out of my house and hang around with DJs and MCs. I think I spend more time hanging around and jamming than focussing on my career.
I'm working with Salaam Remi, and we've forged this amazing friendship and musical space for ourselves, where we're really enjoying each other's company in the studio. So he did two new tracks on the Greatest Hits - Night Is Young and Girlfriend In The City - and we're really tapping into something cool.
I'm really into alternative music at the moment. I've also worked with Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit and I've been in Jamaica with a producer called Genius, trying some different styles. I think the new album will be a real throwback to [debut album] Whoa, Nelly! in terms of the eclecticism and the alternative influences. I really feel like there's an earthiness there that's really great.
The Best Of Nelly Furtado is out now internationally, and will be released in the UK on 29 November via Polydor.
At 10:03:00 in WorldThe last communication received from a Malaysia Airlines plane suggest everything was normal on board minutes before it went missing over the South China Sea, Malaysian authorities say.
At 09:48:56 in SportWest Brom captain Chris Brunt has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks with a knee injury.
At 09:48:39 in EntertainmentDecriminalising TV licence fee evasion could close BBC channels, the corporation's strategy director has warned.
At 09:42:57 in SportSouthend United have signed Liverpool's Czech defender Jakub Sokolik on a youth loan until the end of the season.
At 09:28:06 in SportPeterborough United boss Darren Ferguson has questioned the commitment of his players, saying they would be relegated without him.
At 09:27:38 in EnglandAllowing toll operators to increase charges by "any amount" could leave drivers exposed to "substantial" price rises, a campaign group has warned.
At 09:25:02 in Northern IrelandIrish police's handling of penalty points for motorists is expected to be strongly criticised in a report.
At 09:20:57 in EnglandA food bank in Chichester has said the number of people needing its services has nearly trebled since it opened 18 months ago.
At 09:19:30 in WalesThousands of poppies are to be planted across Swansea and will come into flower this summer to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One.
At 09:15:11 in BusinessThe Bank of Thailand cut its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 2%, its lowest level in three years.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Nelly Furtado: The stories behind my hits [Online] (Updated 17th Nov 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/108610/Nelly-Furtado-The-stories-behind-my-hits [Accessed 12th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
Allowing toll operators to increase charges by "any amount" could leave drivers exposed to "substantial" price rises, a campaign group has warned.
Decriminalising TV licence fee evasion could close BBC channels, the corporation's strategy director has warned.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
David Cameron is set to make his first visit to Israel on Wednesday since becoming UK prime minister.
The Bank of Thailand cut its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 2%, its lowest level in three years.
Two people have been arrested following the discovery of a missing man's body on a beach.