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Nelly Furtado - The Best Of

2011-03-30 14:47
Less limber than Shakira, more accessibly kooky than Björk, Canadian pop maverick Nelly Furtado has somehow managed to stay the course without really having that undefinable 'it' – that hook or iconic statement to set her apart from all the others – and there really are many, many others.

Somehow she managed to pull it off anyway (must be the cute but exotic name) and here we have a 'deluxe' 2-CD Best Of collection that throws light on a pretty worthy career.

It all starts so wonderfully in 2000, with "I'm Like a Bird" - a simple, life-affirming ballad that won her a Grammy and has endured more than a decade. Whoa, Nelly!, the album that spawned this and her other big hits like "Turn Off The Light" and "Shit On The Radio (Remember The Days)", was a breath of fresh air back then, when the charts were dominated by soulless RnB, angry nu-metal bands and cheesy pop. Whoa, Nelly! promised something else, a wild ride into the pop unknown with Furtado scatting and skipping over folk rhythms and bouncy beats while still connecting with listeners on an emotional level.

Things got a bit darker with her follow-up Folklore. While not as commercially successful as her debut, it showed an artist willing to explore new sounds – as evidenced by some of her grandest songs, like "Try", " Powerless (Say What You Want)" and "Explode" (a great track inexplicably not included here) – which played around with wide rock vistas and gypsy-tinged grooves that took a dip in her Portuguese roots.

Throughout her earlier work, Furtado had somehow remained off-kilter, swimming against the current, sounding utterly like herself. That sound took a massive transformation on Loose, her third album and arguably most commercially successful album from 2006 – and that was largely due to the influence of hip-hop producer Tim "Timbaland" Mosley – who gave Furtado a sexy new RnB-dance sound and image to play around with.

It may have come as a bit of a shock to many listeners, but it paid off, producing hit songs like "Maneater", "Promiscuous" and the dirtiest, most devastating break-up song of the noughties, "Say It Right". I'd dearly love to know how many broken hearts have been consoled by this song.

She's been rather quiet since then, releasing Latin album Mi Plan in 2009 ("Manos Al Aire" is included for your listening pleasure) and popping up on many notable duets, with as wildly diverse as Keith Urban, Tiësto, The Roots, Juanes, Michael Bublé and the gorgeous "Broken Strings" with James Morrison – a radio hit that's helped keep listeners mindful of this unique voice.

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