Kate's Notes

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado

Nelly Kim Furtado (born December 2, 1978) became a pop-sensation with her single, “I’m Like a Bird,” which soared to the top of the Billboard charts in 2001, when she was still only 22 years old. This Grammy Award-winning Portuguese-Canadian singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer continued her career after giving birth to her daughter and released the less commercially successful Folklore (2003); however, she came back to the forefront of pop music culture, when she shed her good girl image and returned to prominence in 2006 with the release of Loose and its hit singles "Promiscuous," "Maneater," "Say It Right" and "All Good Things (Come to an End)".

Furtado is known for experimenting with different instruments, sounds, genres, languages, and vocal styles. This diversity has been influenced by her wide-ranging musical taste and her interest in different cultures.

Early Years and Influences

Furtado was born to Portuguese immigrants, Maria Manuela and António José Furtado in Victoria, British Columbia. She was named after Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim.

Surrounded by music from infancy, her mother is a former church choir singer, while her father -- a fan of Portuguese music styles, known as "fado" -- sings as a pastime. In addition, her grandfather played instruments, and even her great-uncle was a renowned Portuguese marching band score composer.

All of these family elements inspired Furtado's passion for music and she developed her taste for singing at the age of four when she performed a duet with her mother at a church on Portugal Day. Then, at the age of five, Furtado and her family moved to Oak Harbor, Washington, a small community on an island near Seattle. 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. Furtado received a tape recorder and microphone when she was eight years old, which served as a key part of her musical influences.

She began playing instruments at the age of nine, learning the trombone, ukulele and, in later years, the guitar and keyboard; and at the age of twelve, she began writing songs. As a teenager, she played in a Portuguese marching band.

Exposed to the rush of new hip-hop acts spawning in the early '90s, Furtado 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, she would sample the sounds that impressed her, similar to those used by popular '90s acts. Furtado sang into her microphone and recorded original sounds with the "scratch effect" of her keyboard.

Furtado was later exposed to the British rock sounds of the mid '90s, after a trip to her ancestral Portugal. Her eyes became 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.

At the end of the summer of eleventh grade during a visit to Toronto, Furtado met Tallis Newkirk, member of the hip hop group, Crazy Cheese. She contributed vocals to their 1996 album, Join the Ranks, on the track "Waitin' 4 the Streets." After graduating from Mount Douglas Secondary School in 1996, she moved to Toronto. The following year, she formed Nelstar, the trip hop duo with Newkirk. Ultimately, Furtado felt the trip-hop style of the duo was "too segregated" and believed it did not represent her personality or allow her to showcase her vocal ability. She left the group and planned to move back home.

Before moving, however, she performed at the 1997 Honey Jam, a mostly-black, female talent show at Toronto nightclub Lee's Palace. Her performance attracted the attention of The Philosopher Kings singer Gerald Eaton (aka Jarvis Church), who then approached her to write with him. He and fellow Kings member, Brian West, helped Furtado produce a demo. She left Toronto, but returned again to record more material with Eaton and West. The material recorded during these sessions led to her 1999 record deal with DreamWorks Records. Nelly's first single, "Party's Just Begun (Again)", was released that year on the Brokedown Palace: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Whoa, Nelly!: 2000 - 2002

Furtado released Whoa, Nelly!, in October 2000. She continued to collaborate with Eaton and West, who co-produced her debut album. Following the release of the album, Furtado headlined the Burn in the Spotlight tour and also appeared on Moby's Area:One tour.

The album was a success all over the globe, supported by its singles, "I'm like a Bird", "Turn off the Light", "...On the Radio (Remember the Days)", and "Hey, Man!." It received four Grammy nominations in 2002, and her debut single won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Furtado's work was also critically acclaimed for her innovative mixture of various genres and sounds. Slant magazine called the album "a delightful and refreshing antidote to the army of 'pop princesses' and rap-metal bands that had taken over popular music at the turn of the millennium."

She was also ranked #58 in Stuff magazine's "102 Sexiest Women In The World" in 2002.


On September 20, 2003 in Toronto, Furtado gave birth to a daughter, Nevis, whose father is Jasper Gahunia. Furtado and Gahunia, who had been friends for several years, remained together for four years until their breakup in 2005. Furtado told Blender that the couple continues to be good friends and jointly rears Nevis. Nevis is ethnically a quarter Filipino, a quarter Indian, and half Portuguese. Furtado raises her in Toronto due to the city's cultural diversity, open-mindedness, and grassroots political activism.

Folklore: 2003 – 2005

Influenced by her parents' immigration to Canada, she titled her second album Folklore, which was released in November 2003. The final track on the album, "Childhood Dreams," was dedicated to her daughter. The album includes the single "Força" (meaning "strength" or "carry on" in Portuguese), the official anthem of the 2004 European Football Championship. Furtado performed the song at the championship's final in Lisbon, which Portugal lost against Greece. Other singles included the ballads "Try" and "Powerless (Say What You Want)".

The album was not as successful as her debut, partly due to the album's less "poppy" sound but also due to changes at DreamWorks Records. DreamWorks had just been sold to Universal Music Group. In 2005, DreamWorks Records, along with many of its artists including Furtado, were absorbed into Geffen Records.

Loose: 2006 – present

Furtado's third album, Loose, was released in June 2006; it was given its name due to the spontaneous, creative decisions she made while creating the album. Four lead singles were released in different regions of the world: the Spanish reggaeton-influenced "No Hay Igual" (featuring Calle 13), the hip-hop "Promiscuous" (featuring Timbaland), for which she won a 2006 Billboard Music Award for Pop Single of the Year, the latin "Te Busqué" (featuring Juanes), and the pop "Maneater." She has categorized the album's sound as punk-hop, which she describes as "this modern, poppy, spooky music" and stated that "there's a mysterious, after-midnight vibe to [it] that's extremely visceral." She attributed the youthful sound of the album to the presence of her two-year old daughter. In this album, primarily produced by Timbaland, Furtado experiments with sounds from R&B, hip hop, and 80s music.

In addition, Furtado and Justin Timberlake are featured on Timbaland's single "Give It to Me."

Loose became the most successful album of Furtado's career, reaching number-one in several countries including the United States and Canada and producing the hit singles "Promiscuous", "Maneater", "Say It Right", and "All Good Things (Come to an End)." The album received generally positive reviews from critics, with some citing the "revitalising" effect of Timbaland on Furtado's music, and others calling it "slick, smart and surprising."

In late November 2006, Furtado turned down US $500,000 to pose fully clothed in Playboy.

She announced in December 2006 that she would be recording an all-Spanish album. She plans to include her previous Spanish songs, translations of her older tracks, and new songs.

Loose was re-released worldwide in March 2007. She performed "Say It Right" and "Promiscuous" (with Saukrates) on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live on February 23, 2007. On February 16, 2007, Furtado embarked in Manchester on her Get Loose Tour which will visit five continents.

Furtado will host the Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on April 1, 2007.

Acting Career

Furtado began acting in school plays in middle school. She appeared on the "Some Buried Bones" episode of CSI: NY as Ava Brandt, a sexually abused master-thief. The episode also featured her songs "Maneater" and "All Good Things (Come to an End)."

Charity Work and Activism

Furtado supports The Land Conservancy, better known as TLC, which is a non-profit, charitable Land Trust working throughout British Columbia. TLC protects important habitat for plants, animals and natural communities as well as properties with historical, cultural, scientific, scenic or compatible recreational value.


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