Posts Tagged ‘Nelly Furtado’

Nelly Furtado @ the Patriot Center

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

My plan to update the site more regularly has been compromised by the fact that since last Thursday, my home computer has been crapping out on a regular basis. I’ve diagnosed it (hopefully correctly) as a problem with my 4-year-old power supply, and a spiffy new one is on the way. But I’ll likely be without a home PC for the rest of the week (since my 7-year-old laptop also ate it a few months ago). Still, I have some new stuff to post and will hopefully be able to get around to it before then.

In the meantime, I should continue to erode my music-snob credibility, and report back on my second big pop concert of the year (and, er, my life): Nelly Furtado at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. This was nothing near the over-the-top spectacle that was the Christina Aguilera concert I saw in April — which shouldn’t really be surprising, since, Furtado and Aguilera are pretty fundamentally different artists. Furtado gets lumped in with mega-produced booty-pop these days thanks to a couple big hit songs with Timbaland, but her background is more of a singer-songwriter one than anything else. The stage show last Friday reflected that.

The most glaring thing I noticed, in fact, was that Furtado didn’t seem especially comfortable with being a pop star. She often avoided the spotlight, singing in the background while her four dancers exuded the stage presence she lacked. I found myself inadvertently watching the dancers more than I watched Furtado. When the show ended, both after the main set and after the encore, Furtado scampered off stage many seconds before the closing note, leaving her band to play the exit music and bask in the audience applause. Also, she played guitar in two songs, and we all know that real pop stars don’t play instruments!

The music itself was surprising — not just the arrangements, but even the musical content of the songs was frequently significant different from the album versions, such that I was continually pleasantly surprised. In keeping with the not-really-a-pop-star theme, Furtado even let her band have a ton of solos (guitar, keyboards, even drums), the highlight of which was a beautiful, nimble acoustic guitar solo in the middle of “All Good Things (Come to an End).” And speaking of the band, they were pretty talented, and played everything live (even the sequenced beats were played live by two keyboardists), and seemed much more relevant to the music than most bands that back up pop stars.

So I guess I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the music in this concert, and by its presentation. The set included five straight slow songs in the middle section, which a real pop musician would never do, but one effect of Furtado’s roots as a songwriter are that her slow songs are much more engaging than your typical pop ballads (”All Good Things” being the best example). The spectacle was definitely low-key — a giant disco ball lowering to stage level to kick off the show was about as over-the-top as it got. Folks coming for the visuals were probably disappointed, but all things considered I was pretty happy with the music.

Henry Cow & Nelly Furtado (a natural combo)

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

For some reason I’ve been listening pretty nonstop to Henry Cow’s Concerts the past couple days (which means there will probably be a review coming soon — that it hasn’t yet been reviewed on this site is somewhat baffling). A favorite moment that just passed me by: some 11 minutes into the fabulous take of “Ruins,” Fred Frith’s ebullient guitar solo slowly stutters into the background, as if pushed backstage by Dagmar Krause as she begins singing wordlessly, imploringly. This stuff is sublime.

And now, since I know readers of this website are probably big fans of modern pop music:

Incongruously, the album that kept me awake on a recent long drive was something rather different — Nelly Furtado’s new one, Loose. I suppose this isn’t all that new anymore. In any case, it’s quite fascinating: the first few songs are pure club fodder, absolutely stinking of Timbaland (that sounds rather negative but isn’t meant to be), with all the lyrical nuance you would expect from songs called “Maneater” and “Promiscuous.” (Though the Steve Nash namedropping is kind of cute, or something. Hey, look! A fellow famous Canadian!) But then we get into some totally different stuff, like “No Hay Igual,” which combines your typical queasy Timbaland synth line with Latin percussion and insistently chanted vocals in Spanish. It’s actually pretty edgy stuff. This is followed by a song “featuring Juanes” that sounds more like a Juanes song than it does a Nelly Furtado song. And then, a little later, we get something that would totally be at home on a Kylie Minogue album: “Do It” is pure Euro dance-pop. Then there’s “In God’s Hands” which sounds more like Mandy Moore than anything else. Finally, there’s the triumphant closing song, an absolutely gorgeous slice of melancholy that is maybe the best pop ballad I have ever heard.

What is one to make of this? Furtado kind of carved out an identity for herself over her first two albums, but now she seems either totally directionless, or brilliantly unhinged, or maybe just a bit plagiaristic (even aside from the whole “Do It” controversy with Timbaland). Not only does Loose not sound anything like Whoa, Nelly! or Folklore, it also sounds nothing like itself, having absolutely no consistent sound. This isn’t necessarily so weird for some artists, but for a pure pop artist, it’s rather more surprising. I still haven’t decided if it’s a good thing or not. Or, for that matter, whether this album is any good or not.