Nelly Furtado Biography

2 December 1978, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. One of the most intriguing singer-songwriters to emerge in the new millennium, Furtado’s music embraces enough styles to defy easy categorisation. This first generation Canadian was raised in British Columbia by her parents, who were originally from the Portuguese archipelago Azores. As a teenager she learned to play ukulele, trombone and guitar, while embracing a range of musical genres, from urban R&B and hip-hop, to rock, Latin and world music. Moving to Toronto in the late 90s to work, she performed at night as one half of the hip-hop duo Nelstar and as a solo freestyler. She recorded a demo with two fans, Gerald Eaton and Brian West of fellow Canadians the Philosopher Kings, which eventually led to a major label contract with DreamWorks Records.

After making her live debut proper on select dates of the 1999 Lilith Fair tour, Furtado released her debut Whoa, Nelly! in October 2000. Rooted in contemporary urban sounds, Furtado’s songwriting embraced folk, trip-hop, bossa nova, and reggae in a post-modern stew that was inevitably reminiscent of Beck’s work. The one downside was some rather clichéd teen-chick lyrics, with one of the worst culprits the poppy hit single ‘I’m Like A Bird’. The album was a notable commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic and established Furtado as one of music’s brightest new stars. ‘I’m Like A Bird’ won a Grammy Award.

The length of time she spent recording a follow-up album suggested that Furtado would not be bowing down to commercial demands, which was confirmed by the release of 2003’s ambitious Folklore. While less successful than her debut, the album did spawn one of the year’s most memorable singles, ‘Powerless (Say What You Want)’. It also featured ‘Força’, the official anthem of the 2004 European Football Championship.

When DreamWorks closed down in 2005, Furtado switched labels to Geffen Records for the release of her third album. Recorded with the help of a number of producers, most notably Timbaland, Loose was a major success and spawned number 1 hits in the US with ‘Promiscuous’ (featuring Timbaland) and ‘Say It Right’, and in the UK with ‘Maneater’. The album also topped the US charts.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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