Written by Danielle
Sometimes working with a big name producer (or two, or three) can be more of a curse than a blessing. Case in point: Nelly Furtado‘s new album, Loose. Sure, she managed to reel in Pharell Williams (No Doubt’s Rock Steady, N*E*R*D, Snoop Dog, Jay Z) and hitmaker Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliot, Aaliyah), but all that got her was a bunch of over-produced R&B tracks that sound like everything else Pharell and Timbaland have worked on, and more importantly, sound like every other booty shakin’ jam out right now on the radio and in MTV land.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dance beat, and these songs are full of them. But I HATE when people take a step backward, and Nelly’s done just that. Her first album Whoa, Nelly! blew critics (and myself) away for the simple fact that there was nothing out there like it. It was an eclectic, genre-blending melting pot of Trip Hop, Hip Hop beats, Turtablism (DJ’s & scratching), Pop, World Music, Bossa Nova, and more (yes, more). And she proved she had a sense of humor by titling it Whoa, Nelly!, beating the would-be critics/reviewers to the clichéd punch, before they could title their album reviews with it (a lot did anyway…go figure). I loved the album so much, that I saw Nelly five times in concert between 2000 and 2002. Needless to say, I was (yeah, was) a huge fan.
Folklore, her sophomore album, took a little getting used to for me. It was steeped in Folk (duh), but still had great break beats. A folk album with a poppy twist. The more I listened, the more I loved the album and came to appreciate how different it was from the first and how much Nelly Furtado had grown as an artist.
When I heard that for her third album Nelly would be working with Timbaland and Pharell, I thought for sure she’d bring out a side of those producers that their fans have never heard, and that they’d back her with the beats to say things in a way she’d never said them before. Clearly, that didn’t happen. “Promiscuous Girl,” a track which she premiered on her Myspace page, features Furtado and Timbaland trading verses about sleeping around. I think I was supposed to get more from that. Was it ironic? Did I miss the point? All I got from it was bland lyrics and an all-too familiar beat and diction. I feel like I’ve heard that song a thousand times before. Tweet could have/should have sung that song (you remember the “Ooops, Oh My” song right?). “Roses are red/Some diamonds are blue/Chivalry is dead, but you’re still kinda cute.” Come on now, does it really take talent to come up with that?
Furtado had two years between albums and supposedly she was working on this one before the second was even released, so what’s the deal? Did Timbaland dumb her down, did she sex it up to sell records and dumb herself down in the process – is it just these songs? I don’t speak Spanish, but I have no doubt that the lyrics are just as transparent in the Reggaeton inspired, Pharell-produced “No Hay Igual.” Why should I assume any different as it’s practically the same beat? Actually, come to think of it, virtually every song on the album is sung in the same style to the same beat. If you were to play just the intro to each song, no words, I probably couldn’t tell the difference (and I bet you couldn’t either).
It’s always been my opinion (here comes the music snob in me) that a great beat does not make up for not having anything remotely interesting or original to say. This album is the perfect example of that. It’s lame, and I know saying that is about as creative as oh, say, Nelly’s lyrics on most of this album, but that’s what comes to mind as I flip through every track on Loose looking for a gem, or at least something I can grow to like over time.
It’s lame, period. It’s an oversexed and under-thought attempt to sell millions of records (and trust me, this will be Nelly Furtado’s best selling album, without a doubt). It’s a formulaic ticket to a house on the hills, and non-stop MTV action. It’s 2006’s Gwen Stefani solo album L.A.M.B. (Not surprising, considering they worked with all the same producers). It’s not worth another listen from me and it’s not worth the $9.99 iTunes wants to charge you. My vote, Limewire. She’s going to make a killing on it anyway, because every song will rotate until your ears bleed on radio for the next six months. Burn it from a friend who bought it (sucker), and buy M.I.A.‘s Arular, because not only does she have the beats, but she’s also saying something worth listening to.