Talking about her newfound enthusiasm for hip-hop and midriff-baring, Portuguese-Canadian singer Nelly Furtado has explained, in typically bizarre pop-star argot, that "this phase in my life is all about feel". Presumably, this phase in her life is also all about not repeating the commercial failure of 2003's chaotic Folklore album, and hip-hop and midriff-baring are a good way to ensure that. But whatever her motives, Loose is slick, smart and surprising - the first great pop album of the year.
It's on this final stretch of the album that the Furtado and Timbaland pairing seems like a genuine collaboration, staying true to the Nelly of her first two albums, but given an adventurous production that helps open her songs up. Unlike the music on Folklore, the idiosyncrasies intrigue instead of frustrate, and deliver on the promise of her debut, when it seemed like Furtado could do anything. That said, the music on the second half isn't nearly as immediate or addictive as "Maneater" and "Promiscuous," two singles that were already deserved hits (in the U.K.