Release Date: Mar 31, 2017
Record label: Eleven Seven
With 2006's glossy, Timbaland-produced Loose, Nelly Furtado went from the hippie-ish singer of "I'm Like a Bird" to an unexpected pop star with multiple Top 10 hits. The singer-songwriter, however, has been suffering from a musical identity crisis ever since, her largely ignored follow-ups teetering between her folk history and her pop success. Sixth album, The Ride, achieves a balance.
Whenever it seems like Nelly Furtado should zig, she zags, responding to her initial urban-crossover success with the rustic pop-rock set Folklore in 2003, and waiting six momentum-killing years to release a proper follow-up to her 2006 hit Loose. Folklore and The Spirit Indestructible were commercial disappointments, but Furtado's refusal to play to type ultimately makes her something of a pop maverick—impossible to pin down but also improbably distinct. The singer-songwriter has always been a bit of a shape-shifter, adapting to her sonic surroundings, whether they be the chirp-hop sound collages of early collaborators Gerald Eaton and Brian West, the Bhangra beats of Timbaland, or the smooth indie-R&B stylings of Blood Orange.
Emerging as an independent act after a five-year absence, Nelly Furtado seizes the opportunity to open another chapter of her career with The Ride. Originally recorded for Interscope, Furtado wrangled control of the album as she left the label and, fittingly enough, The Ride is perched between the mainstream and the fringe. Much of the latter is due to the presence of John Congleton, the producer best known for helming albums by St.
Nelly Furtado's past decade splits nicely into two halves: a winsome folk-pop starlet amid a cluster of similar folkies, turned Timbaland collaborator amid a cluster of those. It's hard to talk about Furtado's career without mentioning her impressive reinvention. Furtado's a stylistic chameleon, able to adopt almost any style and do it as well or better.
Nelly Furtado's image as an American major-label hit factory star has felt increasingly out of sync in recent years. On one hand, the Canadian pop singer/songwriter has a rep locally as a supporter of queer, indie pop and hip-hop artists but in mainstream circles, she was starting to seem like a media-trained celebrity automaton. If 2012's The Spirit Indestructible felt like a last kick of the big shiny pop can, The Ride makes that bluntly apparent.
Nelly Furtado has never been one to stand still musically. Since the beginning of her career, she's used pop, hip-hop, dance, folk and multiple variations of Latin music as inspiration. So to call her latest album, The Ride -- made in collaboration with Angel Olsen and St. Vincent producer John Congleton -- a departure would be a bit of a misnomer.
You could never call Nelly Furtado's career consistent, but it has been consistently surprising: from the chillout pop of her breakout hit from 2000, I'm Like a Bird, to the sexpot grind of Maneater, the Spanish-language album Mi Plan and 2012's divisive alt-pop outing The Spirit Indestructible. Her comeback is certainly an unexpected ride, bumpily rollercoastering on John Congleton's eager production, which can tend to be overpowering and overcomplicated. There's more of the jerky funk sound he created for St Vincent on the opener here Cold Hard Truth, a Gary Numan-does-Goldfrapp feel on Paris Sun, and hints of Sufjan Stevens on Magic; it's difficult to avoid making endless comparisons when an album feels so miserably storyboarded - the sad fallout of commercial pop that just patchworks trendy styles together.
Nelly Furtado, that most idiosyncratic and winsome of pop stars, will probably never have a hit again. The Ride, her sixth album and first in five years, seems to accept this. Like Vanessa Carlton’s Liberman and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, its purpose is not to sell through the name of its star but to be critically acclaimed and sell through word of mouth and Metacritic scores.
In the pop industry, 17 years is a lifetime. Since entire careers can blossom and fade into obscurity within the space of one record, it's an increasing rarity for artists such as Nelly Furtado to be releasing her sixth studio album, 'The Ride', this year, having initially risen to prominence with 2000's, 'Whoa, Nelly!'. Notwithstanding the feel-good falsetto and catchy melodies of her break-through single, 'I'm Like A Bird', Furtado gained most recognition for her 2006 record, 'Loose', which saw a transition into the radio and club-friendly R&B characterised by Timbaland's production on the album.