What Has Nelly Furtado Been Up To?
Whatever happened to Nelly Furtado?
The Canadian singer-songwriter soared into the stratosphere on the back of her debut single "I'm Like a Bird" in 2000. The folksy anthem detailed Furtado's fleeting attention span with love and introduced listeners to what would become one of the industry's most distinctive voices.
Coming near the end of the bubblegum pop tidal wave that pushed the industry through the late '90s, Furtado offered a breezy breath of fresh air and authenticity.
Watch Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird" Music Video:
Her debut single clearly resonated with the masses; they sent it into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The then-rising star hit the No. 5 spot with her follow-up single, the equally feathery "Turn Off the Light." Meanwhile, her debut album Woah, Nelly! peaked just outside the Top 20 on Billboard's album chart.
"I'm Like a Bird" won a Grammy in 2002. That same year, the musician herself was in the running for the title of Best New Artist.
Just like that, a star was born...
Furtado's sophomore effort Folklore touched down in 2003. The project and its singles showcased a more experimental and global musicality. Although the evolving sound highlighted her depth, it failed to produce a hit stateside.
Listen to Nelly Furtado's "Powerless (Say What You Want)":
Folklore wasn't as much of an overwhelming commercial success; however, Furtado's biggest musical ventures were still just on the horizon.
Nelly Furtado got Loose and blew up
"I'm Like a Bird" introduced Nelly Furtado as a star who carved her own path. Her third album Loose, released in 2006, proved the hit-maker was more than capable of a pop takeover.
This time around the star joined forces with super-producer Timbaland, and they clearly found an easy chemistry in the studio.
Loose pulled influence from hip-hop and more traditional pop records. However, Furtado did things her own way, and it worked in her favor.
She netted her first chart-topper with "Promiscuous." The coy duet with Timbaland brims with instantly quotable, back-and-forth lyrics that sizzle across a sensual production. Flirty and playful, the bop has aged like fine wine and likely remains the singer's most recognizable release to this date.
Watch Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" Music Video:
Clearly, she was feeling herself, which comes across on several other songs on the track list.
"You either wanna be with me or be me," she confidently coos on the crashing "Maneater." The assertive single peaked inside the Top 20, before Furtado returned to the pinnacle position on the Hot 100 with her hip-hop ballad "Say It Right."
The album topped the charts in the U.S. and moved an enviable 12 million units. Idolator notes it became one of the top-selling records of the decade. And it was just a taste of what was to come.
A second collaboration with Timbaland dropped in 2007
Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's musical chemistry was so strong that they linked up again for the producer's 2007 album Shock Value. This time they added Justin Timberlake to the mix for their diss track "Give It to Me."
Each artist served plenty of shade. However, in a 2010 interview with Metro, Furtado listed it as being one of the songs she most regretted recording.
"We put a lot of negative energy out into the world," she reasoned.
Watch Timbaland, Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake's "Give It To Me" Music Video:
Despite that, "Give It to Me" became a certified smash. Buoyed by the famous trio's notoriety and brag-heavy verses, it hit the top spot on the Hot 100. If you've been keeping track, that means Furtado notched three No. 1's between 2006 and 2007 — an amazing run.
She toured and experienced a nervous breakdown
Although she was on the top of the charts and (arguably) the world at the time, Nelly Furtado struggled privately due to her newfound level of fame following Loose.
The star embarked on her Get Loose Tour in 2007. Looking back in 2017, she revealed that the promotional schedule pushed her to her limits.
"I had a nervous breakdown on stage," she said, according to the NZ Herald. "One night I went on stage, and I suddenly realized how stressed out I was. I actually cried my way through the first two songs."
In 2008, a duet with James Morrison called "Broken Strings" arrived. It failed to impact the charts in the U.S. but rocketed to the No. 2 spot on the Official Charts in the U.K.
Watch James Morrison & Nelly Furtado's "Broken Strings" Music Video:
After that, she did things differently.
The singer's fourth album, Mi Plan, arrived in 2009 and was entirely in Spanish. The track list featured a collaboration with Josh Groban and provided an opportunity for a creative reset.
While Mi Plan's singles didn't net much success on the charts, the album was a critical hit. In fact, it notched the star a win in the Best Female Pop Vocal Album category at the 2010 Latin Grammys, according to Entertainment Weekly.
The year 2012 saw the release of her fifth album, The Spirit Indestructible. Darkchild helped her craft a majority of the track list, which signified a return to her signature left-of-center pop aesthetic.
Wacky lead single "Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)" failed to resonate. However, the title track is a glittery hit that certainly deserved a run on the charts.
Watch Nelly Furtado's "Spirit Indestructible" Music Video:
Then she went indie
Nelly Furtado waited five years after dropping The Spirit Indestructible before returning. This time, she did it as an independent artist. Her sixth album The Ride was released via her own label Nelstar Music in 2017.
"It was really symbolic for me," she told Billboard of the decision to release independently. "I got to get this album back from Interscope, so I get to own this album."
That's not to say she was ungrateful for her time on a label: "It was so great to have a megaphone of a huge label supporting me for almost two decades, because now I have this audience and it’s so wonderful to have my creative output match the brevity with which I can release things now that I’m independent."
Listen to Nelly Furtado's "Sticks and Stones":
The Ride had its moment, and then Furtado went quiet again.
She celebrated the anniversaries of Woah, Nelly! and Loose
It's been a whopping five years since Nelly Furtado dropped a new album's worth of material. However, the hit-maker hasn't totally disappeared.
She popped up to celebrate two major anniversaries in recent years.
In 2020 she dropped an expanded edition of Woah, Nelly! to mark her debut album's 20th birthday. The 22-track project featured remixes, live versions and a couple other rare treats.
That set the scene for an even bigger collection in honor of the 15th anniversary of Loose in 2021. This one featured a whopping 32 songs including a previously unreleased duet with Missy Elliott.
Listen to Nelly Furtado & Missy Elliott's "Do It" Remix:
Although the records dropped on time and with fanfare from the likes of Rolling Stone, it doesn't appear Furtado promoted either with more than a small push on social media. It's been several years since she's covered a magazine, and she appears to be enjoying a quieter life outside the direct spotlight currently.
However, she took some time to answer questions for rising pop star Gia Woods in a 2020 feature for Billboard. The hit-maker shared words of wisdom, chiefly about staying authentic in the industry.
"I think the key to keeping some sort of identity in the music business is singing from the heart," Furtado told the up-and-comer. "It doesn’t matter the genre — if you make it your own, and it’s true to you, it will feel cohesive in some way." Sage advice!
The singer also shared some exciting family news in her bio on Instagram: She is now a mother of three.
At this point it's unclear if the world will ever receive a new album from Furtado. However, we can't stop hoping that she'll eventually touch down again and grace us with a collection of songs as timeless as her earlier hits.
She's like a bird, after all. We never know where her soul will lead her.