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Nelly Furtado weds her music to a Latin soul. At least that's her 'Plan'

The singer's new album, 'Mi Plan,' is racing up the charts from Mexico to Europe, a tribute to her ability to tap into a multi-cultural background.

October 02, 2009|Reed Johnson

"Singing as a Latin female I can be less two-dimensional," she says. "Like 'Manos al Aire,' in the verse I'm kind of almost angry. I'm accusing my lover. I'm, like, mad. But in the chorus I'm vulnerable, and I throw my hands up and say, 'You know what? I want to make this work.' And I think in English the song would be a train wreck."

So far, Furtado's career has been smooth motoring while veering from cheeky funk and hip-hop to sophisticated forays into Afro-Brazilian batucada, samba and tropicalia. Occasionally, though, her tendency to shed old stylistic skins and grow new ones has divided her critics, particularly over rhythmically frisky releases such as the 2003's "Folklore." Entertainment Weekly praised the disc as "exultant music" that goes "on its merry, multicultural way," but Rolling Stone dismissed it as a "slick, multicultural hodgepodge."

From Furtado's perspective, it's not so much that she has changed as that her media followers have. "When I came out with my first CD, I would tell people that the CD was influenced by . . . Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan," she recalls. "And it was like I'd get blank stares from journalists. Because some of them had never heard world music."

Today's sonic landscape is much richer, she believes, thanks largely to the Internet and iTunes. Listeners of all stripes are more accustomed to -- and have come to better appreciate -- music that embraces a host of global influences, including her own. "In 2010, it'll be 10 years since my first album came out. And now I finally feel like I fit in."

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reed.johnson@latimes.com

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