Whoa, Nelly! You almost don’t realize that the woman rapping and dancing in the “Promiscuous” video is the same girl from 2000′s “I’m Like a Bird.” She’s loosened up all right, but it’s not just her sexy new moves that constitute a makeover. Thanks to some Miami vices — like late-night recording sessions with Timbaland — Furtado’s also getting down and dirty with ’80s synth sounds, buzzing beats and a looser vibe, making Loose one of the hottest records of the summer. You’ll read about that — as well as Nelly dancing in her underwear and what makes Coldplay’s Chris Martin nervous — in this Q&A. …
MTV: Apparently MTV was responsible for bringing you together with one of your many collaborators on Loose. How did that happen?
Nelly Furtado: Chris Martin from Coldplay and I bumped into each other in Miami at the VMAs. I was recording with Timbaland. It’s kind of ironic, because just the week before, all Tim would play in the studio was [Coldplay's album] X&Y — Tim actually listens to a lot of rock music — so I got [Martin] to come to the studio. At first he was nervous, because Tim kept calling Chris “Coldplay,” like, “Hey, Coldplay!” and “Coldplay’s here!” And “All Good Things (Come to an End)” is a fusion of Tim’s rough-sounding hip-hop beats with that melancholy Chris has mastered, and I’m in-between. Chris got to express his inner James Brown. At one point, Chris broke out with a rendition of Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” but we had to scrap that.
MTV: You scrapped a lot of tracks, considering you recorded what, 40 of them? Your sessions with Pharrell, Scott Storch and Nellee Hooper didn’t even make the album. Do you have any plans to release the lost tracks?
Furtado: I hope so. The Pharrell tracks were so much fun, he gave me a shout-out in his single, “Can I Have It Like That” (“Flying like a bird/ Like Nelly Furtado”). I arrived in Miami not knowing who Daddy Yankee was, and Pharrell introduced me to reggaetón. It’s got fire, it’s really exciting. My song isn’t exactly a reggaetón song, but I did a song on the album inspired by it called “No Hay Igual,” all sung in Spanish. It’s my most comfortable song. And with Scott Storch, we did this straight-up rap song. [Producer/songwriter] Lester Mendez and I did a lot of beautiful acoustic stuff. Nellee Hooper and I did something kind of reggae-ish, actually. He’s obsessed with Lil Jon, so we imposed his vocals over the top, it was really funny. To me, the producers are the real rock stars. Rappers walk in their studios carrying around briefcases of cash [in case they] need a beat at the last minute. I love being around hip-hop energy: It’s alive, it’s fun, it’s exhilarating.
MTV: So how did you decide which songs would make the album?
Furtado: It all comes down to sonics. Tim is a sonic extraterrestrial. He came up with a sequence that flows; supposedly the one I came up with sucked. It’s funny, because I think musically, I’m a promiscuous girl, because I’m not faithful to anyone’s musical style. I’m all over the map. This is more urban, more American, more hip-hop, more simplified. I usually layer things more, make them more textured, but I tend to overthink things. When I was in the studio with Timbaland, it was like I was in the VIP boys club of just letting go and following your impulses a bit more. “Maneater” is like an analogy of how I got to consume Tim and his crew’s creative energy, and put that into the album.
MTV: So did that give the album a tougher feel?
Furtado: I was very ruthless, like, “No, no, no, you have to attack the listener.” It’s kind of like being tackled in football — and that’s how I wanted it. I’ve been listening to Bloc Party, System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age, Metric and different electro things, and it’s all very loud and has a garage theme to it. I feel like I captured a little bit of that aesthetic. There are distorted bass lines, there’s a lot of laughter from studio outtakes, there’s room for error. We thought, “How about we just take away all that pristine stuff and have it be really raw? No rules?” It’s about feel, and that’s why it’s called Loose.
MTV: You had to know that people were going to read things into that title, considering the sexual aggressiveness of some of the songs.
Furtado: Well, I wanted it to be assertive and cool, like TLC, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah — they’re sexy but fun. When I was 14, Janet Jackson came out with “That’s the Way Love Goes,” and she was comfortable in her sexuality and womanhood, and that was inspiring to me. I’m enjoying life. It’s a party.
MTV: Kind of like how you’re not wearing anything overtly sexy in your videos for “Promiscuous” and “Maneater”?
Furtado: It’s very subtle when you’re making videos, so you have to kind of flip it: I’m wearing a T-shirt but I’m doing these really sexy moves. If I was wearing a corset, it might not come off in the right way. I’m kind of celebrating the maneater cliché and parodying it at the same time. I call “Maneater” a couture pop song. It’s like having too much cheesecake, in a good way. It’s got a crazy loud beat, and the vocals are bitchy and loud. A lot of people say it sounds like Peaches, because of the delivery, the spooky vocals. Dancing in your underwear in front of the mirror, you’re there and you don’t care. Everybody does it. Everybody’s just hot on themselves, “Oh, I’m turning myself on.”