The video for Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater” is basically a back-alley warehouse orgy masterminded by a queen who dominates everyone else with her very presence. The warehouse is set up as this very dangerous place, the type of place an innocent lil lady like Nelly Furtado shouldn’t visit at night. But, like Michael Jackson, whose videos often portrayed dancing as rebellion or violence, Furtado can move, and that means she rules the roost.
That bit in the first verse, the “I wanna see you all on your knees, knees/ either wanna be with me or you wanna be me”? I love that. Her delivery in this song is so plastic that it comes off as the most “Call me Queen, worm” thing ever, especially when combined with her vaguely zombie-esque dance moves. I love how it instantly creates a story, too, because suddenly the warehouse orgy turns from subtext to text. Everyone in there is on their knees, and they all want her in one way or another. She’s the queen bee.
Those two lines front-loads the sex oozing out of the video, too. The only person that’s alone in this video is Furtado. Everyone else is confined (ooh!) in some way or gyrating against someone else (oh my!). It’s a very intimate video, the sort that makes you think about sex without just focusing on somebody’s boobs or butt.
I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate video for “Maneater.” It’s a thematic, rather than literal, translation of the lyrics, which are all about being so obsessed with Furtado that you completely destroy your life. Timbaland’s beat is pretty undeniable, with a solid rhythm and what I’m pretty sure is the sound of a cymbal sliding instead of clanging. The angry buzz of the melody during the verses kicks things up a notch in a really pleasing way, and the reversals sound great. Furtado’s voice is more nasal than I usually expect, kind of like a loose whine, but it fits so well with the beat and it’s great to sing along to, which is pretty much all I ask out of pop music.
I’ve liked Nelly Furtado since her first album, but I think that this song and video were her take on Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty.” The rap collab, harsh beat, and overtly throbbing sexuality shifted how I thought of both of these sings. That sounds way more filthy than I wanted it to, but what I mean is that “Dirrty” was the point that I noticed that Aguilera shifted from “Genie In A Bottle” passive high school sexiness into “Dirrty” sexy as she wanna be sexiness. I got the same feeling from Furtado’s “Maneater.” This was when I realized she’d shifted from the softer shade of pop on her first album to something with more of an edge. There’s an axis for this thing, it goes Michael Jackson to Prince, and both of them looked around and took a giant step toward Prince and owned it.
I think it’s interesting that both went with the warehouse orgy for a setting, too. It’s not what I’d go to, but it’s a solid visual.