I was watching Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” a few weeks back and jotting down notes. I wrote that I might like pop crossover Timbaland more than I like rappity-rap Timbaland. You know what I mean — Nelly Furtado versus Jay-Z, with Missy Elliott being the only person to successfully split the difference. I haven’t done any hard research but that idea feels right to me. Timbaland’s greatest strengths are making catchy and weird tunes, these sort of things that are great pop songs until he layers in baby noises or frog croaks and then they’re memorably great pop songs. In “Promiscuous,” Timbaland doesn’t have a dog barking or anything, but those synths that come in over the chorus are amazing. I thought that it was maybe a sample or something, but knowing Timbaland, he probably just hammered them out on a keyboard one day. But they’re the perfect ’80s touch, trading on the same nostalgia as the soundtrack to Drive, and they elevate a pretty good song into a memorable one. And I don’t think all of this could add up to a great rap song, going by my preferred definition of “good rap song,” as well as it adds up to a good pop song. So yeah: probably indefensible because the boundaries are so vague, but Pop Timbo > Rap Timbo. Argue that.
The video’s cute, too. Where “Maneater” was about submitting to your queen, oooooohohohohoho, “Promiscuous” is a tease. It’s dancing and flirting, and it’s actually a little funny. Furtado and Timbaland trade drum and vocal duties in some scenes, which I think is funny. My sense of humor is stupid though. But overall, the video’s really about getting as close to somebody as possible and teasing them all the way. It’s sexy, but it’s not… explicitly sexy. It’s a love spell. It gets across the erotic urgency of dancing, I guess is the best way to put it, in a cool way. There’s this bit at 2:40 or so, where the guy tries to kiss her? And then it comes back after flashing to another couple of scenes and he tries to kiss her again, and then it flashes away and back and one more time, this time his kiss attempt is a lunge. When it comes back around, Furtado is on him, instead of vice versa, and he’s holding back. That’s nuts, and it’s totally perfect as an example of what I mean. There’s a back and forth tease, a wanting, that comes alongside dancing with someone else, and I like how this guy’s wanting spills over before he has to rein it back in.
The conversational structure of the song is great, too. It sells the song as a booty call negotiation anthem. It’s not catchy so much as undeniable. You don’t really need to sing along with it to know it, barring a few money lines (that Steve Nash line, “How you doin’ young lady?, and I really really like “Chivalry is dead but you’re still kinda cute”). The weird thing is that something about Furtado’s delivery on the verses reminds me of Hot 97’s Angie Martinez, especially her style on “Live At Jimmy’s”. I don’t know what it means, exactly, but the comparison won’t go away. Furtado sells it, though, even if she isn’t from Brooklyn. There’s a playfulness to it, a flirtiness, that enhances the song.
I also love the weird harmonizing she does on this weird beat at the end of the song, but I don’t even have anything to say about that but “Yes, more please.”