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Furtadofest: No Hay Igual con Residente de Calle 13, 2006

June 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it, but the one thing that runs through all of Nelly Furtado’s singles are that they’re fun. They’re upbeat smiley face music, whether she’s doing fun anthems or throwing bedroom eyes at you.

One thing that’s always interesting about R&B and rap collabs, which I generally think of as being lady singer + dude rapper, is how the two musicians are portrayed in the video. Meth & Mary’s “All I Need” portrays the two as musicians solely, since Meth already has a lady in the video. Nelly Furtado’s “No Hay Igual” is the other one, as it suggests that Furtado and Residente of Puerto Rican group Calle 13 are in some type of flirty relationship.

I can’t find it now, but a few years back, 2008 or 2009 I think, there was an R&B girl group, maybe a duo, that released a single. It was pretty okay, and the rap feature was solid. It was probably Fabolous, but I think Maino or Pusha T might have been the dude. I don’t know. I swear I’m not making this up. Anyway, it came out on rap blogs, and then it went. A few weeks later, a different version of the same song came out with a different MC. It was an earlier cut, one that was leaked from the studio, and it was grimey. It was easy to see why it was shelved. Dude spent his whole time talking about how much he wanted to do the singers, which was kind of on-topic, but it was a bit much.

I only mention that too-long story because my favorite part of this song explicitly addresses the tension that comes along with these types of videos. You see a lot of Furtado and Residente dancing and flirting, and then you hit the bridge at the end of the song:

“Te vo’ a sacar a pasear (¡Wey!)”

You wanna take a walk? Cool.

“En una nave espacial (¡Wey!)”

In a space ship? Hm, aight. Kinda weird, but let’s roll.

“Cosmodrogado yo quiero surfiar (¡Wey!)”

Okay, so there’s a space-drug thing he just made up, but surfing is cool. This is getting weirder though.

“Por tu órgano genital (¡¿Qué?!)”

¡¿Que?! Even I know, judging from the wreckage of my Spanish knowledge, that you don’t need to be talking about any part of a lady’s ladyparts!

But this part is my favorite because Furtado’s response, and the reaction in the video, are so perfect. “Bro, you crossed a line and you’re about to kill a fun thing.”

It also gets at another fun part of these videos, which is that if they’re big enough, if they turn into real deal anthems, then the singers become audience stand-ins. There’s a reason why TLC’s “No Scrubs” blew up so huge, and why Sporty Thievez felt like they had to answer back with “No Pigeons.” Especially in songs with a lot of call and response, the singer is her and the rapper is me. I love that stuff. Something like Missy’s “One Minute Man” with Luda and Trina got a lot of play because it has both that raw girl power flavor and whatever the guy equivalent of girl power is. It sets up this competition, kinda like Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” between the sexes, that’s a lot of fun. Everybody gets a chance to be brash and dirty. Everybody’s got something they can scream at the boils and ghouls across the room.

In thinking about it, Trina’s done more than a few of these songs. “Five Star Chick”, the wild scandalous and NSFW “Look Back At Me” with Killer Mike, and of course the unforgettable “Nann Nigga” with Trick Daddy Dollars. Do you know how many girls I heard yelling “You don’t know nann hoe!” on the bus to and from school? It’s not just songs that are boys vs girls, tee hee. There’s a competitive aspect that’s gotta be there. That’s what makes it fun.

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Furtadofest: Promiscuous, 2006

June 26th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

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.”

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Furtadofest: Maneater, 2006

June 21st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

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.

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