Nelly Furtado is on a roll. The 22-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter has earned rave reviews for the trip-pop album “Whoa, Nelly!” (DreamWorks), a top-10 platinum hit in her home country. Now her debut disc is garnering a U.S. audience, thanks to first single “I’m Like A Bird.”
With five nominations, Furtado looks to be a favorite at Canada’s 2001 Juno Awards, where she is tied with Barenaked Ladies for the most nominations this year. Furtado received nods for top new artist, top songwriter, top single (for “I’m Like A Bird”), top pop album, and top producer (along with “Whoa, Nelly!” co-producers Gerald Eaton and Brian West of the Philosopher Kings).
Released Oct. 24, 2000, “Whoa, Nelly!” entered Billboard’s Heatseekers chart at No. 34 in the Nov. 11, 2000, issue, and at No. 76 on The Billboard 200 this week.
Furtado says of “Whoa, Nelly!,” “It’s about a young person coming out with a creative vision. I don’t have people telling me what songs to sing or how to dress. I decide what I want to do with my music, and I decide how I want to look. There’s a side of me that’s a mystic singer/songwriter and a side that’s an urban street kid. There’s always a battle between the two, and my music reflects that.”
Born to Portuguese parents, Furtado grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. She was discovered four years ago at a Toronto talent show by Chris Smith, who quickly signed on as her manager. Smith also manages producers Eaton and West (also known as Track and Field), who produced Furtado’s demo. That demo made the rounds of major labels, and Furtado was eventually signed to DreamWorks.
Furtado says her debut album is “a snapshot of the transition from being a teenager to adulthood. It captures a lot of confusion you experience during that time.”
“I’m Like Bird” is shaping up to be a multi-format hit, with the biggest support coming from adult top-40 radio. The track is No. 17 this issue on the Adult Top 40 chart.
Getting Furtado on the road prior to the album’s release was part of the effort to help make the most of her presentation and positive critical notices, according to DreamWorks marketing executive Steven Baker. The artist has also benefited from TV exposure. She has appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” The video for “I’m Like A Bird” is getting considerable exposure on MuchMusic in Canada and MTV2. On Feb. 21, Furtado is scheduled to perform on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.”
DreamWorks head of promotion Marc Ratner, who has been accompanying the singer on a tour of U.S. radio stations, says that even though she has a diverse audience, Furtado has a special connection with listeners of her own generation. “There’s a whole segment of the population that’s 18 to 22 years old and ready for music beyond teen pop,” Ratner says. “These young people are starting to make adult choices in their music. Nelly is such an articulate person for this generation. She’s from the first generation for whom hip-hop has always existed. She’s making a modern sound.”
Furtado will soon be on a U.S. concert tour, headlining clubs in March and April.