Nelly Kim Furtado (born December 2,
1978) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. She
has sold 20 million albums worldwide. Furtado grew up in Victoria, Canada,
and currently resides in Toronto.
Furtado came to fame in 2000 with the release of her debut album Whoa,
Nelly!, which featured her breakthrough Grammy Award-winning single "I'm
Like a Bird". After becoming a mother and releasing the less commercially
successful Folklore (2003), she returned to prominence in 2006 with the
release of Loose and its hit singles "Promiscuous", "Maneater," "All Good
Things (Come to an End)" and "Say It Right."
Furtado was born on December 2, 1978, in the Canadian city of Victoria,
British Columbia to Portuguese parents, Maria Manuela and António José
Furtado, both immigrants from Portugal's Azores archipelago. Her parents
were born on São Miguel Island and immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s.
Furtado has a strong connection with Portuguese culture and also holds
Portuguese citizenship. At age four she began performing and singing in
Portuguese. She was named after Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim. Raised in a
Roman Catholic home, Furtado first sang at the age of four when she
performed a duet with her mother at a church on Portugal Day. Although
remaining unclear about her religious beliefs, she still affirms a belief
in God, the Ten Commandments, and in avoiding the Seven Sins. She began
playing instruments at the age of nine, learning the trombone, ukulele,
and, in later years, the guitar and keyboards. At the age of 12, she began
writing songs, and as a teenager, she performed in a Portuguese marching
band. Furtado has acknowledged her family as the source of her strong work
ethic; she spent eight summers working as a chambermaid with her mother,
who was a housekeeper in Victoria. She has stated that coming from a
working class background has shaped her identity in a positive way.
The first musicians Furtado interacted with were underground rappers and
DJs. During a visit to Toronto the summer after eleventh grade, Furtado
met Tallis Newkirk, member of the hip hop group Plains of Fascination. She
contributed vocals to their 1996 album, Join the Ranks, on the track
"Waitin' 4 the Streets". After graduating from Mount Douglas Secondary
School in 1996, she moved to Toronto. The following year, she formed
Nelstar, a trip hop duo with Newkirk. Ultimately, Furtado felt the
trip-hop style of the duo was "too segregated" and believed it did not
represent her personality or allow her to showcase her vocal ability. She
left the group and planned to move back home.
She performed at the 1997 Honey Jam Showcase an "all-female urban" talent
show. Her performance attracted the attention of The Philosopher Kings
singer Gerald Eaton (aka Jarvis Church), who then approached her to write
with him. He and fellow Kings member Brian West helped Furtado produce a
demo. She left Toronto, but returned again to record more material with
Eaton and West. The material recorded during these sessions led to her
1999 record deal with DreamWorks Records, where she was signed by A&R
executive Beth Halper, partner of Garbage drummer and record producer
Butch Vig. Furtado's first single, "Party's Just Begun (Again)", was
released that year on the Brokedown Palace: Music from the Original Motion
Furtado continued the collaboration with Eaton and West, who co-produced
her debut album, Whoa, Nelly!, which was released in October 2000.
Following the release of the album, Furtado headlined the "Burn in the
Spotlight Tour" and also appeared on Moby's Area:One tour.
The album was an international success, supported by three international
singles: "I'm like a Bird", "Turn off the Light", and "...On the Radio
(Remember the Days)". It received four Grammy Award nominations in 2002,
and her debut single won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Furtado's
work was also critically acclaimed for her innovative mixture of various
genres and sounds. Slant Magazine called the album "a delightful and
refreshing antidote to the army of 'pop princesses' and rap-metal bands
that had taken over popular music at the turn of the millennium".
The sound of the album was strongly influenced by musicians who had
traversed cultures and "the challenge of making heartfelt, emotional music
that's upbeat and hopeful". According to Maclean's magazine, Whoa, Nelly!
had sold five million copies worldwide as of August 2006.
Portions of the song "Scared of You" are in Portuguese, while "Onde Estás"
is entirely in Portuguese, reflecting Furtado's Portuguese heritage. The
International Release of "Whoa Nelly" featured fellow Canadian Esthero on
the song titled "I Feel You".
In 2002, Furtado appeared on the song "Thin Line", on underground hip hop
group Jurassic 5's album Power in Numbers. The same year, Furtado provided
her vocals to the Paul Oakenfold's song "The Harder They Come" from the
album "Bunkka" and also made the song "These words are my own". She also
had a collaboration with Colombian artist Juanes, in the song "Fotografia"
where she showed her diversity of yet another language.
Furtado's second album, Folklore, was released in November 2003. The final
track on the album, "Childhood Dreams", was dedicated to her daughter,
Nevis. The album includes the single "Força" (meaning "strength" or "carry
on" in Portuguese), the official anthem of the 2004 European Football
Championship. Furtado performed this song in Lisbon at the championship's
final, in which the Portugal national team played. The lead single is
"Powerless (Say What You Want)" and the second single is the ballad "Try".
The album was not as successful as her debut, partly due to the album's
less "poppy" sound, as well as underpromotion from her label DreamWorks
Records. DreamWorks had just been sold to Universal Music Group. In 2005,
DreamWorks Records, along with many of its artists including Furtado, was
absorbed into Geffen Records.
"Powerless (Say What You Want)" was later remixed, featuring Colombian
rocker Juanes, who had previously worked with Furtado on his track
"Fotografía" ("Photograph"). The two would collaborate again on "Te
Busqué" ("I searched for you"), a single from Furtado's 2006 album Loose.
Furtado's third album, Loose, was released in June 2006. She named it
after the spontaneous, creative decisions she made while creating the
album. Some have labeled her a "sellout" for seemingly abandoning her folk
and rock roots in favour of hip hop and R&B, while others have accused her
of attempting to "sex up" her music and appearance to sell more records.
In this album, primarily produced by Timbaland, Furtado experiments with
sounds from R&B, hip hop, and 1980s music. Furtado herself describes the
album's sound as punk-hop, described as "modern, poppy, spooky" and as
having "a mysterious, after-midnight vibe... extremely visceral". She
attributed the youthful sound of the album to the presence of her
two-year-old daughter. The album received generally positive reviews from
critics, with some citing the "revitalising" effect of Timbaland on
Furtado's music, and others calling it "slick, smart and surprising".
Loose has become the most successful album of Furtado's career so far, as
it reached number one not only in Canada and the United States, but also
several countries worldwide. The album produced her first number-one hit
in the United States, "Promiscuous", as well as her first number-one hit
in the United Kingdom, "Maneater". The single "Say It Right" eventually
became Furtado's most successful song worldwide, due to its huge success
in Europe and in the United States, where it became her second number-one
hit. "All Good Things (Come to an End)" became her most successful song in
Europe, topping single charts in numerous countries there.
On February 16, 2007, Furtado embarked on the "Get Loose Tour". She
returned in March 2007 to her hometown of Victoria to perform a concert at
the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre. In honour of her visit, local leaders
officially proclaimed March 21, 2007, the first day of spring, as Nelly
Furtado Day. After the tour, she released her first live DVD/CD named
Loose the Concert. On April 1, 2007, Furtado was a performer at and host
of the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She won all five
awards for which she was nominated, including Album of the Year and Single
of the Year. She also appeared on stage at the Concert for Diana at
Wembley Stadium in London on July 1, 2007, where she performed "Say It
Right", "Maneater", and "I'm like a Bird".
In 2007, Furtado and Justin Timberlake were featured on Timbaland's single
"Give It to Me", which became her third number-one single in the U.S. and
second in the UK. In late 2008, Furtado collaborated with James Morrison
on a song called "Broken Strings" for his album "Songs for You, Truths for
Me". The single was released on December 8 and peaked at #2 on the UK
Singles Chart in early January.
In 2007, Furtado leaked plans to Flare regarding a song she was set to
duet for Kylie Minogue's return. However, the song was not featured on her
album X but Minogue says the aforementioned song "is still outstanding"
and has plans to pursue it. She said "I am looking forward to getting in
the studio and doing it because I know Nelly and I would have a great time
On December 31, 2008, El Diario La Prensa posted an article that Furtado
is planning on recording songs in English and Spanish for her upcoming
album and that it is "expected to launch on September 15, 2009".
Furtado made a guest appearance on Flo Rida's new album, R.O.O.T.S., which
was released on March 31, 2009. The track is titled "Jump". Furtado has
also made a guest appearance on Divine Brown's Love Chronicles, co-writing
and singing on the background of the song "Sunglasses".
In early March, a song called "Gotta Know" leaked onto the Internet and
was said to be Nelly's. As response, on March 4, 2009, Furtado stated on
her MySpace blog that the song is not hers and that she is recording two
new albums: one in Spanish, and the other in Portuguese. Nelly Furtado
announced via the Perez Hilton blog, that the Spanish album would be
titled Mi Plan and the first single titled "Manos Al Aire" (in English,
meaning "Hands in the Air"). The album will have twelve new songs, all in
Spanish, as stated by Nelly in a message left in her official website. The
second single "Más" was released on July 21, as it was announced on
Nelly's official myspace. The third single "Mi Plan" (ft. Alex Cuba) was
released on iTunes on August 11, 2009 and "Bajo Otra Luz" (ft. Julieta
Venegas and La Mala Rodriguez) is the fourth and final countdown single
and it was released on September 1, 2009. She also invited the Mexican
star Alejandro Fernández to sing a duet song named "Sueños" ("Dreams").
The videoclip for "Manos Al Aire" premiered on July 29 on It's On with
She made a guest appearance on Canadian singer k-os's new album Yes!,
collaborating alongside Saukrates on the song "I Wish I Knew Natalie
Portman," released in early July 2009. Nelly Furtado will make a guest
appearance on Tiësto's single "Who Wants to Be Alone" on his new album
Kaleidoscope which was released on October 6, 2009.
Nelly was also invited to record "Manos Al Aire" in Simlish for the new
Sims 3 expansion, World Adventures.
Nelly is set for her Latin tour, "Mi Plan".
In a recent video, Nelly said "I’m also writing an English album," she
says "Timbaland and I hooked up in the studio about three months ago and
we wrote 20 songs in two days. I was really inspired. I think maybe some
of that material will be on my English album." On December 15, 2009, Nelly
announced on her Twitter page that her new English album would be released
May 25, 2010. On February 8, 2010 she also confirmed on Twitter that her
English album will be called "Lifestyle". She recently worked with
Timbaland on the song "Morning After Dark", which is featured on his new
album Timbaland Presents Shock Value 2 as the lead single and was released
internationally in late 2009.
The singer said her album will be pop-influenced similar to Whoa, Nelly!
but with a hint of funk. She also teamed up with writer and producer Ryan
Tedder on the album. The lead single is targeted for a summer release.
She has formed her own record label, Nelstar, in conjunction with Canadian
independent label group Last Gang Labels. The first act signed to Nelstar
is Fritz Helder & the Phantoms. Furtado released her first Spanish single
Manos Al Aire on the new label.
During her pre-teenage to teenage years, Furtado embraced many musical
genres, listening heavily to mainstream R&B, hip hop, alternative hip hop,
drum and bass, trip hop, world music (including Portuguese fado, Brazilian
bossa nova and Indian music), and a variety of others. Her influences have
included Beyoncé, Jeff Buckley, Portishead, Janet Jackson, Oasis, Caetano
Veloso, Esthero, Amalia Rodrigues, Björk, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,
Cornershop, TLC, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Digable Planets, De La
Soul,Laura Pausini, Radiohead, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Shakira, The
Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve, U2, Enya and Beck.
Furtado's music has also been influenced by her current residence,
Toronto, which she calls "the most multicultural city in the entire world"
and a place where she "can be any culture". Regarding Toronto's cultural
diversity, she has said that she did not have to wait for the Internet
revolution to learn about world music; she began listening to it at the
age of five and continues to discover new genres.
“ I always know there's a new genre left to discover. For me, it's like a
metaphor for life. I feel like if you can get down with any style of
music, you can get down with any style of person. So it's fun for me—I get
to expose my fans to different vibes and they, in turn, open their minds
too. I'm always undergoing mind-opening.
On September 20, 2003, in Toronto, Furtado gave birth to a daughter,
Nevis, whose father is Jasper Gahunia [AKA DJ Lil' Jazz, Canadian DMC
Champion 1998]. Furtado and Gahunia, who had been good friends for several
years, remained together for four years until their breakup in 2005.
Furtado told Blender magazine that they continue to be good friends and
jointly share responsibility of raising Nevis.
In June 2006, in an interview with Genre magazine, when asked if she had
"ever felt an attraction to women", Furtado replied "Absolutely. Women are
beautiful and sexy". Some considered this an announcement of bisexuality,
but in August 2006, she stated that she was "straight, but very
open-minded". In November 2006, Furtado revealed that she once turned down
US$ 500,000 to pose fully-nude in Playboy.
In July 2007 it was reported that Furtado was engaged to Cuban sound
engineer Demacio "Demo" Castellón. He worked with her on Loose. On October
17, 2008, it was reported in People Magazine that Furtado and Castellón
have been married since July 19, 2008. Furtado confirmed to Entertainment
Tonight that she married Castellón on July 19, 2008.