Here’s the deal with Nelly Furtado‘s new album. It’s thoroughly irresistible yet in parts, strangely inaccessible. But it is this interesting push and pull dynamic that keeps you coming back for more of The Spirit Indestructible.
This opus is the Canadian singer/songwriter’s first English-language album since 2006’s Loose.
The game plan wasn’t to replicate the mainstream sounds of her last effort, but rather have The Spirit Indestructible be a reflection of all the best flavours fans savoured from Furtado’s previous studio albums.
The raw juxtaposition of hip hop beats and pop melodies purveyed in the her debut Whoa, Nelly!, the sentimental lyricism of Folklore, and the sense of creative liberation she took with Loose – they’re all embedded in the DNA of The Spirit Indestructible.
It is positively one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard this year – bringing to the table real personality, depth and variety.
Much like all the best albums, The Spirit Indestructible grows on you. Some songs you’ll gravitate to in the first two plays, others will emerge from the background in subsequent listens.
However, the one resounding concern some fans have expressed with this album is the distinct lack of radio-friendly singles. To date, Furtado has despatched three solid numbers – all I would endorse to be the right choice – but none have stuck with the mainstream media.
‘Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)’ descended like a desert storm, announcing Furtado’s comeback with heavy percolating beats and slick hip hop swag. It was beyond what radio could handle.
The ominous wall of sound, staccatoed percussion and drum ‘n’ bass breakdown was well ahead of material currently on high rotation in the pop and urban charts.
Lyrically, the 33-year old artist wrote ‘Big Hoops’ as a homage to her 14-year old self and her budding passion for hip hop music at the time. There are lines recalling her putting on her big hoop earrings, going out dancing with her mates, and expressing herself through the beats.
“Tonight it’s the jam, I’ll be there ’til dawn. I’m going down, I got my big hoops on. Pant legs so wide, I got my backpack on. I’m gonna hear my favourite song.”
You gotta admire the innocence and childlike storytelling quality to the lyrics (and Furtado’s delivery), and how it sets ‘Big Hoops’ apart from all the other dance/club songs out at the moment.
“I don’t wanna talk about sex, wanna express myse-eh-elf tonight!”
Elsewhere, the project’s second single ‘Spirit Indestructible’ is written from a worldly woman’s perspective on life and the human spirit’s ability to overcome adversity.
This, to me, was always clearly the one universal anthem on the album that stood the best chance for global success. Except, there were a few self-sabotaging quirks that make ‘Spirit Indestructible’ just that bit inaccessible.
The breakbeat section with her sliced vocals oddly chanting the vowels (of all things), renders the track a little disjointed – even though that section is a particular highlight of mine for “interpretative dance” purposes. Then on top of that, some would note the strong – borderline repulsively – nasal tone of Furtado’s voice was too much to take in. There is no getting around that one, unfortunately.
Travelling further down in the tracklist – the guitar-driven ‘Bucket List’ is another instant favourite with its sentimental reflection of all the things Furtado wants to check off in life – not forgetting being with the one she has always loved.
“Climb a mountain, swim the seven seas. Get your body to look like Hercules. Jump out an airplane with a parachute… I’d trade in my wildest dreams for you forever.”
On the whole, The Spirit Indestructible is a multi-faceted body of work with its own distinct character and stories to share. You’re not going to get everything in the first listen.
Furtado’s magpie-like approach to collecting musical influences from different genres, eras and cultures, is what keeps her increasingly vital in an industry so homogenised in its desperate bucking to Top 40 trends.
Regardless of your level of participation in the listening party – the complex rhythms on the aforementioned singles, as well as ‘Parking Lot’, and the nocturnal belly dancing fare ‘Waiting for The Night’ should grab you hips first, before settling down for the more introspective ballads.
Nelly Furtado‘s The Spirit Indestructible debuted at an unremarkable #79 on the US Billboard 200 this week, selling less than 6,000 opening week copies. Talk about a gut-ripping distance from her last English-language album Loose, which entered at #1 with 219,000 first-week sales.
Over in the UK, TSI becomes Furtado’s first album to miss the Top 40 – entering at a tepid #46 with 2,800 copies sold. There’s no sign of it in the Australian ARIA or New Zealand charts to date.