Canadian artist Nelly Furtado quickly boosted her international music career with her distinctive musical flair, shown in her debut album Whoa, Nelly (2001), as well as in the sophomore recording Folklore (2003). The young recipient of a Grammy Award and three Juno Awards (for her first album) rocked the music industry with her hit singles “I’m Like a Bird” (2001), “Turn Off the Light” (2001), “Powerless (Say What You Want)” (2003) and “Força” (2004). Preceding the release of her third album, Loose, in June 2006, the singles “No Hay Igual,” “Promiscuous” (featuring Timbaland) and “Maneater” were already launched. Furtado, who has collaborated with various artists from various genres, got her heavy musical influence from Jeff Buckley, Caetano Veloso, Amalia Rodrigues, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Cornershop, Mariah Carey, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Digable Planets, De La Soul, Radiohead, Oasis, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve, U2, and Beck.
The 58th woman on the 2002 Stuff magazine’s “102 Sexiest Women in The World” list, Furtado will plunge deeper into the realm of acting by starring as Kari in the Jason Lehel-helmed Nobody’s Hero (2006). Previously, she made a couple of small screen appearances as herself.
Childhood and Family:
On December 2, 1978, Nelly Kim Furtado was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. A daughter of Portuguese immigrants Antonio Jose Furtado and Maria Manuela Furtado, Nelly was named after Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim.
Having a genetic knack for music, Nelly first sang a duet with her mother at church on Portugal Day at age 4. She then learned to play trombone and ukulele at age 9, tried keyboards at age 11, and began composing by age 13. Nelly is also uniquely multilingual, as she can speak English, Portuguese, Spanish and Hindi.
Graduated from Mount Douglas Secondary School in Victoria, B.C., she later moved further on in music. 5’ 1-inch tall Nelly is the mother of daughter Nevis (born on September 20, 2003), from her relationship with DJ Lil Jaz/Jasper Gahunia (musician).
In high school , Nelly Furtado was acquainted with underground rappers and DJs, and in the eleventh grade, she met Tallis Newkirk, a member of the hip-hop group Plains of Fascination, who asked her to appear in the group’s track “Waitin’ 4 the Streets” (1996). After finishing her high school education, Furtado formed the trip hop duo Nelstar, with Newkirk, but soon she left the group because the trip-hop style of the duo did not fit her. Making a stage performance at a talent show in a Toronto nightclub, she impressed The Philosopher Kings’ members Gerald Eaton and Brian West, who insisted on helping her make a demo. Finally, in 1999, the demo brought Furtado a record deal with DreamWorks Records, as well as promoted her track “Party’s Just Begun,” a soundtrack for the motion picture Brokedown Palace (1999).
On October 24, 2000, Furtado’s debut album, Whoa, Nelly, was released. Co-produced by Eaton and West, the album landed a second place spot on the UK and Canada charts, and later grabbed critics’ attention when it receiving four Grammy nominations in 2002. Its first single, “I’m Like a Bird,” quickly climbed up the charts, becoming a top ten hit in the US and a leader on Australian charts. The single collected a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal and a Juno for Best Single. The successful recording also set off the US Top 5 “Turn Off the Light” and “...On The Radio (Remember The Days).” Thanks to her innovative mixture of various genres and sounds in the album, Furtado was handed three other Junos, one for Best New Solo Artist, one for Best Songwriter, and one for Best Producer (shared with Gerald Eaton and Brian West). She also collaborated with other artists in her remixed singles “I’m Like a Bird” (featured on Esthero’s 2001 single “I Feel You”) and “Turn Off the Light Remix” (featuring Ms. Jade and Timbaland).
Following her lucrative debut album, Furtado continued collaborating with other artists. Performing at the Burn’s Spotlight tour and Moby’s Area: One tour, the newcomer also shared the stage with Dave Stewart singing “Instant Karma” at the concert of Come Together: A Night For John Lennon’s Words And Music. Additionally, after joining Artists Against AIDS and contributing her vocals on the track “What’s Going On,” she was featured in Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” (Remix), which was a soundtrack for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001).
Meanwhile, Furtado’s meteoric ascent to fame inevitably led her to the acting world, where she appeared as herself in two episodes of the Portuguese TV show “HermanSIC” (2000, 2001) and in an installment of the teen drama “Roswell” (2001). The musical guest in a 2001 episode of “Saturday Night Live,” Furtado provided the song “Trynna Find a Way” for the teen movie The Princess Diaries (2001).
The next year, she was a featured singer in Ms. Jade’s “Ching Ching,” Jarvis Church’s “Fine Line,” Swollen Members’ “Breathe,” The Roots’ “Sacrifice,” and Jurassic 5’s “Thin Line.” She also worked on Tallisman’s “Trés Fly” and Paul Oakenfold’s “The Harder They Come,” before composing Juanes’ “Fotografía,” which was made into a soundtrack for the Spanish soap opera “Velo de novia” (2003).
Furtado released her sophomore album, Folklore, on November 25, 2003. The second album debuted at No. 11 in the UK and No. 4 in Germany. Its single, “Powerless (Say What You Want),” became the Top 13 track in the US, whereas “Try” reached the 15th spot on the UK charts. The recording also included an English-Spanish song titled “Força” (released in 2004), the official song for the 2004 Euro Cup soccer championship. It stayed in the 40th position in the UK and the number 9 spot on the German charts. The latter track was then remixed, featuring Spanish singer Juanes and a sampling of Furtado’s Spanish version of “Powerless (Say What You Want).”
While working with her album, she provided vocals for the 2004 AOL Sessions. She also teamed up with Michael Bublé to sing “Quando, Quando, Quando” for his 2005 album, It’s Time, before appearing on Jelleestone’s “Friendamine” (2005).
Recently, the third album of the gifted artist, Loose, was released on June 20, 2006. Previously, three lead singles had already been released: the Spanish reggaeton-influenced “No Hay Igual,” the hip-hop styled “Promiscuous” (featuring Timbaland) and the US No.1 hit “Maneater” (released May 2006). Primarily produced by Timbaland, the recording was more influenced by R&B and hip-hop. Yet, the album lacked promotion as DreamWorks was shut down and many of its artists, including Furtado, were absorbed into Geffen Records.
Furtado will soon be seen in her feature acting debut with the role of Kari, an American Muslim, in the drama Nobody’s Hero (2006). In Jason Lehel’s movie, she will costar opposite David O’Hara, who plays a young US Soldier returning from the Iraq War.
- Grammy: Best Pop Vocal, Female, “I’m Like A Bird,” 2002
- Juno: Best Single, “I’m Like a Bird,” 2001
- Juno: Best New Solo Artist, 2001
- Juno: Best Producer, shared with Gerald Eaton and Brian West, 2001
- Juno: Best Songwriter, 2001