Nelly Furtado's album cover for The Spirit Indestructible
Nelly Furtado has never been one to blend in with the current sounds of pop music. Sure, her last album Loose has become the known definition of who she is and sure it was a huge hit, produced by Timbaland who was the top dog in 2006, but she never fully fit in amongst the other starlets and divas of the time, before or since. Six years have passed and the sound of radio has long moved on. Just because the paths of mainstream pop and Nelly crossed once, it doesn’t mean they’ll cross again. The Spirit Indestructible keeps Nelly in the realm of pop but rather than incorporating electro-styled dance beats into her songs, she chooses to lean toward beats based out of the R&B side, bringing a surprisingly fresh sound.
The first taste of the record came earlier this year with Big Hoops (Bigger The Better), a polarizing song that didn’t win over the audiences that were anticipating Nelly’s return to the english-music landscape. Despite its lack of success, Big Hoops is a legitimate song that makes many references to hits from the 90s, though they sit buried in the delivery of the lyrics. “I said no diggity/no doubt/I thought I told you I was fly/You he and all of his friends/They got that hair like Hi-Five/I don’t wanna talk about sex/wanna express myself tonight.” It was followed up by the next single, the M.I.A.-sound-alike Parking Lot, which is, as Nelly describes, a “banger”. It’s the most club-ready track and between that and Big Hoops, they’re the most ‘out-there’ songs on the record. More representative to Nelly’s many musical styles than the album itself.
Several producers contributed their hands to the record but the best songs are directed under Rodney Jerkins (Darkchild). While his tracks are tight, they still have room to breathe, giving them life and a certain texture to them. They have a level of natural air to them while remaining solid tracks. The aforementioned Big Hoops and Parking Lot plus Spirit Indestructible, Bucket List and Waiting For The Night are among the Darkchild-produced tracks that work to Nelly’s strengths with full-spectrum beats that aren’t overpowering.
The most underwhelming tracks are those co-written and produced by Salaam Remi. Nelly sounds disinterested on Something while The Most Beautiful Thing sounds like a recording of an elementary school play with the vocals laying over the music but barely sounding in sync with each other. While the entire record has a refreshing quality of not sounding too polished and more natural, Rodney Jerkins was better able to capture that for the album. The last track on the regular edition of the record is the album’s strongest. Believers (Arab Spring) takes on an 80s CanPop persona a la Lisa Lougheed or the Parachute Club with its verses, produced by Rick Nowels, as they lead into the large chorus where Nelly asks “where are all the believers?”
For those looking for more from the project, on the deluxe version the song Be Ok puts Nelly as the secondary singer for the song which was written by Dylan Murray, whom she duets with. Dylan has a Michael Cera-like quality to his performance in the song that does sound out-of-place on the album but feels so innocent and natural that it’s hard to dismiss it.
It’s unfortunate that The Spirit Indestructible will not be heard by the masses that Loose was just because it doesn’t stick to the sounds of what people expected based on her last time around. Nelly’s music always stood apart from the rest with the many different influences that formed her albums. With this record, her pairing with Rodney Jerkins surpasses even that of her Timbaland collaborations to the point where this album’s biggest fault is the fact that it isn’t all Nelly+Darkchild.
1. Spirit Indestructible
2. Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)
3. High Life [featuring Ace Primo]
4. Parking Lot
5. Something [featuring Nas]
6. Bucket List
7. The Most Beautiful Thing [featuring Sara Tavares]
8. Waiting For The Night
12. Believers (Arab Spring)