While Nelly Furtado might be best known for her Timbaland collaborations and 2006 album Loose, they were the exception rather than the rule to her sound, which has varied from album to album since she emerged back in 2000. With her last record, The Spirit Indestructible, she took a step back from the spotlight for something more raw. That album flopped hardcore, rather bizarrely, but the silver lining of that might be what allowed Nelly to completely break free from expectations and trends on her new album The Ride.
The Ride exudes freedom and authenticity from a singer already known to be freewheeling in her music. She hands the reigns of production to frequent St. Vincent collaborator John Congleton, who also co-writes on most of the album. It’s indie pop without being forced while still indisputably is a Nelly Furtado record as she balances the line between her folk roots and a melodic blend of R&B with a taste of hip-hop to not completely alienate those who may still linger from the last record.
Album opener Cold Hard Truth places the kick and hat up front with emphasized guitar tones giving just the right edge to reintroduce an older, wiser Nelly as she sings about breaking free to be alone and better off. Sticks and Stones acknowledges the hold that negative criticism can have over her, asking why it’s so common without being constructive as the song is carried as much by the synth riff as her breezy vocals. Paris Sun and Right Road both receive the stamp of indie pop approval, the latter channeling early Metric more than anything in her own catalogue with its assertive drums and razor-like guitar post-chorus. One of the finest moments on the record comes with the organ riding out the end of Pipe Dreams, a song that will inevitably go down as Nelly’s most underrated single.
The Ride plays like an album by an artist who isn’t trying to impress. There are no expectations to meet, no demands for hit singles and no boxes to fit into. As expected, this means it isn’t a one-listen-and-you’re-hooked album and there are no easy pop hits. Once that sinks in, what you have is an album that is confident, liberating, and refreshing. It’s an album for anyone willing to jump along for the ride.
1. Cold Hard Truth
3. Carnival Games
5. Paris Sun
6. Sticks and Stones
8. Pipe Dreams
10. Tap Dancing
11. Right Road