Judging from the septuagenarians celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, the Barbetta restaurant in New York City could use a hefty infusion of Viagra. Or maybe it just needs a few bars sung by a sprightly 21-year-old with the lung capacity of an Olympic swimmer and the confidence of a motivational speaker. "There's a shadow in the sky / And it looks like rain / Whoa-ho-ho," Nelly Furtado bellows at top volume at a neighboring table. "And the shit is gonna fly / Once again / Whoa-ho-ho." The elderly couple asks for the check.
Furtado is used to stirring things up when she sings. The first time the Canadian pop singer performed publicly, at an urban teenage talent showcase in Toronto, Gerald Eaton (of funk band Philosopher Kings) asked her to collaborate with him. In typical Nelly fashion, she blew him off. "I was very flippant back then," she says, shrugging. But Eaton eventually convinced her to make a demo. The music, combined with her fresh face (which could sell Botox to 14-year-olds), created such a buss that Furtado was asked to join the 1999 Lilith Fair tour, as well as appear in glossy spreads in fashion mags, before laying down a single track of her DreamWorks debut, Whoa, Nelly!
Eager to prove that she's more than just another Bijou Phillips style It Girl, Furtado takes on mainstream urban pop, alternative folk, R&B-soul, and Brazilian samba on Whoa, Nelly!, often sounding like Macy Gray, Gwen Stefani, and TLC's T-Boz rolled into one. But in person, Furtado displays the na´vetÚ of someone who has yet to experience the fickle nature of media hype. She will. Even Madonna's spinmeister couldn't prevent Furtado from being pegged as a sexy barely twentysomething with a visible belly button. She doesn't care. "Hopefully," she says with a hyena laugh, "I will."
- Heidi Sherman
63 of SPIN magazine
October 2000 'The 100 Sleaziest Moments In Rock'