Turns out that I’m Like a Bird was something of a red herring…
Al Fox 2010
The arrival of any greatest hits compilation can often prompt the reaction: have they really been around that long? Exhibit A is Nelly Furtado, whose sprightliness may have diverted from the fact she’s clocked up a full decade in the industry, celebrated by this collection.
Assembled together, the fruits of the Canadian’s efforts provide quite the mixed mezze, albeit unified by an unmistakeable vocal. Ballads, check. Nods to hip hop, check. Hook-ups with British stadium-indie heroes, check. Spanish language offerings, check. But the stand-out material comes via her 2006 expedition dancefloor-wards, having introduced the world to untapped reserves of sass, and providing Furtado with her first UK number one in the form of Maneater.
Debut single I’m Like a Bird, in hindsight, was quite the red herring; for all its uplifting splendour, its Lilith Fair leanings wrongly established Furtado as the soundtrack to ABC1 housewives worldwide. Here, early releases Turn Off the Light and the stop-start beats of S*** On the Radio present a reminder that Furtado had established her RnB swagger long before she graced the mixing desk of Timbaland.
While, on the surface, such experiments may indicate inconsistency, it’s moreover the mark of a multi-faceted artist. In fact, The Best of Nelly Furtado barely scrapes the surface in this respect: the absence of numerous collaborations – for instance, her pert remix of Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On, or her Oakenfold teaming The Harder They Come – is unfortunate, as more inclusions would have served to underline Furtado’s versatility to the extent it deserves. And still, it’s difficult to detract from her achievements.
Greatest hits albums provide an opportunity to absorb the artist as a whole rather than on the strength of their last single. What The Best of Nelly Furtado shows us is that you’d be hard pushed to find a pop artist as capable of switching genres, particularly at such perilous hairpin angles or with such conviction. By the time she gets round to a second best of, it’s unlikely there’ll be a solitary genre left unconquered.