Nelly Furtado has a perspective that’s rare for the music industry: she’s been a young pop star who has emerged from the belly of the beast, not just unscathed but in full control of her artistic and business output.
“We don’t realize the limitations we’ve put on women in the music business. I signed a record deal at age 20,” she told Jezebel, “So I’ve been through every kind of form of strange self-reflection and strange dissonance of seeing your face photoshopped on a poster or just having to fight for what you want. Women in this business do have to fight a little harder for what we want, and are constantly reinventing themselves through assertiveness, really. I feel like a wise old woman, because I’ve been doing this now for almost two decades. I feel like I’ve seen it all. I’m lucky that now I get to go, How can I make this really fun for me now?”
Known for songs like “I’m Like a Bird” and “Promiscuous,” in 2009 Furtado started her own record label, Nelstar Entertainment, but it hasn’t been until her latest album, The Ride (out today), that she felt she assumed full control over her own career. Five years since The Spirit Indestructible, she has created a lovely, wide-open record that mirrors the space she seemed to gain by expanding her artistic outlook and cutting out the middlemen. Recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton, it’s full of nourishing, hopeful, sweet sentiments on minimalist, efficient pop songs. Especially in songs like “Phoenix” and “Live,” you can hear the looseness of it all, like a burden unmoored.
In January, Furtado came to the Jezebel offices to discuss her flourishing artistry, which not only resulted in collaborations with musicians like Dev Hynes and St. Vincent but had her creating soundscapes for an installation by the artist Sheinina Lolita Raj and doing her own song installation at MOMA’s PS 1. (After our visit, she also wrote a wonderful op-ed for Jezebel.)