'Pipe Dreams' And The Long-Awaited Return of Nelly Furtado (To Her Former Self)?

When Nelly Furtado burst upon the scene in 2000 with her effervescent debut effort Whoa Nelly, the pop world was still very much in the throes of boy band mania, with the likes of Will Smith, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez dominating the pop charts.

Compared to such artists, Furtado was a breath of fresh air, mixing acoustic folk elements with rapid-fire vocals that mixed jazz, rap and, scat influences. As a songwriter, Nelly fused mature introspection with youthful exuberance to create a sound that had critics and pop fans gushing in equal measures, which is no small feat.

Furtado, Canadian by way of Portugal, fought past early comparisons to fellow Canuck Alanis Morissette to establish herself as the logical progression of the Lilith Fair aesthetic; brash, sexy, and, most of all, smart.

Best of all, her "I'm Like A Bird" was one of the 31 songs British-author Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity", "About A Boy") lavished heaps of colorful praise upon in his 2002 collection of musical essays "Songbook" ("31 Songs" in the UK).

Hornby, of course, is beloved for the complexity he brought to the characters in his second novel "High Fidelity" years before Jack Black and John Cusack would bring two of them to life. Even more beloved than his characters, however, is his love of great music, both popular and stunningly obscure.

So the fact that he would be so moved by Furtado's song to include it among others by Aimee Mann, Paul Westerberg, Teenage Fanclub, Ani DiFranco, Springsteen, Dylan, was, to my eyes, the ultimate compliment and a sign that a special talent had truly arrived.

The release of her second album, Folklore, came in 2003 after the sale of her label, Dreamworks Records, to Universal Music Group. The change of regimes was a rocky one and Furtado's album was lost in the shuffle.

In hindsight, her "sudden" change in musical direction on third album Loose was hinted at quite openly in "Powerless (Say What You Want)", a song built upon a sample from Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Gals". Even so, the Nelly Furtado who sang "Promiscuous" and "Maneater" seemed to have all but abandoned her artistic leanings to go full J. Lo.

You can't say it didn't pay off, though, as Loose would go on to sell 12,000,000 copies around the world.

A second track from The Ride that debuted during 2016 NY Fashion Week

Top that, Taylor Swift.

Of course, since that success jettisoned Furtado into the rare air of the pop elite, her complete and sudden absence from the U.S. market for SIX YEARS no doubt played a role in allowing artists like Swift and Gwen Stefani (herself, an inspiration for Furtado's change in direction for Loose) to fill the void Furtado would have otherwise dominated.

The follow-up, The Spirit Indestructible, suffered from a questionable reliance upon R&B producer Rodney Jerkins (Pussycat Dolls, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston) to co-write the album and stalled at #79.

So, some could argue that Furtado's upcoming album The Ride (due March 2017), may be the follow-up to Loose that many of her fans didn't know they were waiting for, but this writer will go one step further based on the above sneak-peek of "Pipe Dreams" and say that The Ride might actually be the proper follow-up to Whoa Nelly! that fans have been waiting for since 2002!

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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