Top of the Pops: Loose

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September 11, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Sifting through my parent’s record collection, I stumbled upon a Taylor Dane album with absolutely no idea who she was, or why my Dad in particular owned one of her albums.  After I found out who she was and that for about a year she was a huge success, I realized that Taylor Dane is to my Dad as Nelly Furtado is to me.  Loose is the album that my kids will make fun of me for owning when they go through my CD collection and find it wedged between Ride the Lightning and The Wall.  They’ll say “Who the hell is Nelly Furtado and why do you have one of her records?”, just as I vexingly asked my Dad why he owned a Taylor Dane record.

Released eight years ago, Loose, Nelly Furtado’s breakthrough album is the best album that Furtado will ever record, as well as being one of the best pop albums of the decade.  Wanting to cross over from her indie-pop beginnings and into the realms of hip-hop, dance, and R&B, Furtado enlisted the help of Timbaland, who provides the album with a strong and concrete sense of cohesion and purpose.  That purpose, for the most part, is to lament the failed relationship between Furtado and her baby daddy.

Named after the spontaneous and slick musical direction Furtado chose to take with the album, Loose is pure dance-pop mastery.  At its best, on songs like “Promiscuous”, “Say It Right”, and “All Good Things (Come to an End)”, it seemed like Furtado presented her dreams to Timbaland, who then went and made those dreams a reality.  It’s an album that succeeds because of Timbaland, his direction, and production, almost as much as it does because of Furtado herself.

On “Maneater” and “Promiscuous” in particular, Nelly sounds like someone who is generally excited to pursue a more sexual and poppier sound, but also someone who is confident in themselves and their ability to come off as an old hand.  On a song like “Promiscuous” with its synth-heavy 80s hook, and call and response lyrics, it really sounds like two friends having fun with each other who just so happened to write a killer pop song.  Carrying on the trend of 80s infused 21st century pop is “Do It”, where Nelly harkens back to 1984 Madonna and brings the sexuality to the forefront.  But again, she does it as someone who’s genuinely excited to explore this facet of the genre, but confident with herself that she can pull it off.  With the more overt sensuality of Loose, it never feels forced or synthesized as others have so maligned.

When people talk about the sexual nature of Loose, not only are they greatly exaggerating it, but they’re also ignoring the other, much more sensitive and serene half of the album.  Four of the last six tracks are ballads, with three of them presumably about her failed relationship with the father of her daughter.  “Say It Right” and “All Good Things” along with “Promiscuous” make up the best three tracks on Loose, with “Say It Right” proving to be the most transcendent, and “All Good Things” featuring her best vocals on the album.

Forsaking a former love, and claiming that “You don’t mean nothing at all to me”, it’s in “Say It Right” that Nelly is at her most mature in fighting through the pain of a lost love, but laboring on anyway.  Heavily inspired by Annie Lennox and “Here Come the Rain Again”, it’s a song fraught with haunting nostalgia, and as with the rest of Loose, something we wouldn’t have expected from Furtado, much less with the masterful execution and ease that she exercises on what may very well be the best cut from the album.

Rounding out the album, and one of the best closing tracks of all time is “All Good Things (Come to an End)”.  Aptly named in honor of closing the book on the Loose era of her career and the realization that her relationship with a past lover has now ended.  It’s the perfect marriage of her old indie, more earthly sound, with her new poppier sound.  The opening acoustic guitar riff perfectly captures the wistful feelings of romantic remorse, that feeling of not wanting something to end, all the while knowing that it inevitably will.  “Flames to dust, lovers to friends, why do all good things come to an end?” she ponders.  There’s maturity and naivety embedded in the song, not often found in pop songs.  There’s a realization and despair that this love is ending, but there’s also a hint of naivety in trying to understand why it’s ending.  Sometimes you never get an answer.  “All Good Things” is the most impressive track on Loose and until Lorde usurps the title, it will always be my favorite “Real pop song”.

Loose was the first pop album that I openly and unabashedly loved, and for that I will always remember it and be fond of it no matter how much it confused my kids.  Unfortunately, it’s a sound that even eight years later Furtado has failed to replicate.  Maybe in “All Good Things” she wasn’t just saying goodbye to a lover, but also to Loose itself.  If that’s the case, after repeated listenings, the only thing left to ask after finishing Loose is “Why do all good things come to an end”?  If she can’t answer this for herself, I doubt we will ever get an answer.



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