Nelly Furtado’s new album, “The Ride,” takes the talent shown in hit songs such as “I’m Like a Bird” and “Promiscuous” and adds a new level of experience to Furtado’s dynamic arsenal of work. “The Ride” combines the best of Furtado’s past five albums with her signature contemporary twist, in which she adheres to the era that the album drops without compromising the integrity of her individual work.
While her past albums have featured her as either a pop singer or folk musician, it appears that 2017 is the year that Furtado has finally found a way to mix the two, dropping a hybrid of 2000’s “Whoa, Nelly!” and 2007’s “Loose.”
The album doesn’t succumb to the allure of repetition or people-pleasing, which would’ve been easy enough to do. Instead, Furtado has emerged as a new incarnation of herself in a manner that doesn’t force a genre upon listeners. She’s at once upbeat and resigned, a combination that allows for true variety throughout the album.
Even the cover art of “The Ride” is different from past albums, with a simple font placed below a picture of Furtado holding flowers. In other artists, this visual artwork variety might not seem like a notable difference, but Furtado’s covers are usually near-identical incarnations of each other, reminiscent of most early 2000’s pop hits. This shift is emblematic of a new era for Nelly Furtado.
The album begins with “Cold Hard Truth,” which serves as a solid introduction to the new phase in Furtado’s career. The first line of the song is, “It’s been a long time coming, coming, coming,” and features chants of “But the cold hard truth is I can make it without you” and “We were meant to be alone,” suggesting a departure from her usual, more light-hearted and unaffiliated songs. The album oscillates between more high-spirited, classic Furtado tracks and songs like these.
“Tap Dancing” is a pleasant surprise, as it deviates from the rest of the album. It’s an exploration of sounds, as the lyrics become secondary, with simple lines like “Tap dancing over all the marbles on the floor / Forgetting that I might be something more than a smile” and “I really wanna take off these shoes / But I’m afraid of the truth / That I’m not enough for you.” The track manages to avoid a contrived feel found in songs of similar subject matter and instead revels in its own aesthetic.
“Live” is another highlight, both in terms of the addictive music and thoughtful lyrics. Lines like, “I love just like an animal, like digging harder as you pull,” mixed with, “I feel so high and I can’t get back down on the ground / I feel so alive when I go after what I want,” create the kind of hit that becomes a summer anthem. Furtado becomes a more mellow Katy Perry in the song, which works well with the flow of the rest of the album.
“Paris Sun” stands as the most early 2000’s song on the album and vibes in a way that takes away from the album, with easily forgettable lyrics and a kind of offbeat tune that doesn’t make sense. The thematic content of the song also takes away from the overall message of the album, as it falls into the quirky “if only” trope that paints Furtado as a “manic pixie dream girl.”
While not every track on the album is a hit, “Sticks and Stones” is the best of the best. At once retro and pop, the song manages to carve out a unique place in songs that grapple with the complexities of interpersonal relationships. The climax of the song, bashing symbols followed by whispering, is a juxtaposition and lead-up new to Furtado, but one that she instantly manages to own.
Furtado is back on the music scene and headed in a direction new to her and the world that defies forced genre-conforming albums, with a refreshing and ultimately strong track list. “The Ride” lives up to all the expectations that come with Furtado’s work, including the ability to surprise listeners, even longtime fans.