Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado
Nelly Furtado. Photo by Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images

Birth and Early Life

Nelly Kim Furtado was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on December 2, 1978. Her parents were both from the Portuguese island chain the Azores and emigrated to Canada in the 1960s. Named for the Olympic champion Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim, Nelly Furtado first began singing in public performances at age 4. Her Portuguese background has always been part of her musical background.

After graduating from high school in 1996, Nelly Furtado moved to Toronto to pursue her career in music. She formed a trip hop duo named Nelstar. In 1997 she attracted the attention of Gerald Eaton and Brian West of the group The Philosopher Kings. Material that she recorded with the pair helped lead to a DreamWorks Records recording contract in 1999. 

Whoa, Nelly!

Gerald Eaton and Brian West co-produced Nelly Furtado's debut album Whoa, Nelly! under the names Track and Field. The idiosyncratic album received acclaim as a breath of fresh air. It also found commercial success. The singles "I'm Like a Bird" and "Turn Off the Light" became top 10 pop hit singles around the world. Nelly Furtado earned four Grammy Award nominations including for Song of the Year and Best New Artist. She won the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy for "I'm Like a Bird."

Folklore

Nelly Furtado's second studio album Folklore was released in 2003.

She incorporated more elements of world music and celebrated her Portuguese heritage. The single "Forca" ("strength" in Portuguese) was the official anthem of the 2004 European Football Championships. Commercial success for the album was muted, and it only reached #38 on the US album chart. It earned a gold certification for sales.

Loose

Nelly Furtado named her third studio album Loose in honor of the spontaneous choices she made while putting the album together. It was primarily produced by Timbaland and incorporated elements of R&B and hip hop music. The result was a worldwide smash that went beyond the success of her first album. The singles "Promiscuous" and "Say It Right" were both platinum certified #1 hits in the US. "Maneater" was also a major worldwide success. Loose became Nelly Furtado's first #1 charting album and ultimately sold 10 million copies worldwide. She earned two more Grammy Award nominations for music from Loose.

Nelly Furtado's Top Pop Singles

  • "I'm Like a Bird" - 2000 - #9
  • "Turn Off the Light" - 2001 - #5
  • "Promiscuous" featuring Timbaland - 2006 - #1
  • "Say It Right" - 2006 - #1
  • "Give It To Me" with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake - 2007 - #1

Mi Plan

For her fourth studio album, Nelly Furtado first began writing songs in English and then in Portuguese. She didn't feel inspired and so at the suggestion of fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Cuba she began writing lyrics in Spanish. Mi Plan became Nelly Furtado's first Spanish language album. It was well received by critics and Mi Plan topped the US Latin Albums chart.

It included the #1 charting Latin Songs chart single "Manos al Aire." Nelly Furtado won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Album. She was the first Canadian artist to win a Latin Grammy.

The Spirit Indestructible

For her fifth studio album, Nelly Furtado incorporated elements of alternative and hip hop music. She worked extensively with R&B producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. The album was a relative commercial failure. None of its singles broke into the Billboard Hot 100. However, the first single "Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)" broke into the top 10 of the dance chart.