It is 20 years ago this weekend that Nelly Furtado released her debut album Whoa, Nelly! and became one of the world’s most creative, quirky, interesting and unpredictable pop stars. The Portuguese-Canadian artist celebrates the anniversary with an expanded edition of the debut album. A Bit of Pop Music honors her by listing the best 20 singles of her career!
Scroll all the way down for a playlist with all 20 songs and some extras!
20. Night Is Young (2010)
We kick off the list with the single that lead into her first Best Of compilation album, ‘Night Is Young’. For Nelly’s standards, this was quite a generic and trend chasing bop, but still a bop nonetheless. As the title already gives away, it is a proper party anthem with a strong production and a chorus that deserved hit status.
19. Big Hoops (Bigger The Better) (2012)
When I say Nelly Furtado is an unpredictable pop star, her decision to launch ‘Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)’ as the lead single of her first English studio album since the massive success of Loose comes to mind. The track served as the first single of The Spirit Indestructible, which unfortunately did not live up to her previous successes. The bonkers anthem still goes all the way off and sure was a brave single choice.
18. Te Busque (feat. Juanes) (2006)
‘Te Busque’, a duet with Colombian pop star Juanes, was the gazillionth single of success album Loose and an early sign that Furtado might release an album in Spanish in the future (although she sticks with English in the verses). That insanely catchy hook in the chorus transcends language barriers anyway!
17. In God’s Hands (2006)
Nelly Furtado is one of those all round pop artists who just as easily had hits with uptempo tunes as quiet ballads. ‘In God’s Hands’ is one in the latter category and became a decent sized international hit, especially considering it was released as the 7th single of Loose in some countries. Furtado’s delivery of the heartfelt lyrics is endearing and the chorus has this radio friendly and stadium friendly singalong quality to it.
16. Cold Hard Truth (2017)
Nelly Furtado released her most recent album, The Ride, in 2017 and unfortunately this excellent pop record flew mostly under the radar. ‘Cold Hard Truth’ was released as one of the singles and this exciting electro pop banger thoroughly deserves a place in this list with its quirky production and cold hard beats.
15. Girlfriend In The City (2010)
I’ll admit including ‘Girlfriend In The City’ in this list could be seen as cheating, as it wasn’t officially released as a single, but it was the other previously unreleased song on her Best Of collection from 2010. Having said that, it is such an strong pop tune that just had to make the list. Furtado sings about being cheated on by her man who has a girl in the city and the agony in her voice tells the whole story. She belts for her life over a soulful pop production which serves catchy hook after catchy hook.
14. Waiting For The Night (2012)
The lack of success for Furtado’s The Spirit Indestructible album remains one of the most baffling pop injustices of the past ten years. Sure, ‘Big Hoops’ might not have been the most radio friendly single choice, but ‘Waiting For The Night’ was precisely on trend in 2012 and still sounded quintessentially like a Furtado tune. She made the trend her own and ‘Waiting For The Night’ remains a criminally underrated bop to this day.
13. Manos Al Aire (2009)
After the massive success of Loose, Furtado disappeared for a while and then unexpectedly returned with a Spanish album titled Mi Plan. ‘Manos Al Aire’ was the first single and was a moderate hit in quite some parts of the world. It is however one of the biggest choruses of her career and with her discography that says a lot. That soaring melody is everything. I sure played the hell out of this tune in 2009 and the years after.
12. Spirit Indestructible (2012)
I am probably repeating myself about the surprising lack of success for The Spirit Indestructible, but especially the title track deserved better. It had all the makings of a hit! The chorus is instant, swinging and inspirational and the out of the box production by Darkchild slaps to this day. I still come back to this track quite regularly and in my mind it will always remain one of her biggest hits.
11. Força (2004)
‘Força’, performed in English and Portuguese and taken from her sophomore album Folklore, was one of Furtado’s biggest hits in Europe, as it was chosen as the anthem for the European soccer championship in 2004. The uplifting, encouraging, folky pop anthem with the incredibly catchy chanting chorus was everywhere for a month and remains a great tune to work out to until this date.
10. Promiscuous (feat. Timbaland) (2006)
‘Promiscuous’, Nelly’s iconic duet with Timbaland, is her most streamed song on Spotify by quite a margin with more than 320 million plays. The flirty conversation between the two musicians never gets old and Timbaland’s production plays an important part in making this song the classic that it is. I hardly ever encounter a house party where this song isn’t played. People are still not over this bop and it is not hard to hear why. For me personally however, Furtado has nine even stronger singles to her name!
09. Explode (2003)
‘Explode’ was released as the fourth single of her sophomore record Folklore back in 2004. For me, it is one of those completely timeless tunes that I get fully into every time I hear it, even seventeen years later. I might not even have appreciated it fully when it was released, but it sure did stand the test of time. That chorus is larger than life and the sound rich and out of the box. Furtado’s vocal performance on this is out of this world too.
08. Powerless (Say What You Want) (2003)
After her highly successful debut record, Nelly Furtado took her time to work on the next one and then came back with a new single about whitewashing and cultural appropriation. The lyrics on ‘Powerless (Say What You Want)’ are some of her strongest and she packed the message in an upbeat and infectious folk tune. She really did that.
07. Turn Off The Light (2000)
‘Turn Off The Light’ was the moment Nelly Furtado let the world know that she might be like a bird, but she sure as hell ain’t no fly that only lives for a day. After ‘I’m Like A Bird’ stormed the charts, ‘Turn Off The Light’ became a top 10 hit in numerous countries too. The track perfectly showcased how Furtado manages to incorporate her quirky pop star persona in the catchiest of tunes topped off with her completely unique vocals.
06. Shit On The Radio (Remember The Days) (2000)
Nelly Furtado wrote ‘Shit On The Radio (Remember The Days)’, the third single of debut album Whoa, Nelly!, about hiding her desire to make pop music from her underground peers. The track is all about the moment she embraced herself being a pop artist and we should be thankful she decided she wanted ‘her shit really loud and clear over the radio’. Another one of her anthems that sounds just as good now as it did in 2000.
05. All Good Things (Come To An End) (2006)
‘All Good Things (Come To An End)’ was the fourth single taken from Loose and the first and only time Furtado hit number 1 in my native The Netherlands. This hauntingly beautiful and thoroughly sad song was all over the radio for ages and rightfully so. This song she co-wrote with Chris Martin truly is a classic. There is pain in those words and her vocal delivery, but somehow the whistling and the melodies bring a spark of hope. Let us never forget this masterpiece.
04. Maneater (2006)
‘Maneater’ is easily one of the most interesting artistic reinventions of a pop artist in the noughties. Nelly came back swinging with this 80s inspired, hip hop infused banger with raw beats and drums and a chorus every pop artist dreams of writing. In the video, she convincingly reintroduced herself as a vamp. Her big pop star era was coming and it would not have happened if it wasn’t for the certified bop that is ‘Maneater’ which kicked it all off for her in Europe as the first single from Loose (the US got ‘Maneater’ after ‘Promiscuous’).
03. I’m Like A Bird (2000)
With this song it all started for Nelly Furtado exactly 20 years ago. Now, 20 years later, my whole generation still knows every single word to the chorus of ‘I’m Like A Bird’. There is something so innocent and endearing about this airy, soaring pop tune. In the lyrics she portrays herself as a free spirit that cannot be held back and that is exactly what she has been proving in her impressive career.
02. Try (2003)
Not often does such a young artist (Furtado was 24 when Folklore came out) write and perform such a wise and poetic song about life and love. The song starts out as a captivating guitar ballad, but then breaks open in the middle-eight and it is such a moment. The climax in this song never fails to move me and bring a smile to my face at the same time. “All of the things we want each other to be, we never will be and that’s wonderful, and that’s life. And that’s you, baby, this is me, baby. And we are free in our love”, is one of the most gorgeous lyrical conclusions to a song I have ever heard.
01. Say It Right (2006)
‘Say It Right’ is hands down one of the best pop songs released in the noughties. It is incredible how a song can sound so on trend in 2006 when Timbaland’s beats where everywhere, and then prove to be a completely timeless classic a few years later. The lyrics about uncertainty and hesitation before being able to give someone your heart are so well written and the melodies are some of the absolute finest. ‘Say It Right’ will never get old and should be shared with generations to come.