Loose (Geffen)

Nelly Furtado 

Loose (Geffen)

We first encountered Nelly Furtado on 2000's swooping "I'm Like a Bird," one of the millennium's first great singles and also the link between the Christina Aguileras and Michelle Branches of the world. Now, here's Furtado, a new mother, declaring herself Loose on an album of straight-ahead Timbaland beats and eyebrow-raising detours into bedrooms. Whoa, Nelly! Has Furtado slapped on the chaps of conformity? Recently, we overheard a group of twentysomething women discussing how promiscuous is a tougher slur to toss out than one-syllable putdowns such as slut and ho. (Even whore is somehow too long, one observed.) Furtado forces us to enunciate and to consider what we're saying. And the tune "Promiscuous" itself actually sounds sensual, with its cushiony beat and cool splashes of '80s synth. Her voice floats above everything, pulling strings rather than letting go. She coos and flirts, as lithe as Timbaland's guest rap is ponderous. Furtado is game, but Timbo brings beats, not chemistry. Consequently, Loose isn't a love child but a bump-and-grind that never finds a groove. "Do It" weakly evokes J.J. Fad, "Glow" is a coy request for an orgasm with a deep but ineffectual bass buzz, and "Showtime" is just another lush commitment jam earmarked for radio.

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