When I heard that Nelly Furtado flew to the top of the Billboard album charts with her third album, Loose, I knew it was official -- people like their pop stars to look like hoochies in clear heels. The CD sold 220,000 copies in its first week. The first single, "Promiscuous," is also No. 1 on the singles chart. The Canadian songstress, who fluttered into the American pop-music consciousness like an ethnic pixie with her 2000 debut album, the aptly titled Whoa, Nelly!, has finally caught that elusive jewel called success. And all she had to do to get it was look fuckable.
Yeah, she was cute when she first hit the scene, harmonizing, scatting and bouncing around like your little sister hopped up on Red Bull. But that was the problem, even though her album sold two million copies: She still had that kid-sister vibe. And no guy wants to fuck his little sister. When her mellow second album, Folklore, got released in 2003, she appeared even less attractive.
But now, with Loose, we have a different Furtado, a sexually aggressive Furtado, a Furtado you wouldn't mind rubbing one out to. Don't expect this Furtado to sing "I'm Like a Bird" or shit like that. We shouldn't even refer to her as Furtado anymore. Ladies and gents, it's now "Flirtado," a slender, sexually dangerous girl with a great ass who sings about being a slender, sexually dangerous girl with a great ass. The songs are factory-sealed dance-pop, concentrating more on attitude than range, each one ready to pull out and send into heavy rotation.
But being a person who admires talent first and sex appeal second (okay, I know that sounds full of shit, but just play along), this brand-new Furtado, sorry, Flirtado, doesn't sit well with me. How the hell can you go from looking like Buffy Sainte-Marie one year to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the next?
Seeing Furtado slink around with all the subtlety of a table dancer is a jarring sight, especially for those who remember her early performances. No backup dancers. No booty-hugging jeans. She performed armed with nothing but her voice and folksy confidence.
You might perceive this as the stuck-up ramblings of a rockist critic (whatever that means) who hates it when a musician abandons his or her principles and sells out to the mainstream. My first response to that is "So!?" My second response is "Don't you feel the same damn way?" I can't be the only one who cringes when an artist chucks it all in order to get that dolla-dolla-bill.
Of course, Furtado is insisting she's not tramping it up just to get into the mainstream. She calls it "maturing.""It's not about how big my audience is,'' she told Entertainment Weekly before Loose dropped. Ô'It's about having an audience that understands what I'm doing. I'm not faithful to one style -- I'm a musically promiscuous girl.''
Musically promiscuous? What the hell?
There's nothing wrong with venturing into different styles of music, or with being an eclectic performer who can transcend any genre. But when you switch up your whole game, trading your Birkenstocks for a pair of fuck-me pumps, one can't help but see the whole thing as cynical and suspect.
Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one taking umbrage with Furtado's new career direction. I've even heard a few of my colleagues giving props to her for going from "peace to a piece." ("She hasn't sold out -- she sold in!" was one blurb-worthy quote.) And the reviews for Loose have been pretty favorable. Kelefa Sanneh over at The New York Times wrote that "listeners who hear this CD as a straightforward bid for album sales are wrong...The music and the lyrics are mainly aimed at dance floors, and yet this album keeps reminding listeners that a dance floor is one of the most complicated places on earth."
The music industry has gotten so inundated with half-nekkid ladies skanking up the airwaves that having Furtado throw her lace bustier in the ring seems like overkill.
"Pop music is a lot like Halloween: It gives women an excuse to pretend they're sluts," one Village Voice critic recently wrote, referring to Furtado and her new MO. He also wrote that it's not our place to judge Furtado for sexing up her music and her appearance. That may be, but when you're a performer who's mostly known for looking like somebody's kid sister, and all of a sudden you're looking like a BET video ho, somebody should ask what the fuck happened.
Between the Cracks
It's our goal to cover as much of Houston's music scene as possible, so when we found out that the Houston Museum of Natural Science had a resident DJ, we had to talk to him. A museum DJ? What could he be spinning? Turns out 19-year-old Matthew Longoria plays Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon during the museum's video and laser show choreographed to the famous album, as well as more rock classics for a similar laser show, Rock Hall of Fame. There's a set list he has to play for each gig, but he does get to change it up a bit and -- here's the fun part -- he gets to introduce each tune with "Coming up next..." in a booming DJ voice.
What's your stage name? Full Dome DJ.
What's your gig? I play music during the Planetarium shows...and...I introduce the next song and, uh...uh...
Like a regular DJ? Almost, but not really.
What was your first performance like? That was an unforgettable experience. I was very nervous. There were dark spots [in the show] that I had to fill, and I didn't know how long those spots were, so people would have to sit there in the dark, waiting for me for three to five seconds. Three seconds of silence in the dark is a really long time. I started freaking out. But I got through it. And it got more fun. I thought, "Why not have some fun with it?" It didn't have to be a boring, "just sit there and be quiet" planetarium show.
Who are your favorite artists and bands? I like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews. Some of the bands I listen to, they don't exist anymore. This new rock, it all sounds the same and I really can't get into it. I'm stuck in the early '90s, with Stone Temple Pilots.
Favorite album? Ten by Pearl Jam. And Core by Stone Temple Pilots.
Favorite thing about your gig? It's cool in the building; I don't have to be out in the Houston heat.
Worst thing about your gig? The people. That, and that I never know when the projector is going to break. But mostly, it's the people. You never know what mood the crowd is going to be in and if someone maybe wants to start trouble. Especially the people that are high, because people do come to the show high and you don't know what they're going to do. That's one reason we had to stop the show a few years back, I heard, because people were getting high in the planetarium, they were snorting during the show.
(The Museum's public relations rep, one of three PR people Longoria has brought with him to the interview, starts frantically shaking her head.) "We don't know that for sure," she blurts. "Those were just rumors. And, of course, we don't encourage anyone to come to the museum under the influence of anything."
(Longoria takes the hint.) Yes, yes, they are just rumors. (He leans in close to the tape recorder.) I. Have. Never. Seen. Anyone. Take. Drugs. At. The. Museum.
(Okay, that's settled. No one has ever taken drugs at the Museum and Longoria has never seen them not take drugs there.)
What do you think about while you're working? I'm praying that nothing breaks. I'm wondering if the Astros are winning their game if they're playing that night. I have the computer on to [a site] that lets me keep up with the games.
How many girls have you picked up with the line "Hi, I'm a DJ"? (Blank stare)
The line "Hi, I'm a musician" always gets girls; "I'm a DJ" doesn't have the same effect? (Blank stare)
No? No, I wouldn't do that.
Okay, moving on. Finish this sentence: "If I didn't have to worry about money...: I would go out and live life to the fullest extent.
Right now, I'd rather be... President of the United States.
What's the nicest thing anybody has ever said to you? You're such a great person; you're very kind and nice.
Who would play you in the movie version of your life? Kiefer Sutherland.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I'll be out of college with a bachelor's in public relations, and who knows, maybe I'll be at the PR department of the museum.
Are you a native or a transplant? Native, from the southeast part of Houston, Gulfgate area.
Where was your family from originally? Here in Houston, we're all from here.
But three or four or ten generations ago, was somebody from Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina? That's the mystery, we don't know.
(On both sides of your family, nobody knows how they got brown skin or a last name like Longoria? Yeah, I believe you.)
Something people don't usually know about you (besides what country your ancestors came from)? That I have a sense of humor. When I was at school, I was very different, I was serious. If you talked to someone I went to high school with, they wouldn't think it was me up there, playing music and being outgoing, making jokes. Nobody would believe you.
Football or foosball? Football.
Bert or Ernie? Bert, he had a real head on his shoulders. He just seemed more sensible.
Is there a switch in your head that you click on and off, saying, "Okay, now I'm performing, now I'm not?" No, Full Dome DJ is always there, he's just under the surface.
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If you could say something to Houston, what would you say? Clean up after yourselves. I drive around and I see things in the streets, I see people throw things out of their car windows. I want to tell them, "Hey, pick up after yourself! Let's keep Houston clean."
Anything else? When I run for mayor of Houston in 20 years, people are going to be able to pull up this article and say, "Hey, he likes Bert," aren't they?
Yeah, all the Ernie fans might not vote for you.
See him at: Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 713-639-4629. Rock Hall of Fame: 7 p.m. daily and 9 p.m. Fridays; Dark Side of the Moon: 8 p.m. daily and 10 p.m. Fridays.