When pop performers draw on a wide range of genres in a single album, the result can be hors d'oeuvre music: varied and savory, but perhaps not as satisfying as a main course. Singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado, on her hook-laden debut album, "Whoa, Nelly!" (DreamWorks), borrows from a wide array of styles, such as pop, rock, hip-hop, bossa nova and even Portuguese fado. But Furtado imbues her work with such sprightly energy that her stylistic mix has real impact. "Whoa, Nelly!" is more than a plate of appetizers; it's a musical meal.
Born in Victoria, B.C., Furtado, 21, is the child of Portuguese immigrants. As a grade schooler, she played a variety of instruments, including ukulele and trombone, but her real musical awakening came when she started listening to Brazilian artists such as Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze and Chico Science. "Portuguese music I love, but when I discovered Brazilian—that's when I was like, 'Yeah!'" she says. "Not just because it's sung in Portuguese, which I understand and speak, but because it's got all these great rhythmic elements, and there are just so many great Brazilian records to tap into."
Furtado's CD is a rich source of innovative rhythms and original musical ideas. One of the best songs, "… On the Radio," is a hip-hoppy declaration of independence in which Furtado dedicates herself not just to climbing the charts but also to charting her own course. Another song, "Legend," boasts a bossa nova beat as fresh as a cool breeze on a warm beach, and" I'm Like a Bird", the album's first single, is love-at-first-listen, smartly crafted pop. "Whoa, Nelly!" is one of the season's best and brightest debuts.