Nelly Furtado, The Spirit Indestructible Tour, Commodore Ballroom, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 7: 30 p.m. To order tickets visit nellyfurtado.com/tickets.
IN her teens, Victoria's Nelly Furtado played in a Portuguese marching band, today the Mount Douglas High School grad is a global superstar.
Her latest full-length album, The Spirit Indestructible, is an eclectic, rich exploration of sound and soul ranging from pop beats, hip-hop, r&b, reggae and even some hard grunge tones thrown in.
"It's about believing in miracles again," says Furtado. Over the course of her musical career, which exploded in 2000 with the release of her first album Whoa Nelly!, Furtado has explored multiple genres, sounds and subject matter through her music.
"My first album is my brain, my second album is my heart, my third album is my body and this album is my spirit," says Furtado.
Whoa Nelly! brought listeners hits like "I'm like a Bird" and "Turn off the Light," while 2003's Folklore catapulted Furtado onto the international stage with the 2004 European Football Championship anthem "Força."
Furtado teamed up with hip-hop producer Timbaland for her 2006 album Loose and powerhouse hits like "Maneater" and "Promiscuous" took her music to another level entirely, introducing her music to a worldwide audience.
"Timbaland and I walked into the studio and the speakers caught fire," says Furtado.
The image of a wholesome looking Furtado, clad in a full-length denim skirt with Adidas sneakers, singing to the blue sky from a pristine forest shattered under the heavy bass and grinding dance floors.
The result was a heated, sexually charged new energy for Furtado, commanding all the authority of peers such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. But unlike those peers, Furtado is still pushing new limits in 2012.
"With Loose it was all about the exterior. I almost went into a character when I performed the songs. For the first time in my career I felt comfortable performing," says Furtado.
"I had fun exploring. The sensual side is something people should explore," she says.
The experience of navigating her sensuality and getting to know her own body helped allow Furtado to transcend that physicality, become familiar with her spiritual side and ultimately produce an album with the depth and range of The Spirit Indestructible.
"It was like a big hallelujah," says Furtado. "It kind of woke me up to who I am."
As fans, followers, or simply people who don't live in caves, we have watched and heard Furtado evolve as an artist.
"I've grown up in the public eye and songwriting has captured that on tape,"she says.
Because she writes most of her songs, each creative moment of "pure self-indulgence" in which Furtado took on a different style or experimented with a new sound is reflected in the music she makes.
In 2009, she released the Spanish language album Mi Plan. "For a long time I didn't feel like singing in English and I kind of tiptoed back to singing in English," she says.
In the studio, Furtado recorded 40 tracks for The Spirit Indestructible and challenged herself to break through onto a new plane.
"I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest and then I met (producer) Rodney Jerkins and it felt like two kids playing in a sandbox," she says.
Working with Jerkins was a serendipitous convergence with her 1990s hip-hop roots.
"He's the producer I had the fantasy of meeting when I was 14," says Furtado.
From one song to the next, this album keeps listeners riveted in diverse and surprising ways.
"High Life" is about chasing success and contains lyrics like "dreams come true but something still feels wrong." Furtado reflects on her ambitions as a young up-and-coming artist: "It took me a few albums to realize that success is not a destination, it's a journey," she says.
"Success for me is my sense of accomplishment, creativity and passion," says Furtado.
In total contrast to the rest of the album, the haunting track "Believers (Arab Spring)" sounds almost as if it could have been produced by U2. Footage of the Libyan revolution and masses of people in Cairo's Tahrir Square drove Furtado to write from the perspective of a young person involved in a desperate war over ideals.
"This one gets me more than any other track. I still feel this guttural reaction when I listen to it," says Furtado.
The song resonates with the chilling final lyrics "somebody save me now."
Furtado's international activism doesn't stop at writing. After life-changing travel in Kenya, she was inspired to begin work on a project to build a high school for girls in a rural Maasai Mara community. One hundred per cent of proceeds from her The Spirit Indestructible tank-top, produced by Free the Children, will go to help build the school. Furtado also intends to match all cash donations toward the school dollar-for-dollar up to $500,000.
Women from Kipsigis communities will also be eligible to attend the school, although it will be located on Maasai land and the two groups have historically been competitive, rather than co-operative with each other.
"It's about sustainability and community learning," says Furtado.
As she believes we can make a difference in the lives of Kenyan women, Furtado believes that artists who are driven to pursue music will, despite the odds, make it in the music business.
"Now we live in a world where if you're passionate about music, you will have a career," she says. "If you're chasing fame, you're not going to make it."