Modern-Day Moura Encantada: The Nelly Furtado Megamix @NellyFurtado
a sonic collage by sound artist Haus of Glitch
Notes from the Haus of Glitch Diary:
I’ve been working on the Nelly Furtado Megamix for what seems like forever now. It was only a few months ago that I was spitting out a new remix every five days, finished an entire mixtape, and then churned out megamixes for Ke$ha, P!nk and B.Spears. By all accounts, I could use a Break.
(…we’re all just waiting for our big break…)
With each megamix I do, I try to really get inside the other artist’s head…find a rabbit hole into their world. I mean, if my art is commenting on someone else’s art, and art is the expression of the soul, then I’m commenting on the very soul of these artists.
(If a=b, and b=c, then a=c)
It’s a daunting task. But it’s hard when I don’t know these people. If I could sit down Britney, I could get a feel for who she is and create music from that. But instead, I do my homework. I take a self-guided crash-course in a particular pop artist.
During my study sessions I’ll watch interviews, live performances, read reviews, find behind-the-scenes stuff, surf fan-sites…I throw myself in that world and see what things stand out…see what inspires me.
Sometimes this is easy. There were so many poignant Michael Jackson interviews that I found, I ended up sampling them into the megamix. And that became a huge turning point for me and the way I began to shape the narrative of these megamixes.
Other times it is more subtle. Like the P!nk megamix. Where I really tried to arrange the words to create a narrative that really told P!nk’s story. If you listen closely, you can hear it.
And then we get to Nelly Furtado.
It hit me one night a few weeks back. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to do a Nelly Furtado megamix before then. I had already done Missy. I was working on Aaliyah…(more on that later…) and I was thinking about how much I loved playing with Timbaland’s beats. I’ve been a Timbo fan since 1997, and his syncopations have been a direct influence on a lot of my own beat structures, So Nelly was a natural addition to my “To Do List.”
The first time I heard Nelly, I was on a road trip with my best friend Gabbie. I stopped at the Best Buy on the way out of the city and bought “Whoa, Nelly.” We had heard “I’m Like A Bird,” but had no idea if we’d like the other songs. It was a blind purchase. We hit the road and listened to it start-to-finish. I was amazed. Astounded. It was so different, fresh, with well-crafted lyrics. It was just poppy enough to keep you bobbing your head, just edgy enough to keep you guessing, and one of the rare occasions where an album is solid from the first song to the very last note.
I became a fan for life.
“Folklore” came out when I still watched videos on Mtv. I remember seeing the video for “Powerless” and being hooked. I had always been a fan of folksy-ladies like Ani DiFranco, Melissa Ferrick, Cat Power, Aimee Mann, Tracy Chapman…I mean, there was a time where if a cd had a chick and a guitar on it, I probably bought it. So the tribal/folksy songwriter element of “Folklore” really appealed to me.
Years later, as the Age of the Internet progressed, I was able to keep track of Nelly’s music a little easier. I heard the leaks of “Maneater” and “Say It Right” and literally lost my shit.
I had this unruly anticipation, hoping that there would be an American release of these songs. There wasn’t as much info out there then…no one tweeted back then, leaks weren’t planned. I would play those tracks for everyone. By the time “Loose” came to America, all of my friends were bumpin’ those songs.
As a fan, I loved watching her growth. In getting ready to do the megamix, I spent days just listening to all of these songs I had listened to for years, and each song transported me to a specific time and place I associated with each one.
(True art becomes the markers of time when time fails…)
As I start each piece, I make discoveries about the artist, and then that discovery kind of shapes the narrative of the sound collage. For example, while doing research on Britney, I realized how polar “tabloid Britney” was from “Real Britney.” Well, at least they were to me. I’d always been able to love the music Britney and completely ignore the tabloid press. But I even researched the tabloids in order to gain more psychological and sociological perspective. And I realized how problematic it was for Brit to self-identify with such a controlled public image. That was the missing piece to the puzzle. And then that mega mix became about her need to figure out who she was and the pressures that hindered that process, and her eventual rise above it.
(“Everybody loves…”/“…BRITNEY, bitch.”)
So after digging up info on Nelly Furtado, I finally made a discovery that helped me understand her as an artist: Nelly is always Nelly. She just likes to see what Nelly is like when she collaborates with different people. As she puts it, she is “musically promiscuous.”
That’s when it all became clear. Why “Folklore” felt so different from “Whoa, Nelly.” Why people thought she “sold out” on the Timbaland album. Why she did a Spanish-language album. She takes her honest artistic voice and sees what it sounds like in different people’s worlds. That’s not a sell-out. That’s a fucking artist.
And it’s exactly the same concept I use for my art. I like to see what the glitch sounds like in these different artist’s worlds.
And suddenly I was free. Free to create. To chop. Sample. Glitch. And free to tell Nelly’s story.
In each megamix, I challenge myself to do new things. With this one, I challenged my technical skills by using varying tempos. The track starts at 95bpm but by then end has gradually sped up to 115bpm. This was mainly because so many of Nelly’s songs are in varying tempos, and some just sounded better at different speeds. And it evolved into part of the story…of Nelly’s momentum: gradual but very, very real.
The other challenge I gave myself was to somehow connect songs in 3 different languages. Nelly has songs in English, Portuguese and Spanish. During This process I realized what an international artist she has become. And that was a very important part of Nelly for me to represent. I have remixed different languages before, attempting to glitch the words in a way that would be cool for a listener who speaks that language. I’ve even glitched up Portuguese before when I remixed for Kid Akimbo. But this was the first time I was going to try to create a cohesive narrative with different languages from different sources…and three languages at that.
But I did it. At the climax of the megamix I have all 3 languages simultaneously playing. It was a beautiful moment for me when I realized that there is someone out there that speaks all 3 languages and this is gonna sound so sick to them because they’ll understand ALL the words. And it will be a different experience for listeners based on their language…much like Nelly’s music.
I did research the translations for the lyrics and paired up lyrics in different languages to compliment each other and move the narrative forward. The section with “Afraid” and “Fuerte” is a great example of what I was trying to do. While the girl’s chorus says, “So afraid of what people might say / But that’s okay / ‘Cause you’re only human” I have the Spanish chorus from “Fuerte” which when translated says:
“Why do I care what they say / What so many people think / If you believe that you can / Don’t listen to doubts, continue being strong.”
It’s kind of beautiful to me that what I love about Nelly (that she is herself exploring other musical worlds, regardless of what people say) is something she thematically writes about being afraid of. She writes these songs to confront her fears…these persistent fears of other’s opinions, but at the same time doesn’t falter from who she knows herself to be.
She is Alice. Falling down different rabbit holes. But regardless of the rabbit hole, she is still Alice.
So I kept true to who she is. I painted Nelly in Haus of Glitch colors. Because that’s what she does. She brings the same “Nelly” to different Mad-Tea-Parties. So I thought, what would it be like if Nelly and I collaborated? What is she like in my world?” And once I felt I understood Nelly, I felt I understood what she’d sound like in the world of Glitch.
The title is a reference to the Portuguese folk tale of the Moura Encantadas…these shape-shifting singing nymphs. Considering Nelly’s various incarnations, I felt it was very appropriate.
The megamix contains samples from 21 Nelly Furtado tracks. No other beats or samples were added other than her songs. The songs sampled (in order) are: Say It Right, Get Ur Freak On (Remix), Promiscuous, Maneater, Give It To Me, …On The Radio (Remember The Days), I’m Like A Bird, I’m Like A Bird (Nelly vs. Asha Remix), Vacacion, Fresh Off The Boat, No Hay Igual, Turn Off The Light, Manos al Aire, Baby Girl, I Will Make U Cry, Is Anybody Out There?, Hey, Man!, Afraid, Fuerte, Powerless, Forca