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NELLY FURTADO - LOOSE - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: ****

Nelly Furtado - Loose - Universal Her solo debut Whoa Nelly!, abetted by the catchy single Iím Like A Bird, made this moody Portuguese-Canadian songstress one of the most surprising entrants into pop's multi-platinum club. The dense, varied, post-modernist eponymous second album ~ 2003ís Folklore~ sold a quarter of the first one, but illustrated that Furtado was no one-album wonder as she emerged as a globe trotting beat junkie with talent to spare.

With a newfound enthusiasm for midriff-baring and singing dirty pop, third release Loose is a disc unlike anything sheís ever done before and it is, surprisingly, an appealing mainstream effort. This is almost a straight-ahead dance record, which took direction last year after Furtado met up with Timbaland (the hottest producer in music right now), during a recording session that was expected to produce two songs.

Instead, ten of the CDís twelve tracks ended up being Timbalandís, and most of them spark with electricity. First single Promiscuous has already topped the US charts, while the club thumping Maneater from the same CD was recently the #1 song across Europe, including the UK. Instead of chasing trends, Nelly does her own thing, from a bracing bhangra beat on the funked up Wait for You to alternating between breezy R&B inflected tunes like the irresistible Do It and hard-driving club tracks like the surprisingly heavy, infectious Afraid.

Her new musical direction may baffle her folk-rock steadies, but the house money says that stuff like Say It Right and the goose bump-inducing All Good Things (Come to an End), which was co-written by Coldplay's Chris Martin, will definitely attract the hipper fan set. Song for song, this has more energy and better hooks than her previous work; it's what a neuroses free Madonna would sound like if she were mid career now instead of in 1990.

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