A DECADE ago, Nelly Furtado was one of the biggest pop stars in the world.
Her third album, Loose, had sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, delivering a slew of hit singles including Promiscuous, Maneater and Say It Right.
Having burst onto the scene with the quirky debut single I’m Like A Bird back in 2000, it seemed the Canadian singer had finally entered the big leagues — a world-famous, hit-making pop star to rival the likes of Britney and Beyonce.
Then everything changed.
As her fame and its accompanying pressures grew, Furtado suffered a breakdown in the most public way.
“I had a nervous breakdown on stage. I was on the Loose tour and my daughter was with me — I was being a mum and a singer on the road. I was exhausted,” she later revealed to the Mail on Sunday.
“Then one night I went on stage and I suddenly realised how stressed-out I was. I actually cried my way through the first two songs.
“I took a break from music and went home. And I realised that being at home and having the whole family experience was what I was seeking.”
“It was too much too soon. After two years of intense touring and partying I’d spend hours alone in my LA home, just staring at the floor. I felt like a fraud, believing that people liked me for my image and not my music.”
Furtado didn’t immediately try to replicate the success of Loose — her follow-up was a low-key Spanish-language album, Mi Plan.
But when time came to properly rejoin the pop world, with 2012’s long-awaited but uneven The Spirit Indestructible, the results were disastrous: it sold just 3 per cent as much as Loosein its opening week in the US, then quickly disappeared from charts worldwide.
“I have had a lot of ups and downs in my career on a commercial level, so I’m very bulletproof in that way,” she said at the time.
“We’ll see what happens and just keep on chugging along.”
From there, Furtado took five years out from the music business, parting ways with her record company and making frequent visits to Kenya as part of her work with non-profit organisation Free The Children.
“I took some time to pursue some personal passions. I did everything from pottery classes to sewing classes. I took a playwriting class at the University of Toronto to pursue a few ideas I had. It was a time of self-development,” she told Billboard this year.
Now 38, mother to a teenage daughter and an independent artist for the first time in her career, Furtado is prepping her sixth studio album The Ride, due for release this Friday. Its sound is a world away from Loose: Relaxed, lo-fi, soulful indie-pop. There’s not a hit in sight, but Furtado says she’s more than OK with that.
Nelly Furtado — Pipe Dreams
“When you tour internationally and have this big circus following you, it can be quite overwhelming. I’m a quiet kind of person,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
“This era is raw. I own this album, I’m a fully independent artist, and that’s really cool. I can put a song out and have it be heard by people in a few days. It’s very organic.”