Friday, September 28th, 2012

Nelly Furtado – Parking Lot

Nelly, Missy, and Timbaland all in one week? It’s feeling real 2001 round these parts…


Jonathan Bogart: Teenage boredom and one-note blares, hollered syllables and the handclaps of girl-gang solidarity. The aesthetics of the video are all vibrant hood-glam urbanism, but the lyrics are all deathly middle-of-nowhere emptiness, parking lots, barns and mud. There’s a scuzz to the pulsating synths, and a clipped island schwalessness to the choruses, that suggest she’s been listening to M.I.A. and Santigold, but when she drawls “show me all your thuggery” and “get fancy,” it’s pure Canadian dorkiness.

Zach Lyon: “Parking Lot” sounds like it came from an alternate universe where “I’m Like a Bird” was M.I.A.’s first big hit. It makes just as much sense as an evolution from “Bird” to Timbaland to 2012 and everything in between. The video doesn’t make sense, though; there’s no community here, there’s no dancing. Despite all her words, this song belongs in an abandoned, decrepit warehouse, or perhaps a recording studio. It does apocalypse better than all those songs about the apocalypse.

Jonathan Bradley: Furtado coming on like M.I.A. hasn’t since… what, “Sunshowers”? The verses are a mess of chaotic, honking horns and sputtered, guttural syllables; the beat a basketball arena–sized stomp-clap; and all of it dissolves into wordless melodic bliss after the chorus.

Alfred Soto: An uptown M.I.A. infatuated with the possibilities of libertinism, Furtado has for years brought more to the party than contemporaries/fellow guests Rihanna and the odious Katy Perry; she’s like Dangerous Liasions‘ Cécile de Volanges, avid for experience, eager to discard her innocence. Over this spare, clattering track, her rubbery consonants bespeak a willingness to use and be used.

Edward Okulicz: Furtado might have taken her cues from Santigold, but on the strength of “Parking Lot,” she’s competing in a far bigger league — this has a beat that could kill Ke$ha at ten paces. She might sound like she can’t be bothered in the verses, but the chorus underlines that there’s a difference between bored and effortless.

Will Adams: “Parking Lot” is great because it’s essentially “Hollaback Girl” grown up, free of irony, and self-assured. It’s a bit worrying how Nelly simultaneously sounds like M.I.A., Santigold, and Karen O on the verses. Unsurprisingly, the best part of the song is when she most sounds like herself: the post-chorus vocalizing, when the horns drop out and give her the space of an empty parking lot to do as she pleases. Extra credit to Darkchild for including yet another lovely outro.

Anthony Easton: The production of this is muddy, and low, like it was designed to be played super loud in shitty speakers — that it would sound better in the middle of a parking lot on the edge of town; it would also sound better as a 20 minute bounce remake, but I am more than okay with the original material. Extra point for the hand claps. 

Kat Stevens: I have a lot of time for songs that can be played with one finger on the keyboard. I also have a lot of time for songs that can be sung even if your mouth is still numb from having your wisdom teeth taken out and you’re leaking drool everywhere. “Parking Lot” fulfils both criteria here but somehow I’m still not convinced. In the words of Greg Wallace, it just Needs More Oomph.

Brad Shoup: Listen to those synths, falling in and out of line. They could augur some serious mindfuckery; instead, they foreshadow a pretty “na na hey hey” chorus. This shit is decidedly non-bananas. Furtado slouches against the beat (even the lyric video can’t make the words dance), an approach that works on the Kreayshawn-on-codeine verses but wipes out on the placeholder pre-chorus. Still, no matter how gone she gets, that beat is a fine designated driver.

Alex Ostroff: The weirdest thing about Nelly’s transformation on Loose wasn’t that she was dabbling in hip-hop and chartpop — she proudly declared herself “too mainstream for you” early on her first album, insisting that “pop ain’t going so low” and was working with Missy and Timbaland shortly thereafter. What was weird was how normal it all sounded. The singles were and are great pop songs, but they’re not all great examples of Nelly Furtado: the nasal tones of her voice are rounded, the lyrics are often less earnest British Columbian hippie than generic radio platitudes, and the production is clean and sometimes beautiful. In short, the edges were sanded off. “Parking Lot,” on the other hand, features Nelly’s trademark vocal contortions, wordless chanting and awkwardly delightful lyrical turns. Do the vocals remind me of Santi and Maya and the rest of the alt-global pop crew? Does the nasal tone occasionally sound a bit like Rihanna? Sure. But, to be honest, this stuff has always been Nelly’s territory. On “Big Hoops” and now on “Parking Lot,” Nelly and Darkchild have cobbled together songs that while still (somewhat) in keeping with her current direction, leave plenty of space for the voice responsible for the most disorienting pronunciation of “ambivalence” ever committed to record, and the woman who once built an entire chorus around scatted cries of “do ji do do ji do ding ding.”

Iain Mew: The blare sounds like it should be an intro but then it isn’t — it’s VVVVRRRRRVVRRRRVRRRVRRR as a fixture. The call to the parking lot is answered with an irate traffic jam. It works because Nelly and the slow claps just sound even more relaxed in the face of the onslaught, and then in the end everyone stops honking their horns, calms down and shuffles to electro and it’s beautiful.

20 Responses to “Nelly Furtado – Parking Lot”

  1. didn’t blurb this (or anything yesterday) (long story) but it’s probably for the best, because it is just abrasive. I cannot listen to it for more than 30 seconds. which isn’t a value judgment, of course, but… it just doesn’t sound good.

  2. Which is why I love it, of course. My first comparison was to Suicide, and it fits just as well into the mutant-disco tradition as into the girl-group one.

  3. What is it about Nelly that just rubs me the wrong way? Is it the affectations in her (increasingly nasal) tone? Is it the way that her labels and the mainstream press thrust her upon the pop world as a ‘star’ without any dues paying (relatively speaking)? Or was it just the whole ‘Skankification of Nelly’ project that was “Loose”? Regardless, she has turned in what in many cases was at best was perfunctory work that succeeded on a commercial level, and in the process created a genuinely great single (‘Say It Right’) and some passable radio fare. This, the latest attempt to jolt some commercial life into the DOA ‘Spirit Indestructible’ album, actually falls somewhere between passable and genuinely great. Whether or not it reverses her commercial fortunes remains to be seen, but in the meantime she has made me confront my Furtado-bias head on, and I’ll cede her that.

  4. Ugh, Loose was not a “skankification of Nelly” project. That’s ridiculous, especially as it’s one of the best pop albums of the last decade (save some of the duds at the end of the album).

    This song is awesome, by the way.

  5. definitely ctrl+f’d this page for “i got my mind set on you”

    no results

  6. I dunno. Even the hippie-chick Nelly of “Folklore” would probably call the “Loose” Nelly a skank by comparison – a skank who made bank, but a skank nonetheless.

  7. I would hardly call Loose “skanky” on any level. Even “Promiscuous” is pretty tame.

  8. I like this, but I have a feeling that it would work even better as a country song.

  9. the original draft of my review talked about how this has been the year of fucking in the back of trucks, in country artists, and in Ms Furtado–and the outlier might mean something, but i couldnt make it work.

  10. Discarding the word “skank” because fuck that shit… that kind of was the point of Loose, though, at least from a branding perspective. If you’re side-eyeing the conflation of getting (sigh) “skankier” with moving toward hip-hop, congratulations, you’re paying attention.

  11. Am I the only one really bothered that the two TSI singles so far have been blatant vocal imitations of other acts -namely Rihanna and MIA? It’s like someone in the studio said ‘right Nelly we’re now gonna do a MIA song this time and this is EXACTLY how you need to sound’. It’s kind of embarrassing, innit.

  12. You’re gonna love one of tomorrow’s songs, then.

  13. THANK YOU Brad Nelson. This is all I can think of when I hear this (kind of terrible, I can’t decide) song.

  14. Oh please, everyone making the album knew what “Loose” meant. It means she went skanky…for her. If someone conflates skanky with hip hop then that’s on Nelly and Britney and the others who “matured” by getting phat beats and singing about sex. Nelly is tamer than Britney but still loose by her own standards. And this song is annoying. I appreciate the prosody of having a sound like a car horn, but it’s incessant and annoying. She tries to recapture Loose, it fails. She returns to her roots to please OG fans, it fails. She tries to recapture Loose, it fails again. It’s becoming a pattern.

  15. “If someone conflates skanky with hip hop then that’s on Nelly and Britney and the others who “matured” by getting phat beats and singing about sex.”

    Lmao. That doesn’t make sense at all. The word “skanky” has a deliberate negative connotation rooted in sexist and classist ideas, so if someone conflate skanky with hip hop then they are a moron. No one is denying that Loose was an attempt to make Nelly Furtado seem more ~sexy~ and ~urban.~ “Skanky” implies something very different imo.

    Anyway, Loose is way better than Folklore and Britney Spears’ first great song was “I’m A Slave 4 U” so maybe skanks rule.

  16. But I’m pretty sure that conflating it was intentional. Questionable as fuck, but intentional. (The same way, say, Ke$ha’s “sleazier” remix is the one with a shit-ton more rappers, etc.)

    And yeah, Loose was completely intentional in the same way that everyone knew that Blackout was supposed to suggest blacking-out drunk.

  17. Loose is way better than Folklore

    you had me until this

  18. Yeah, I love Loose, and neither touch the glories of ‘Whoa Nelly!’ but ‘Folklore’ is a great, but frontloaded pop album. Not much I love on the back half but the first six tracks are a pretty much perfect encapsulation of a lot of Furtado’s strengths. Plus, ‘Powerless’!

  19. “Powerless” indeed. On her debut I didn’t have much use for “I’m Like a Bird” but I could’ve listened to “Hey, Man!” for hours.

  20. “No one is denying that Loose was an attempt to make Nelly Furtado seem more ~sexy~ and ~urban.~ “Skanky” implies something very different imo.”

    Yes, this, 100x.

    I mean, the lead single is basically about a girl STALLING (for a while, at least) to have sex because she DOESN’T want to seem like a skank (yes yes that’s all troublesome, I know).