- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

NEW YORK —Take a quick glance at the dreamy-looking cover of the album "Whoa, Nelly," and you could be mistaken into thinking the striking young woman on the front is another fluffy, teen-pop-star wannabe.
Nelly Furtado wouldnt mind one bit.
"In the beginning, I thought it could slide in there and maybe trick people that I fit into the pop world," the effervescent 22-year-old Canadian says with a laugh.
She acknowledges she doesnt do choreography or "flashy stuff."
"So now Im realizing because the records so different I have to enhance the edginess of the record and the individuality of the record, because thats what going to make me stick out," she says
"Up until now, its really worked."
It certainly has. Since the albums release last fall, "Whoa, Nelly" has garnered raves from critics, won four Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) and has been certified gold. Its an album that defies categorization, mixing alternative music with dance and Latin rhythms with electronica, with a bit of hip-hop and pop thrown in.
The video for Miss Furtados first single, "Im Like a Bird," is a fixture on MTV. She has been tapped to perform dates on U2s current tour, and she sang a duet with Elton John at his post-Oscar bash. She has become the industrys current "it" girl.
"She wanted to be a pop star ever since she was a little girl," says producer Gerald Eaton, who discovered the singer at an urban showcase a few years ago.
Miss Furtado says her dreams of stardom grew out of her sense of being an outsider, the youngest of three children raised by Portuguese immigrants in Victoria.
"There were no other Portuguese kids at my elementary school, and I really felt that, and I did feel alienated, and I felt different," she recalls. "What that did, though, was it made me driven, because I already stuck out anyway. I thought, 'Why not stick out even more and do something?"
Her family encouraged her to take piano lessons and perform Portuguese dances and songs. By the time she was a teen-ager, she was immersing herself in hip-hop, R&B; and rock and singing backup for local groups.
When she graduated from high school at 17, Miss Furtado moved to Toronto to pursue a music career, working odd jobs while recording demos, at first as part of a trip-hop group called Nelstar, then on her own.
She began to draw interest from record companies, but she wasnt sure she was ready to deal with contracts, lawyers and the business side of being a pop star.
"I really was very suspicious about everybody, because you hear so many stories growing up all these horror stories about how people get taken advantage of, young people in the music business," she says. "I wanted to make sure that this wasnt going to happen to me."
Miss Furtado moved back home, enrolled in college to study creative writing and focused on learning guitar and improving her song-writing skills.
Mr. Eaton, however, wasnt about to let her give up on getting an album made.
"I kind of said, 'Well, now is the time to do it," he says. "School is something you can do later. Writing is something you can do later. And this is something that I can only do right now."
He persuaded Miss Furtado to return to Toronto, where she, Mr. Eaton and his partner, Brian West, produced a demo that eventually got her signed to DreamWorks records.
Although she was barely out of her teens, the deal came with a great amount of freedom: Miss Furtado wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album and got a guarantee that she could work with only Mr. Eaton and Mr. West, who were novices in the industry as well.
"We were on our own in Toronto, the three of us, just like three kids in a playground," Miss Furtado says, "and thats why you get that playful, creative energy on the record."
Now that it has been released, Miss Furtado has been able to live out her childhood pop-star fantasy, performing on "Saturday Night Live," going on tour and having her image plastered in magazines.
Though its been fun, it hasnt been quite the dream she anticipated.
"Its a funny thing with fame. You dream about it when youre younger. I think you think of it as some whole other world," she says. "But now that Im actually doing it as a career, its kinda more like, you have to stay grounded, so you cant do all those things that you kind of dreamt about."

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