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Nelly Furtado promoting her album Loose. Photo Courtesy of Retro Pop Magazine.

Crash Course in Canadian Culture: Nelly Furtado's 'Loose'

Written by
Aidan Cooke
and
and
November 24, 2022
Crash Course in Canadian Culture: Nelly Furtado's 'Loose'
Nelly Furtado promoting her album Loose. Photo Courtesy of Retro Pop Magazine.

Canadian music is important, and having an appreciation for Canadian media is something I think everyone in this country should have. Unfortunately, in the age of streaming, where CANCON has been rendered almost obsolete, listening to and learning about Canadian music and culture is harder than ever. So, my goal is to help you gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Canadian media, either introducing you to, or reminding you of the great culture this country has to offer, through its media. This article is focused on Nelly Furtado’s 2006 album Loose. 

Canada is often referred to as a cultural mosaic, a term that's been used as early as the 20s to exemplify the relationship that Canada has with its people. The mosaic is a reference to the coexistence and appreciation of different cultures within Canada’s borders. Canadian people have been, historically, accepting and welcoming to different cultures throughout history. The Canadian mosaic is often compared to the American melting pot, in which people are expected to assimilate, compared to cultures represented individually, each a small piece of a beautifully intricate mosaic. 

It would be irresponsible to not first mention the importance and influence of rock music in the Canadian landscape. For reference, of the ten highest selling albums in Canada ever all are rock,. Canada is also the proud home of artists like Nickelback, The Tragically Hip, and Avril Lavigne, to name a few; rock is the most important genre when understanding the history of Canadian music. It’s fitting that when Furtado was asked about inspiration for her 2006 release, she mentioned that many of the basslines in the album were influenced from rock releases at the time. 

Furtado’s use of electronic elements in pre-and post-production are indicative of the budding Canadian electronica scene at the time. Artists like Peaches, Metric, and Deadmau5, are progenitors of the Canadian electronica and dance scene. Their influence definitely shines through some of the sounds and techniques on Furtado’s album, notably in songs like “Glow,” and “Maneater.”

Canadian hip-hop has exploded in relevance since Furtado’s album. Humble beginnings with artists like Swollen Members, Kardinall Offishall prior to her release, and Drake, K’naan, bbno$, after her work. Loose’s mix of rock, electronic, hip-hop, and cultural influences definitely influenced artists like K’naan (his big break was in Canada) and Drake. 

“Te Busque” is iconically a latin hip-hop song, sung almost entirely in Spanish and was sung by Furtado and Colombian artist Juanes, whom she collaborated with in 2003. The song uses elements from Spanish hip-hop in a manner that gives it an authentic Latin sound, except maybe for the fact that she sings in English for certain verses, but besides that, it's a beautiful melody that effortlessly combines Latin and English songwriting. Reminiscent of themes present in Furtado’s previous album, Folklore, which was inspired by her exploration and discovery of her Portuguese heritage.

“No Hay Igual”, a hip-hop song sung in Spanish, with Portuguese rapping segments over a Reggaeton beat. The reggaeton influence is often attributed to Pharrell’s involvement in the album’s production; it was one of the first Canadian songs with Caribbean influence to chart well on multiple billboards. The success of a song with heavy Caribbean influence has become somewhat of a staple in Canadian hip-hop, notably Drake’s single “One Dance” in 2016, and several of the singles on K'naan’s album Troubadour. It should be known that “No Hay Igual” was the first, and is somewhat of a shout out to the Jamaican community in Toronto.

The album was a smash hit commercially and critically; critics noted that the material was a massive departure from her previous work. Songs like “Promiscuous” and “Maneater” had a really flirty tone, attributed to Furtado and Timbaland’s flirty relationship in the recording booth. Which only made the songs better for the dance floor. It is one of the highest selling hip-hop albums in Canada, and charted extremely well globally. It remains culturally relevant, especially considering the influence it had on Canadian hip-hop in its wake.

Audiences loved the album, shown by how it charted, reaching the top ten on billboards in Australia, Germany, UK, USA, Canada, and varied success in Spain. The combination of cultural influences really give the album a unique sound that helps it stand out. I don’t know what else to say other than it’s just a really good album, and it still stands out nearly two decades later, and belongs on lists for the best albums in Canadian history.

Ever since this release, Canadian music has become more and more popular globally, and has contributed to a new wave of Canadian hip-hop and R&B with heavy cultural influence across the country. Drake is likely the most well-known example, but the point still remains that this album was definitely something that blazed a path for future artists. 

Canadian Music is important to me, and to the country as a whole, as it is a reflection of the broad cultural influences and passions that the people who share this land. As a person who is absolutely obsessed with Canadian music, it pains me that when people think of Canadian music the first, and sometimes only, name people think of is Drake. Especially when considering how grand the industry is and how many different amazing artists there are to boil all of Canadian music down to “OMG I LOVE DRAKE,” is truly a disservice to the vast selection of great Canadian artists. 

Go out of your way to listen to something new, even something you might not like, but keep something Canadian in your library. It'll change things up, and maybe one day you’ll be proud to say “They’re Canadian too.” Loose represents the Cultural Mosaic in a way that has become somewhat of a standard in Canadian music today, and reminds listeners that Canadian music does not have to cater to particular audiences in order to gain commercial and critical success.

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