Selected audio reviews:
Nelly Furtado, "Folklore" (DreamWorks)
On "Folklore," her first album in three years, Nelly Furtado creates dance music with a string arrangement, makes banjoes sound cool and gets in touch with her Portuguese roots, all with stellar results.
Her multiplatinum debut, "Whoa, Nelly!" may have had its moments, but it often sounded superficial. However, "Folklore" is crawling with the singer's thoughts on fame, love, happiness and life.
On the first single, "Powerless (Say What You Want)," Furtado confronts society's tendency toward stereotyping, deciding that "this life is too short to live it just for you." The singer deals with expectations at a more personal level on "Try," promising a lover her best intentions.
One of the best moments comes on "Saturdays," a look back on Furtado's days cleaning rooms at a motel with her mother. The song is simple in lyrics and sound, but it features a fun, giggly moment from Furtado and a yearning, dreamy quality that is hard to ignore.
The aforementioned banjoes pop up more than once, but they are most present on "Forca," featuring Bela Fleck and named for a bit of Portuguese slang that Furtado says translates as "Keep going" or "Kick [filtered word]." Like the rest of "Folklore," the song does exactly that.
- Rachel Kipp, AP Writer
* * * *
Missy Elliott, "This Is Not a Test!" (Elektra)
If only Missy Elliott's new disc, "This Is Not a Test!" were a test. That way, its failure could be easily explained as B-material released in between albums.
But it's no test or mistake, just a disappointment, and a surprising one for Elliott, one of music's most adventurous, exciting and dynamic artists. It's especially frustrating when it comes only months after her dazzling disc "Under Construction," which spawned hits such as the surreal, sci-fi sounding "Work It."
Many of the songs on "This Is Not a Test!" sound like retreads of Elliott's old hits - even the bass line of the first single, "Pass That Dutch," bears more than a passing similarity to "Work It."
And though she's never been a great lyricist, Elliott's rhymes often sound uninspired, especially on "Is This Our Last Time," about a weak lover: "I can't keep running from you, but the sex don't feel the same; you don't hold me or kiss me like you used to, I can tell your feelings changed," she says on the R-rated song, which samples heavily from Shalimar's "Second Time Around."
She and Nelly suffer from the same problem on "Pump it Up," as she spouts weak lines such as "I'm a thick chick, skinny girls act snooty," over a weaker hook. "Let Me Fix My Weave" is silly without being any fun.
Granted, a subpar Elliott song is A-list for many other entertainers, and the girl still knows how to work a groove; "I'm Really Hot" is a scorching track with old-school flavor, and her collaboration with R. Kelly, "Dats What I'm Talkin About," is deliciously freaky, invoking sounds of the King of Freakiness himself, Prince.
Still, for a singer-rapper-producer extraordinaire such as Elliott, one expects more because of the high standard of funkiness she's set over the course of her career.
- Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press