Not-so-nervous Nelly Furtado

Chances are you haven't heard Nelly Furtado's new single.

The beloved Victoria native who has racked up 10 Junos for her last three albums is barely getting radio play at home for the catchy lead tune from her first Spanish-language disc Mi Plan, which drops Tuesday.

According to Furtado's distributors, the only Top 40 stations airing "Manos Al Aire" ("Hands in the Air") in Canada are CHUM-FM, and Z103 in Toronto and Halifax.

Meanwhile, the guitar-driven love song about "asking for truce and forgiveness in a relationship" is No. 1 in Chile, Colombia and all of Central America, has topped Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart and is Top 5 in Germany, Italy and Austria. "They play it all kinds places where Spanish is not the main language, or the second language, but I guess Canada, I guess the radio format's a little different," said the amiable songstress, who is scheduled to appear at the MTV Video Awards tomorrow.

Furtado, whose English-Portuguese (her parental ancestry) "Forca" – off 2003's Folklore – spun on Canadian commercial radio, is hopeful that Mi Plan will yet garner similar appreciation.

"It's all a matter of them playing it to see (the listener response)," she said in an interview. "If not the first single, maybe the second one.

"I tried to make the album make sense within the Latin tradition of pop music, where the lyrics are very important, so obviously there's a deeper level of enjoyment if you're fluent in Spanish. But if you just love music ... there's some great voices on the album and some great sounds and rhythms."

Her collaborators included Cuban-Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, U.S. hip-hop producer Salaam Remi, Mexican crooner Alejandro Fernandez, Spanish flamenco guitarist Javier Limon and U.S. pop singer Josh Groban.

"He always struck me as somebody real and grounded and unique," she said of Groban. "I love people that aren't afraid of being on their own, and Josh is totally in his own lane. You can't find him on Top 40, but he sells millions of albums just by the strength of his voice, and I admire that. I have wanted to work with him for a while.

"Lester Mendez and I wrote ("Silencio"), and right away we knew we had to have Josh on the song. I wrote the bridge especially for him, and when we sent it to him he decided he wanted to sing on the whole song.

"I thought it was important to include somebody that most people know of as an English singer. I thought it was a statement about the album and how I feel like language isn't a real barrier; music is a language itself. And I get that same innate emotional joy when I sing in Spanish as Portuguese."

Furtado, 30, said her high school Spanish has improved through associations with Latin musicians and her marriage last year to Cuban-American sound engineer Demacio Castellon. "Sometimes, our more personal moments might be shared in Spanish; it's strange how we might revert to the Latin expressions," she said of the marital rapport.

Furtado's 5-year-old daughter, Nevis, "understands quite a lot of Portuguese and some Spanish, and she speaks a little bit. She's learning more now that the Spanish album's out, 'cause I've told her, `Mommy's got to speak Spanish more now.' I've tried to incorporate it into the everyday a little bit more."

Mi Plan was independently financed through Furtado's Nelstar Music label. "My gauge of success will be, `Has it expanded my audience?' It's interesting that sometimes your less commercially viable albums are actually the ones that give you longevity.

"For instance, 90 per cent of the diehard fans that I meet, their favourite album is Folklore, which was my least commercially successful album.

"I understand the concept that it's not all about market, it's not all about sales. It's about, `Am I going to be doing this when I'm 70?' It's also about reinvention: you have to constantly evolve to engage people and keep their interest. If you try to live in the past it will escape you a little bit.

"When I was a little girl, Julio Iglesias was one of my heroes, because he sang in 10 languages. I was, like, `Wow, that would be really cool to be able to reach that many people.' I love that eclecticism in artists. I definitely aspire to that."

Source: TheStar

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