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Love Letter To A Record: Georgia Mae On Nelly Furtado’s ‘Whoa, Nelly!’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Georgia Mae – Nelly Furtado, ‘Whoa, Nelly!’ (2000)

I don’t remember exactly when or how I heard Whoa, Nelly! for the first time but I would’ve been about 7 years old and my mum would’ve bought me the CD (she was my personal DJ for a good chunk of my childhood). And I don’t remember if it came to me at some pivotal point in my short little life back then, or whether it precipitated some kind of major change, but I DO remember absolutely and unconditionally falling in love with this colourful, bold and deliciously mysterious record.

The fusion of pop/hip hop/folk/soul/world with Nelly’s Portuguese roots (and, at times, this reggae-rock bluesy thing) completely captivated me, however, it was Nelly’s voice which tipped me over the edge into obsession-ville. It was like I could almost hear the determination in her voice to be completely and utterly herself. Her confidence was infectious; I was so young but remember feeling like I could be and do whatever I wanted when singing along to the record. It even inspired me to choreograph a full-blown dance to ‘Turn Off The Light’. As you can probably imagine, it was sick. Looking back, I think why I loved it so much as a kid is that Nelly’s so grounded in her own sound and voice; that sort of self-assuredness is empowering for young women, let alone young girls.

‘Hey Man’ is still my fav track on the record. Musically, it’s so bright and wondrous, and the lyrics are so beautifully poetic. Her biggest hit ‘I’m Like A Bird’ wasn’t actually a winner for me but I LOVE the imagery of the film clip. It’s funny how sensual her lyrics are throughout the record (which I realise now that I’m a bit older)…I guess a lot of her lyrical content was lost on me when I was young but that didn’t seem to matter – the essence of each song still translated, and I think that’s a sign of a powerful singer/songwriter.

It was insane discovering the true meaning of ‘Shit On The Radio’ as I grew up. It’s about some lame-o lover dude judging Nelly for ‘selling out’ because her music was getting played on the radio. Which is hilarious. Doubly hilarious because I’ve been there, girl lol. Maybe what stands out the most to me is how frighteningly honest Nelly is with her lyrics, in combination with the almost guttural character of her voice. It’s real. It cuts through to the bone. It makes me really feel something. She’s always been an inspiration to me; an audacious and ambitious writer who is seemingly uninhibited by anyone or anything else. That’s art, right there.

Whoa, Nelly! is wild. It’s its own thing. She is her own woman. And I just love it.

Listen to Georgia Mae’s new single ‘Soul Like This’.

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