Spanish album an unexpected "Plan" for Furtado

Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:14pm EDT
 
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By Leila Cobo

MIAMI (Billboard) - Nelly Furtado's first Spanish-language album is a mixture of design and circumstance, as so many grand plans often are.

There she was in the studio with her friend, guitarist James Bryan, attempting to help write the lyrics for a song titled "My Plan." But nothing worked. She tried writing the lyrics in Portuguese, but that didn't work either. And then, Alex Cuba -- a Cuban-Canadian singer-songwriter whose album Furtado had recently heard and liked -- stopped by the studio to say hello. Why not try the song in Spanish, he suggested. Then he had a go at the lyrics.

"And I really liked it," Furtado recalls. "So we started really organically writing songs -- me, him and James."

"My Plan" evolved into "Mi Plan," Furtado's first full-length Spanish-language album, due September 15 as a joint venture between Furtado's own label, Nellstar, and Universal Music Latin America. "Mi Plan" will be released simultaneously in all of Universal's 77 territories around the world and may be the most ambitious Spanish-language release by a mainstream star.

While it's common for Latin crossover artists like Enrique Iglesias and Shakira to release albums in Spanish, these always have included at least one English version of a single for mainstream radio. Even Christina Aguilera's "Mi Reflejo," her 2000 Spanish-language album, consisted mainly of translations of English-language hits -- and she has a Latin surname.

For Portuguese-Canadian Furtado, who has recorded Spanish collaborations, recording solely in that language is a gutsy move. "To me, music is a language in itself," Furtado says. "I know it sounds cliche, but that's what my experience has been around the world. I think some people, no matter what, are not going to like it because it's not the language they speak. But some of the people who listen to music in a different kind of way, they'll like it."

WORLDWIDE HITS

Given Furtado's global success, however, a Spanish-language album may be a good bet. "Mi Plan" comes in the wake of Furtado's 2006 album, "Loose," which sold more than 2 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and more than 10 million copies worldwide, according to Universal. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry ranked it at No. 13 on its list of top-selling albums for 2006 and 2007. Its hit single, "Promiscuous," was the fourth-best-selling online track in the world in 2006, according to IFPI numbers, ahead of hits like Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" (which "Promiscuous" also bested in the United States, according to SoundScan) and the Fray's "How to Save a Life."   Continued...