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Nelly Furtado remains unpredictable

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Backstage with Nelly Furtado
  • Nelly Furtado's latest album is "Mi Plan"
  • Singer uses Spanish for this record; previous albums have been in Portuguese, English
  • Furtado was one of the singers at the Vancouver opening ceremonies

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- We saw her at the Olympics, during an opening ceremony extravaganza that showcased some of Canada's most prominent recording artists. But Nelly Furtado is actually a one-woman melting pot.

On her first three albums, she's sampled global sounds, explored her Portuguese roots, and taken an urban turn with a disc co-produced by hip-hop impresario Timbaland. Furtado's current CD, "Mi Plan," is the first she's recorded entirely in Spanish. A new English-language album is due in May.

Last fall, we were granted an all-access pass as Furtado rehearsed in Los Angeles for her performance on the Alma Awards -- an annual ceremony honoring Latino achievement in television, music and sports. She moves easily in this circle, and there are smiles and hugs for everyone, from band members to the stage manager.

A quick run-through of her single, "Manos Al Aire," takes place in her dressing room, where she tweaks the ending so it'll play better in front of a live audience.

CNN: What was behind your desire to record an album in Spanish?

Nelly Furtado: I've always recorded in English, and Portuguese and Spanish -- so I just kind of wanted to make a more real gesture, and record a real full-length album in a Latin language. I really want to expand my horizons, and expand my audience. I think now people are exposed to a lot more global sounds. The Internet and iTunes have opened us up to a lot of new music. So I think putting this Spanish album out is actually not that odd. It's just timely, you know.

CNN: You were actually ahead of your time. Your first album in 2000 ("Whoa, Nelly!") had a lot of international rhythms.

Furtado: Yeah, well I grew up in Canada. I grew up in a very multicultural household -- one foot in Canada, one foot in Portugal -- speaking different languages, and learning a lot of different things. I like fusion. I like mixing different elements, and I don't like committing to one style. It's far more fun to go on a musical journey.

CNN: With the pop success of "Loose" in 2006, it surprised a lot of people when you took this left turn with "Mi Plan."

Furtado: For "Mi Plan," this album was the two years I took after "Loose" -- after the whirlwind tour of my third album. I was really tired at the end, and I went home and started appreciating the little moments in my life, and started appreciating the little details of life, and I've reflected that in the songs.

CNN: How so?

Furtado: Simple things, like a birthday. I have a song called "Feliz Cumpleanos," it was written the day after I turned 30 -- and it's all about that feeling of happy, sad, maybe missing somebody, missing a loved one. It's real stuff, you know. Kind of diary-style. Not ballads, per se -- still really rhythmic, and fun and energetic. Still a little more narrative than my previous work.

CNN: Think you'll ever translate it into an English version, or will it lose something in the translation?

Furtado: I don't know, actually. It wasn't really meant to be recorded in English when I wrote it and recorded it. The album was recorded fully in Spanish. I think if I had a hit that like a full crossover hit and there was a demand for it, I would definitely experiment, try it out.

CNN: We're in your dressing room backstage at the Alma Awards. Do you have any good luck rituals before you take the stage?

Furtado: I have a little ritual where I put on some perfume, eat a little breath mint before I go on. We all like to look and smell our best before we go onstage -- because it's a date! It's a date with the audience. It's a date with your fans. (Laughs)