Nelly Furtado's voice is a curious instrument that can veer from sultry to shrill and back again without sounding aware of any difference between the two. Such obliviousness is no sure sign of character, but it's certainly distinctive. Even more distinctive is Timbaland, the blue-chip producer whose sound remains electrifying even as its progressive metabolism has slowed.
So what happens when the two team up? Loose, a notably tight album of summer bangers marked by more melody than either Furtado or Timbaland has played with before. "Maneater" is the highlight for the way it buries a showy beat—typical Timbaland lurches and stabs, with a new emphasis on naturalistic drum sounds—beneath a chorus that steals the show back. "Promiscuous," the first single, follows suit with gleaming synths shot through a long, luscious hook. It's as if Furtado and Timbaland set out to celebrate the kind of '80s electro-pop on the indispensable compilation series The Perfect Beats. (See: Shannon's "Let The Music Play.")
Furtado sounds strategically restrained throughout, unleashing her bratty nasality only when it serves gameful "na na na" vamps. She sulks and projects with grace in "Showtime," the only one of three slow songs that isn't regrettable (including one about "God's hands," never a good subject). But then there's "Do It," with a rush of hectic keyboard squiggles and a remarkable bassline that promises to make anybody feel just a little bit more beddable.