no, Nelly

In her groundbreaking 1969 volume The Rock Encyclopedia, pioneering critic Lillian Roxon (1932-1973) lamented that semi-manufactured band The Grass Roots did not have the decency to die in a fiery plane crash shortly after the release of their first two top-10 hits: Let’s Live For Today and Midnight Confessions. Had they done so, she suggested, The Grass Roots would today be remembered as garage-rock legends. Instead, the combo degenerated into disposable bubble-gum confections like Two Divided By Love.

I have never wished the woman ill, but I’ve long suspected that the legend of Nelly Furtado would similarly burn that much brighter had she retired from recording and performing a dozen years ago, while I’m Like a Bird was resting somewhere near the top of the charts. The finest gloriously shallow declaration of independence¬† since Lisa Loeb’s Stay, the infectious song positively pleaded for one-hit wonder status. Alas — and I won’t blame Canadian-content regulations entirely for this — Ms. Furtado, unlike Ms. Loeb, refused to retreat back to obscurity in the wake of her hit. So while Len, The Moffatts and Sugar Jones rightly stepped aside for newer and shinier overnight sensations, Furtado continued to produce high-profile records — some, like the irresistible Promiscuous, really rather good — and to resist the where-are-they-now role that was meant to be her lot. In the process, she went and tarnished our memories of a great little ditty. Not for the oldies circuit, this artist. Furtado had more to say.

And, for a while, we continued to listen. Even if we didn’t want to.

A week ago, a curious thing happened: Groupon began offering cut-price tickets for Furtado’s scheduled Jan. 21 concert at the National Arts Centre. Touring on the heels of a new album, the bird-like singer was evidently in need of a bit of assistance when it came to ticket sales. Then, earlier this week, came the inevitable announcement that Furtado’s NAC show has been cancelled. The tour’s Winnipeg date had already been shelved, and other shows scaled back to more intimate venues. Furtado’s audience, it seems, is becoming more selective.

If only she had known when to stop. But hey, we’ll always have this…

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