With 2006's glossy, Timbaland-produced Loose, Nelly Furtado went from the hippie-ish singer of "I'm Like a Bird" to an unexpected pop star with multiple Top 10 hits. The singer-songwriter, however, has been suffering from a musical identity crisis ever since, her largely ignored follow-ups teetering between her folk history and her pop success. Sixth album, The Ride, achieves a balance. Taking cues from recent collaborator Dev Hynes, an artist who makes emotional synth-pop, Furtado's first album on her own label finds a home in crunchy indie-centric melodies that perfectly fit her imaginative lyrics. Opening track "Cold Hard Truth" is one of her finest in years, a catchy single with one of the album's heaviest beats. The alluring "Paris Sun" carries a menacingly sexy synth reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" but with a softer touch.
influence of producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky) is
clear, Furtado exerting pop-adjacent weirdness with a healthy dose of fuzz and
charm. However, she loses the focus and simple brilliance of the more upbeat
moments when she hits the ballads. "Carnival Games" falls flat by a
slightly cloying chorus; and the subdued, overly wispy "Phoenix"
serves as an anti-climactic ending to an otherwise energized, lively
collection. She's found her most sustainable route yet – many defy pop odds
with a third career revitalization.