Whoa, Nelly!
Release Date:
Oct 24, 2000
DreamWorks Records
01 - Hey, Man!
02 - Shit on the Radio (Remember the Days)
03 - Baby Girl
04 - Legend
05 - I'm Like a Bird
06 - Turn off the Light
07 - Trynna Finda Way
08 - Party
09 - Well, Well
10 - My Love Grows Deeper Part 1
11 - I Will Make U Cry
12 - Scared of You
13 - Onde Estas (on international version)

At first glance, Whoa, Nelly! seemed to be just another pop album. It was released at the height of the teen pop craze, in which Nelly later called, "the worst time ever, it was the climax of pop. There was loads of skepticism."

But after listening to the album, the critics changed their minds. The reviews were extremely positive; helping the album reach double platinum status in the US. The songs Nelly wrote on her guitar came to life with the help of Gerald Eaton and Brian West to form an eclectic mix of music that defies genres.

The international success of her debut album is a sign of things to come.

“Hey Man”: It’s a big pop song and kind of rocking now because we went back to the demo version of it. It’s just guitar, bass and a Kronos Quartet string sample in the chorus. Brian West, one of my producers, had their Pieces Of Africa CD, and he wanted something distinct to happen in the chorus. So he chopped up “White Man Sleeps” by The Kronos Quartet. It’s really good.

"Shit On The Radio (Remember The Days)”: I wrote that all in one go. It’s about me feeling insecure about my popness and wanting to hide in some underground kind of circle just to fit in with my musical peers. I could try to be cool and whatever, but why do I have to try? Why can’t I just be myself? The moment you make that step and say, “I want to make pop music” is a big thing. But no matter what happens to me there’ll always be someone going, “Oh, her music sucks now because everyone likes it.” I feel that song a lot.

“Baby Girl”: Baby Girl was written in Toronto. I had a rebirth of feeling good about writing R&B hooks and R&B songs – because it’s a part of who I am. So that’s all it is, an R&B song, with maybe a little bit deeper lyrics. I love the energy and the attitude. “Baby Girl” is going to be really fun to perform live

“Legend”: I wanted to do an English bossa nova song. It just kind of starts and ends. What I’m discovering is, I’m more into the music; the lyrics to this mean something, but the music means a bit more. One of my favorite lyrics is “Will you open the door for me/ If you believe in chivalry?” I like that line.

“I’m Like A Bird”: “I’m Like A Bird” is my newest song. There’s a simplicity about it that I love. It’s my freedom song. “I’m like a bird/ I’ll only fly away/ I don’t know where my soul is/ I don’t know where my home is.”

“Turn Off The Light”: That’s a real song. That was inspired by a Big Sugar song. Big Sugar’s a Canadian band. Though I may seem so independent and stuff, blah, blah, blah, when I turn out the light at night I can get lonely just like everybody else. Maybe that’s why it’s such a good song and everyone is responding to it – because it’s real. Just a song with a fun, hooky chorus.

“Trynna Finda Way”: This song is my Beat poet song; it is inspired by the Jack Kerouac novel “On The Road” and has a stream-of-consciousness, Alan Ginsburg vibe, thus the lyric “I left my heart in San Francisco” (which I probably did do in another lifetime, although I had never actually been to San Francisco when I wrote this song). I used a part of the first verse in an older song of mine called “Post No Bills.”

“Party”: The chorus came when I was in my room with my guitar. Most of the lyrics, verse-wise, were written in this stream-of-consciousness thing I had while cleaning a hotel room. I was chambermaiding, and thus the lyrics: “I’m talking to the mirror again/ But it’s not listening.” You know what I would use to write on? There were these little guest survey sheets: How was your stay? Any suggestions? And I’d have them in my cart, so I’d grab them and, like, write on them when I needed to write. I still have some.

“Well, Well”: This song came to me one evening just as my head was hitting the pillow, so I quickly got up, turned on the light and wrote it out. It captures a feeling of … Nellyness! It’s a typical Nelly song, the ubiquitous Nelly song. It’s short … like me!

“My Love Grows Deeper (Part I)”: This song was the first track on my demo tape. It was the first song that [co-producer] Gerald [Eaton], Brian and I wrote together. I think I wrote the hooks while driving back from college class one day. I had to pull over and write down the lyrics. The chorus was inspired by a Portishead song from their album Dummy called “Wandering Star.”

“I Will Make U Cry”: I’m on that borderline where the melodic stuff just doesn’t excite me sometimes, and you just can’t say enough in a pop song. I don’t fit in the singer-songwriter role, and I’m not a rapper, so I kind of created this thing where I can do both. So in that song I sing-rap. That’s why I like hip-hop, because you can say so much in a rhyme.

“Scared Of You”: It’s a live jam thing with a well-known Portuguese guitarra player, Nuno Cristo. It’s half Portuguese and I think it has a kind of Cesaria Evora vibe to it. After I did that session I was like, “Damn, this is another place where I want to head.” I want to do Portuguese music because that’s the other side of me. There’s this urban, fun side and then there’s the deep, emotional Portuguese singer side of me. I really want to make a Portuguese-language album in the next couple of years.


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