"Promiscuous" is a song by Canadian singer Nelly Furtado from her third studio album Loose (2006), featuring Timbaland. The song was written by Anthony Motz, along with Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, Furtado and Nate "Danja" Hills. The song's lyrics, which were penned by Furtado and Clayton, feature a conversation between a man and woman who call each other promiscuous. The overtly-sexual song was released as the lead single from the album in North America in early 2006, and as the second single elsewhere in mid-2006 except in Latin America, where the single was released as the third single in late 2006.
The song was well received by music critics, with some critics calling it the highlight of the album. "Promiscuous" was an international success and it had become Furtado's first number-one single in the US. It is the first number one by a Canadian female artist since 1998's "I'm Your Angel" by R. Kelly and Céline Dion on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song also topped the chart in New Zealand and peaked within the top ten on many charts across Europe.
The accompanying music video was directed by Little X, and features scenes of Furtado and Timbaland, in what Furtado describes as a "verbal Ping-Pong game". Cameo appearances are made by Keri Hilson, Justin Timberlake, and Bria Myles.
The song won the "Best Pop Single of the Year" at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards and received a nomination for the "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" at the 49th Grammy Awards, losing to Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life".
Background and writing
The lyrics of "Promiscuous" describe the two sides of the relationship that the song's protagonist deals with. It was one of the first songs Furtado wrote with labelmate Timothy "Attitude" Clayton. Furtado called their teamwork something she "had never done before" because she saw the writing process as "extremely freeing" because of his different approach and style. Clayton helped Furtado experiment with interpreting the "promiscuous girl" character and the two-sided relationship she is in. Furtado also described that in the process of writing lyrics "we were actually flirting, which is why the song is so playful" and that she and Clayton nicknamed the song 'The BlackBerry Song', because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody". Because of the preponderant musical influence of artists such as Talking Heads, Blondie, Madonna, The Police and Eurythmics, whom producers Timbaland and Danja listened to during the writing of the album, "Promiscuous" takes inspiration from pop music of the 1980s. The sexuality was based on the "strong women in control" of the 1990s, such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Salt-n-Pepa and TLC.
The reference to basketball player Steve Nash in the song's lyrics led to speculation that he and Furtado were romantically involved, but both deny the link with Nash commenting, "I'm flattered that she put me in her song, but I'm completely in love with my wife and two little baby girls". Furtado decided to include him because she and Nash are both from Victoria, British Columbia, and due to frequent citations of basketballers in songs, she decided to "give him the props". In one of the verses Timbaland introduces himself as Thomas Crown. The Thomas Crown Affair is a film about wealthy businessman who plays a cat-and-mouse/flirting game with an insurance investigator. Timbaland only performed the song live on special occasions, such as Furtado's appearance on Saturday Night Live, and the 2006 MuchMusic Video Awards. Starting with Furtado's show at the 94th Grey Cup on 19 November 2006, and extending into the Get Loose Tour, Timbaland's part is filled in by Canadian rapper Saukrates.
"Promiscuous" received positive reviews from music critics. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone considered it a highlight in Loose. Timbaland's appearance received particular praise, which added Furtado's "high-school musical vocals" over his eighty beats according to Sheffield. The New Yorker considered it "a playful update" of Janet Jackson's "Nasty", using "a heavier and darker rhythmic bed." AllMusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine compared it to "vintage Prince", citing "Promiscuous" as a highlight of Furtado's makeover.
However, Erlewine believed that no matter how much Furtado sings about sex, she does not sound sexy and does not "generate much carnal heat". IGN's review considered the song "simultaneously annoying and yet catchy beyond belief" and listed as one of Loose's "Definitely Downloads", Pitchfork Media called it "one of the best vocal performances of [Timbaland's] career", and Billboard called the duo of Furtado and Timbaland "a surprisingly good match". The song was also included in three lists of best songs of 2006: fourth on Blender, sixth at The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop, 56th on Rolling Stone, and 80th on Pitchfork.
On 4 December 2006, "Promiscuous" won "Best Pop Single of the Year" at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, beating Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" and Sean Paul's "Temperature". The song was nominated for the "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, losing to Tony Bennett & Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life".
In Canada, the single's music video debuted on MuchMusic's MuchOnDemand after an interview with Furtado on 8 May 2006. On 4 May 2006, "Promiscuous" debuted inside the top five on the Canadian Singles Chart, and on 1 June, it became Furtado's first Canadian number-one single. It spent twenty-five weeks on the singles chart, and returned to number two after the commercial release of Loose, but was the year's shortest-running number-one single. "Promiscuous" charted at number one on the Canadian Digital Chart and was the most successful single release in her home nation since "I'm Like a Bird" (2000). In April 2008, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) began certifying ringtone sales, and "Promiscuous" was included in its debut list, having sold 120,000 copies in Canada. The single was also previously certified 3 Platinum in January 2007 for digital download sales, denoting sales of 60,000 copies.
In United States, "Promiscuous" debuted at number sixty-four on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of 20 May 2006. On 8 July it topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her first number-one single. It spent six weeks at the top spot and was replaced by Fergie's "London Bridge". It reached the top position on Billboard Pop Songs and Hot Dance Club Play chart. "Promiscuous" reached number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and number thirty-six on Hot Latin Songs chart. The song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of 1,000,000 digital copies. It also made number three on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart and number forty-four on the decade-end chart. As of August 2009, the song has so far sold over 2,504,000 digital downloads in the United States.
Outside North America, "Promicuous" performed well. The song debuted at number five on the Australian ARIA Charts and peaked at number two in its third week. It was her first top five hit since "I'm Like a Bird" (2000) and was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for the sales of 70,000 digital copies.
"Promiscuous" debuted at number thirty-three on the New Zealand Top 40 on 10 July 2006. It topped the chart in its third week and became her second number-one single after "Turn off the Light" (2001). It remained the top spot for five weeks and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).
In Europe, "Promiscuous" became a commercial success, peaking at number five on European Hot 100 Singles. The song debuted at number fifteen on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number three the following week. It spent a total of fourteen weeks on the chart. On 31 December 2006 BBC Radio 1 reported that "Promiscuous" was the thirty-eighth highest selling single in the UK in 2006. The single re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number sixty-six in January 2007 due to the The Official UK Charts Company's new rules. It performed moderately in others European countries, less than the next singles, it tooped the chart in Denmark and was within the top five in Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway and Slovakia. It missed to reach the top ten in Austria, France and Sweden.
The song's music video was directed by Little X and features cameo appearances by Keri Hilson, Bria Myles, Sean Faris and Justin Timberlake. It does not follow a storyline and per Furtado's request, focuses on scenes with dancing and flirting because she wanted to recreate the song's indicative vibe, and took the opportunity to film a club video for the first time. Furtado said of the video, "It's that whole dance that goes on. There's that mystery there, the fun, playful sexiness, the verbal Ping-Pong game". Furtado and Timbaland cannot decide whether they want to begin dating or instead flirt with others on the dance floor. Their single performances are intercut with several scenes of a dancing crowd, and the lighting changes between blue, green, red, and yellow colors.
"Promiscuous" premiered on MTV's Total Request Live on 3 May 2006, where it reached number one after spending twenty-one days on the countdown. After its debut on MuchMusic's Countdown, it ascended to number one for the week of 28 July 2006. At the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, it was nominated for the Best Dance, Female and Pop Video Awards. The video was parodied by MADtv in a segment entitled "Syphilis Girl"; in the video, Furtado (Nicole Parker) is comically portrayed as having given Timbaland (Jordan Peele) the sexually transmitted disease, as well as on YouTube by the comedic group Train of Thought Sketch Comedy, where the video is parodied by troupe member Kaci and features a puppet version of Timbaland.
Credits are adapted from the Loose liner notes.
- Nelly Furtado – lyrics, lead vocals, background vocals
- Timbaland – lyrics, lead vocals, producer, drums, keyboards
- Nate "Danja" Hills – producer, drums, keyboards
- Demacio "Demo" Castellón – engineering, mixing, recording, additional programming
- Marcella "Ms. Lago" Araica – additional recording
- Jim Beanz – additional background vocals, vocal production
- James Roach – second engineering
- Kobla Tetey – second engineering
- Ben Jost – second engineering
- Vadim Chislov – second engineering
- Timothy "Attitude" Clayton – lyrics
- Recorded at The Hit Factory, Miami, Florida
- Mixed at Thomas Crown Studios, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Charts and certifications
|United States||25 April 2006||Digital download|
|United States||2 May 2006||Mainstream radio||Geffen|
|Germany||18 August 2006||CD single, maxi single||Universal|
|France||28 August 2006||Digital download||Polydor|
|United Kingdom||4 September 2006||CD single, digital download|