- Make love to the camera, Nelly. That's it . . . good.
This letter should have reached you last year, shortly after you dropped Loose, but I mistakenly addressed it to just "Nelly." And consequently, I keep receiving late-night calls from a rapper who thinks I'm in love with his abs!
But never mind that -- I want to talk about what's going on with you and your career, and what's not going on between you and me. I've got to admit -- your Mariah-worthy persona change is still flipping me out. What happened to the sweet and innocent girl I fell for back in 2000 -- the one who made me -- and the entire world -- shout Whoa, Nelly! before going double platinum? You were just a beautifully fragile, note-bending dove whom I fell in love with, but you needed to spread your wings.
This brings us to 2003's Folklore, your first stab at soaring high in the sky. It was a flop in every sense of the word. After sitting through a mess of experiments that were as all-over-the-map as Waldo, I wanted my old bird back, but I kept that to myself at the time, didn't I? And how did you repay my willingness to let you produce such an uninspired vanity project, three years after your charming debut?
You turned yourself into a cheap Fergie knockoff (which doesn't make sense, since Fergie is just a cheap knockoff of Gwen, anyway). You even bought yourself your very own Timbaland action figure (and nothing gives a white chick more urban cool than a Timbaland collaboration). Now, don't get me wrong: Even though I don't dig your ghetto-fabulous makeover, I'll still make sweet love to you, if you call the number at the bottom of this letter. Like a lot of sweet love. But to answer the question you ask on your mega-hit "Promiscuous": No, I won't respect you if you let me get it.
After all, you're apparently pretty easy. I mean, hell, if the album title Loose doesn't make this clear, the videos for "Promiscuous" and "Maneater" certainly do. With every gyration, they broadcast one simple message: I want to be idolized and, oh yeah, fucked by this whole club. Then there's those lyrics -- which are, like, 10 flights down from anything on Whoa, Nelly!: "Promiscuous boy, you already know/That I'm all yours, what are you waiting for?" What sexual profundity!
The lyrics to "Maneater," meanwhile, reveal just how big your head has gotten: "Everybody look at me, me/ I walk in the door, you start screaming," you rap/croon, just before begging the room to move their bodies around like nymphos. Seriously, Nelly, what made you think the trashy diva image -- half Paris Hilton, half Eve -- was the way to go?
That's already been done, and better, by Gwen. It was also done with a healthy dose of irony, which is totally absent from your shtick. You simply woke up one day and declared, "I'm tired of not selling records. This MILF is going to get ripped and start singing about how sexy she is."
But here's the issue, Nelly -- and I hope you don't take offense to this, since I really do want to know you better, if only to, you know, figure out who the real Nelly, trapped inside this money-loving, personality-conforming shell of sweaty hotness, is. Anyway, your new stuff isn't at all sexy. Yeah, you sing about sex, and yeah, you sport skimpy tops and low-riding jeans that make sweet love to your perfect ass, and yeah, those beats suggest E-fueled love fests. But you, yourself, just aren't sexy. You used to be, in that authentic kind of way Mariah Carey was before she started stripping for anyone who waved a camera at her.
Of course, if you define sexy as the number of teenage boys who masturbate to your videos, then yes, you're pretty damn sexy. But we all know you're not a promiscuous whore. We also know that when you defend yourself by saying you're musically promiscuous -- as in willing to switch styles with every song -- that just means you're willing to do whatever it takes to sell a record. But why sink this low? You had the critics' love before; you had fans who actually had emotional reactions to your music. You even won a Grammy!
I know you probably hate me for saying all of this, but it had to be said. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. Maybe it's not too late for you to change or at least defend your position by proving just how promiscuous you are -- use the number included below. Don't worry, I'll let you go -- like a bird, when the time comes again.
Your (hopefully) secret lover,