"Powerless" addresses how Furtado herself was discriminated against in that her record company wanted to hide her ancestry: "Paint my face in your magazines/Make it look whiter than it seems/Paint me over with your dreams/Shove away my ethnicity". Of the song. Furtado said: "I get to see a lot of DJ-oriented performance stuff, and I'm into the heaviness of breakbeats, how raw and powerful they are. Everything lately has become so synthesized, but just the standard sound of breakbeats is inspiring. 'Powerless' uses breakbeats like that; it's a real groove, a real vibe. It just carries you away. There’s a banjo mixed with a breakbeat from elements of Malcolm McLaren's 'Buffalo Gals.' So right away you're bobbing your head. The lyrics are initially in-your-face, like, 'Okay, I know I'm going to be stereotyped in my life because that is the world we live in; that's society.' But the song tries to find some sense of order in this complicated world." The song won Single of the year at the 2004 Juno Awards.
The music video was directed by Bryan Barber and was shot in the period of three days. The video revolves around a classic psychological metaphor: Nelly trapped inside a box from which she seeks to escape. Inside, the box is plastered with posters that act as doors or windows for the artist’s imagination. Her situation is a metaphor for being both defined and confined by the illusory commercial reality of her celebrity and beauty. The video was shot on various sets and dressed locations, and in a large customized box crate, which were all created by production designer Aaron Goffman. Using Photoshop and Illustrator, Moneyshots designed the posters and graphics that surround Nelly in the box and added the transitions that transport Nelly back and forth between the imprisoning box and the poster environments that signify the escape self-expression can bring.
There is an alternate version of the video featuring Nelly in a field, and shown in several screens in different parts of a city, showing the movements of the modern life.