She's been through success, label problems, and reinventions, but R&B singer Adina Howard's still managed to keep her sex icon status in tact. After a successful introduction to the music world with her outspoken, liberating gold-selling debut "Do You Wanna Ride?" (which spawned the #2 Pop platinum-selling hit "Freak Like Me", as well as the follow-ups "Freak Like Me (Slow Wind Remix)" "My Up & Down" and "It's All About You"), Adina paved the way for then-upcoming female sexually-explicit rappers Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown.
After completing a couple of tours and soundtrack appearances, Adina headed back into the studio to record her sophomore album "Welcome To Fantasy Island" (originally titled "Portrait Of A Lady"), which released the single "[Freak] And U Know It". To much dismay, Adina didn't want that as the lead single, but the label persisted. A video was made, and retail singles released. However, the song failed to hit on radio, which eventually led to the label's decision that her album 'contained no singles'. "Welcome To Fantasy Island" was left unreleased in 1997, although it soon surfaced online a couple years later. An excellent improvement over her debut, it showed growth, as well as Adina's versatility as an artist with songs ranging from jazz, to funk, to r&b and to hip hop.
One song from the album did become an underground hit, "T-Shirt and Panties", which was made commercially available on the soundtrack to the 1998 film "Woo" starring Jada Pinkett Smith & Tommy Davidson. Written by and featuring Jamie Foxx, the seductive song became one of Adina's signature songs among her fans. It was even slated to become the second single off her album (and the soundtrack), with DJ Clue making a remix featuring rappers Cam'ron and Charli Baltimore. However, it didn't get released to radio.
Adina took a break after that period of her life, but she headed back into the studio early 2003, and soon was back into the limelight. Signed to an independent label, Rufftown Records, she released her third studio album "The Second Coming" (other titles: "Ride Again: 7/2" "Two Can Play That Game") in April 2004, bolstered by the lead single "Nasty Grind". The single hit #1 on a couple of radio stations, yet the video only aired on BET's Midnight Love Dedications show. A stronger, bolder accomplished set than her previous albums, "The Second Coming" was a great present for the fans who've waited for a commercially available album since 1997. Plans for the set's second single, "Outside (The Club)", fell through as legal issues arose over the album's sales.
Now, originally conceived to be apart of her "The Second Coming: Remixed & Uncut" collection, Adina shifted gears in 2005 and planned for a fourth studio album, "Private Show". News arose infrequently about the album's release, and a final release date was set for September 2005 (after 3-4 changes). That date soon came and went, and no news has come as of late. Seems like Adina is without a label, and this album has been shelved until further notice. However, that didn't stop from this bootleg to be leaked online. And therefore begins my review of her fourth studio album.
The set's opening number "Phone Sex", is a strong comeback lead single for Adina. Rock-tinged, and carrying one of the most catchiest melodies/hooks since her biggest hit "Freak Like Me", Adina has finally delivered a single worthy of being a follow-up comeback vehicle. Explicit, and brash, one could imagine the video for this concoction. It soon merges into her last charting single, "Freaks", with rappers Play N Skillz & Krayzie Bone. A great throwback rap track, with a nice mainstream chorus provided by Adina, she's more of a featured artist on the track than one of the leads.
The third song on the set, a reworking of 50 Cent's "Just A Lil Bit" titled "Might Let You Hit" is a good but not great mixtape track. One of the least favorite tracks of the bunch. "Vibe With Me", a song originally set for "The Second Coming", is a nice step back into the better parts of this album. A bouncy instrumental glides Adina's vocals over this track, which contains lyrics that are nice, but nothing spectacular.
"It's On Tonight" lets you forget about the two previous songs, as it becomes another stand out track. Jazzy, it's almost flawless as one of her career's best songs. "Forbidden Fruit" reminds me of a couple of the songs on "The Second Coming", which are the songs I would occasionally skip. A slow-tempo number, it provides an interesting metaphor, yet I wouldn't choose this song to play on repeat. "Buttnaked" already provided Adina at her sexiest, and that was on the album before this.
A mid-tempo ballad, "I've Been Waiting For You" is a change of topics, since it's a lovesick track. Not about sex, but it's more of a soft, pop track that could be improved if given a better hook. It's followed by "Damn Damn Damn", a track featuring Mark Morrison (and included on his recently-released second album). It's a considerably good duet, reminiscent of her previous ones with K-Ci Hailey, Somethin' For The People and Ee-De. Almost one of the more mainstream r&b tracks here.
"Bomb Sexx", a track originally set for Melieck Britt's Mecca Don/EastWest Records debut "Coming Soon To A Bedroom Near You", it was unreleased until he signed to an independent label and released his album under the title "First Touch". It's probably one of the songs not appearing on the final version of "Private Show" (remember: this is just a bootleg). Follows in the same comments as "Damn Damn Damn", yet this one seems the better of the two. Only thing hurting this song is the dated-90s sound of it. After this song, is the rap-heavy "Who Do You Believe In?", which is an excellent collaboration. Just like "Freaks", it'd be a hit on radio (maybe not top40), but a nice track for Adina to be featured on.
One of the two remixes on the album, this "Crunk Remix" of "Outside (The Club)", is a vast improvement over the original, although I can't help but imagine why they didn't release this to radio. Closing the album is one of the rarest songs from Adina, "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is", one of Adina's original demos. It's here on the album, in it's remixed form, the DJ Hype Remix, one of the most sought-after versions on vinyl. Excellent dance track, and I hope to hear the original someday.
So in terms of the tracks, my ratings (out of 5 stars):
> 1. Phone Sex *****
> 2. Freaks *** 1/2
> 3. Might Let You Hit *
> 4. Vibe With Me ** 1/2
> 5. It's On Tonight *****
> 6. Forbidden Fruit **
> 7. I've Been Waiting For You ***
> 8. Damn Damn Damn **
> 9. Bomb Sexx ***
> 10. Who Do You Believe In? ***
> 11. Outside The Club (Crunk Remix) **** 1/2
> 12. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (Dance Remix) ****