Control is a much sought after necessity for any artist. Adina Howard approached her second album, Welcome To Fantasy Island, ready to exercise her power externally and internally. She shocked the music industry with her landmark 1995 gold debut album Do You Wanna Ride, which featured the platinum single “Freak Like Me,” a sexually defiant, charged-up calling card that redefined the boundaries for female singers in the ’90’s. As a host of streetwise femme fatales followed in her wake, 1997 found the chameleon-like Adina reinventing herself once again, fueling her sophomore effort, Welcome To Fantasy Island, with cool funk and sultry ballads, but delivering it with the finesse of a veteran. Whether it’s house burning fare like the pumped up first single, “(Freak) And U Know It,” (produced by DJ Quik), the slithering opener “Welcome To My Queendom,” or the album’s sensuous interlude “Another Level,” Adina heightens the artistry without sacrificing any of the raw power she exuded on the first LP.
If anything, she’s even more conscious of the buttons she’s pushing out there. “I had a lot more creative control on this record,” she says. “On the last one, being a new artist meant I had to seek a lot of different advice and learn a lot. On this one I got to say: “yes, no, and maybe?””
Maybe? It’s a rare day when you’ll find Adina sitting on any fence. She devours the material on the new album, pointing out that the songs fit her like a glove. “I got to hand-pick everything and I feel the songs really represent a part of my personality, each in a different way,” she laughs. “I’m a lot more multi-dimensional than people might know.”
You realize what an understatement that is as soon as the passionate singer dives headlong into an interview. It’s obvious Adina Howard knows what she wants. The maturation process took place as soon as she began to achieve her goals. Like another controversial female pop icon – Madonna – Adina matches her fierce explorations of sexuality with the unmistakable authorship of someone in total possession of their own destiny. And she does it with a streetwise flair that wasn’t pilfered from fashion magazines. “I’ve created a lot of drama, that’s true,” she winks. “But I’m aware of what I’m doing. For me it’s OK to get people comfortable with their sexuality. It’s OK for a woman to love her body and still respect herself. I’m a strong woman and I champion other strong women. Human nature is fascinating to me. I was thinking at one point in my life of being a psychologist. I also studied criminal justice. Our mind and our bodies are still mysterious in a lot of ways.”
Growing up in Grand Rapids Michigan, Adina had a curiosity about the world around her that made her both ambitious and restless. “People tell me that even when I was young I would say ‘I’m going to be something,”‘ she laughs. “I don’t remember that. But my mother raised four daughters, and I always felt provided for, and I always felt I could accomplish anything I wanted if I put my mind to it.”
Adina kept busy between albums contributing to a string of hit soundtrack albums. Among them was a duet, “Damned If I Do,” on the soundtrack for A Thin Line Between Love And Hate, the catchy “For The Funk,” on the platinum-plus Sunset Park, and a duet with Warren G. on the platinum Supercop soundtrack, a remake of “What’s Love got To Do With It.”
She welcomed collaborations on her new album, inviting a host of friends and producers to add to the chemistry of the spirited, funk infested Diva cocktail, brewed specifically to Adina’s eclectic tastes. The sexy “Crank Me Up,” features labelmate Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, one of the most sought after producer/writer/performers in black music. adina co-wrote and co-produced the track, which in Adina’s words, is about “taking oneself higher both mentally and physically,” she says.
A special guest appearance by Bizzy Bone from the multi-platinum group Bone Thugs & Harmony on “Personal Freak,” is another of the album’s highlights. The track captures the sizzling chemistry between the two, making the song one of the hottest duets of the year. Another song that some might see as trademark Adina, actually came from a surprise source. The playful “T shirt & Panties,” features comedian Jamie Foxx, who co-wrote the song with Billy Moss. “This one might raise some eyebrows,” she says. “It’s funny that people have problems with lyrics sometimes. I think there is a double standard when it comes to women. In this country we glorify women and their bodies, even on television. In movies you get the double standard of seeing the woman’s body during a nude scene but seldom that man. I’m singing about it. So what’s the problem? With this album I’m straightforward about all the aspects of my personality. There are a lot of women out there who think like me, who are strong, but don’t have a voice.”
An example of Adina’s searing honesty can be found on “I’ll Be Damned If I’ll Apologize,” a duet with K-Ci Hailey from Jodeci. “I wasn’t so sure about it when I first heard it, but then I fell in love with it,” she says. “It’s about this guy and this girl who are breaking up. The girl is honest about it. She says: ‘I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to do you wrong but I’ll be damned if I’ll apologize.'” It’s this frequent reversal of stereotypical roles that makes Adina Howard such a trailblazer.
The fact that she’s been able to garner both male and female fans indicates she’s touching a nerve out there. “I want to be multi-faceted. I want people to respect my success, but I also want to be free to be who I am. I’m talking about projects beyond the music business, as well. One of the things I hope to do some day is open up a homeless shelter. It’s always been one of my goals. I also have thought about living outside of this country for awhile, I’ve thought about Japan or Europe. I love it here but I want to explore other cultures.”
Always willing to experiment, Adina has never been limited by boundaries, especially self imposed ones. Welcome To Fantasy Island further reveals the dynamics behind the image. “I’m always going to surprise you,” she says. “But it’s always going to be me. Always.”
We wouldn’t want it any other way.