Touching people's souls: this is what music is for ..."
Swimming against the tide comes naturally to Lina. In fact, fearlessly treading the undercurrent beyond the waves of status quo is what shapes her fresh, arresting sound.
That's abundantly clear from the first listen to Lina's sophomore project, The Inner Beauty Movement. The album—her first for new label home Hidden Beach Recordings—reflects the singer/songwriter's creative credo: to be passionate, organic and timeless. Whether discoursing on life's ups and downs, love, self-empowerment or just plain old feeling good, the many moods showcased on "Inner Beauty" embody what Lina constantly strives for: originality.
"With so much technology, there are a lot of producer-driven artists," says the Los Angeles-based singer. "The result is that tracks have become the meat versus the lyrics. And it's become more about manufacturing mass-produced recordings. It can be difficult to be original, but I've always put passion into my writing and performing. I just let the music that's inside of me flow out."
That passion permeates "Inner Beauty. As does Lina's hybrid melding of R&B, jazz, hip-hop, swing and pop. Rounding out the creative equation is Lina's prowess for penning songs whose lyrics not only entertain but also teach. As she notes, "When I write, it's what I'm feeling that day. Every song is an experience, some wisdom or knowledge gained; a musical lesson."
Take the album's introspective name, for instance. The impetus for the CD's title was sparked by two different experiences. One occurred during a Hollywood party Lina attended at which she wondered whether some of the scantily clad women "knew they didn't have to try so hard on the outside because they had an inner beauty inside."
The other motivating factor stems from Lina's childhood. An accident left her with scars that prompted kids' hurtful teasing. By coincidence, her mother had survived a childhood bout with polio that left her with a visible impediment: one leg shorter than the other. It was the indomitable, can-do spirit of both her mother and grandmother that gave Lina her creative foundation.
"They both told me the scars weren't my real beauty," recalls Lina. "My grandmother said that when you embrace your inner struggle, a light will shine. And that light represents the real beauty inside of you."
That message—realizing and accepting who you are inside to become naturally beautiful outside—is at the core of Lina's musical mission on The Inner Beauty Movement. Among the album's stellar selections—all written by Lina—are the self-realization anthem "I Am," and the empowering, mid-tempo "Leaving You, which recognizes and exalts inner strength with such lyrics as: "Today's the day/Now I can finally see my way/Found somebody new/I'm leaving you ... for me." Notes Lina, "It's hard to let go, but you have to do it for you."
What lovers will rightfully—and wrongfully—endure in a struggling relationship is at the heart of "Smooth." The couple will do anything to make it smooth because they love each other," says Lina of the song. "But it's still a dysfunctional relationship. People in my generation seem to be in love with things. The guys are hard, and the ladies are so independent to the point of not needing anyone. But we always need someone to inspire us."
Which is what happens when R&B powerhouse Anthony Hamilton and Lina team up on the soulful "Around the World." Their performance recalls the timeless pairing of Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. Hamilton's warm, full-bodied tenor is the perfect complement to Lina's emotion-packed, versatile soprano.
The Inner Beauty Movement builds on the signature sound that first caught listeners' attention in 2001. That's when Atlantic Records released Lina's solo debut, Stranger on Earth, which spun off the hits "It's Alright" and "Playa No Mo." In addition to earning critical acclaim, Lina's impressive vocal styling and unique merging of music past and present elicited comparisons to Billie Holiday, Macy Gray and Erykah Badu. Two collaborators from that album, producers Jeeve and Travis "T-House" House, reunite with Lina on "Inner Beauty."
Born in Denver and raised in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Lina grew up in a music-loving family with roots in gospel and jazz. In fact, she began singing in her local church at the age of four as well as touring with its choir. She later graduated to a solo tour with her mom and stints singing at weddings and other gatherings before signing with Atlantic as a writer first, then a singer. Among her songwriting credits: "Ain't Nothin' Like a Jones" for RCA artist Tyrese.
Peppering her conversation with phrases like "rule-breaking" and "respect for talent," Lina counts among her musical influences such singular personalities as Prince, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sarah Vaughan, Josephine Baker and Sade. Able to sing in seven different languages, Lina also divines inspiration from Cuban and French music.
Her constant desire to give back through music is the impetus behind the upcoming Save Your Soul compilation series that will be released through the artist's own MoodStar Recordings. "Save Your Soul is for people who have a passion for music, not just to drive a Bentley," says Lina. "It's not about looking for clones but helping new artists develop who they truly are."
And who Lina truly is can be heard on The Inner Beauty Movement.
"What music is missing right now are artists like Lauryn Hill who can touch people's souls," says Lina. "This is what music is for. I'm not here for the attention. I'm an instrument of God, here to help people realize themselves."
That's Lina. No clone ... an original.