If there were an award for the most inspired and original release of 2005, it should go to Lina for “The Inner Beauty Movement.” The sophomore release from this honey-voiced singer/songwriter is a breath of fresh air amid countless mediocre R&B records currently topping the charts and hogging the airwaves across the country. In today’s popular music culture where quality albums are nearing extinction, rarely do we find a record like “The Inner Beauty Movement,” which contains18 tracks filled with Lina’s potent singing and songwriting.

Lina first gained a loyal following in 2001 with her first album, “Stranger on Earth” on Atlantic Records. After initially turning heads for her beauty and penchant for Eastern-inspired clothing on the album cover, Lina wowed listeners with her unique combination of jazzy, soulful vocals, eclectic grooves, and brutally honest lyrics. Her vocal style immediately drew comparisons to jazz legends like Billie Holliday and Dinah Washington. Lina was marketed as another talented neo-soul artist, but calling her style “old time jazz singer meets cosmic soul” would’ve been a much more accurate description.

She signed with Hidden Beach Records in 2002, with the stipulation that her deal include her new independent label, Mood Star. On the “Inner Beauty Movement,” we find Lina a bit more socially conscious in her message this time out, and rather than a stunning picture of her sporting a sari, head wrap, or bindi on the album cover, we see only her eyes, perhaps so listeners will focus on the music contained within, rather than on Lina’s outer beauty.

The majority of songs on “The Inner Beauty Movement” are midtempo grooves and Lina’s voice perfectly compliments the music throughout. The highlights on this record are too numerous to mention, but there are several that will undoubtedly have listeners reaching for the repeat button. These include “Come to Mama,” a finger-snapping, uptempo tale of a woman’s unconditional love and support for her man that includes a hook sung in French, “I Am,” a midtempo cut that’s as funky as it is uplifting, and the album’s first single, “Smooth,” a sing-along groove that’s sure to have steppers racing to the dance floor. “Smooth” reveals just one of Lina’s powerful lyrics on the album in its bridge. As she sings “Nobody talks about love anymore…everybody’s too busy gettin’ paid,” it’s clear what she thinks of a lot of popular music. Other notable tracks include “My Fix,” a jazzy, sexy track that features Lina delivering sizzling lines like “I need you like butter and bread and we’re even treated to a sweet, catchy duet with Anthony Hamilton on the track “Around the World.”

Lina spoke recently about the concept behind “The Inner Beauty Movement,” her ability to sing in seven different languages, and the things that inspire her songwriting.

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