Freak Like Me
May 8, 2017
Todd plays "Freak Like Me" on the piano.
ADINA HOWARD - FREAK LIKE ME
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: Welcome back to One-Hit Wonderland where we take a look back into the bands and artists only known for one song. And now that I am finally, finally, finally, done with the requests, it's time to go back to the music that I want to review. And I want something... [Clip of Rock Me Amadeus] far away from the poncy new wave stuff I've been covering.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah, I want something a little more raw. But what? Hmm... (Footage of...) punk? Gangsta rap? Nu-metal? Hmm... you know what actually? I think we're gonna take it in a bit of a different direction.
[Clip of "Freak Like Me"]
Adina: Let me lay it on the line
I got a little freakiness inside
Todd (VO): The year is 1995. And R&B was in the midst of a (Video for "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan) radical change in style, thanks to the increasing encroachment of gangsta rap into the genre. (Video for "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" by Whitney Houston) And to be sure it wasn't a complete change, on the one hand, you still had your Whitney and (Video for "Always Be My Baby" by Mariah Carey) your Mariah. But on the other end of the spectrum...
Todd: ...you had, Adina.
Adina: 'Cause I will be a freak until the day until the dawn
And we can - pump, pump - all through the night till the early morn
Todd (VO): This is Adina Howard with her #2 single "Freak Like Me". Seriously an underrated song that I don't see anyone mention anymore. And if they do, it's because there was (Clip of Sugababes - "Freak Like Me") this cover version by a British girl group that mashed it up with a grinding 80's techno song, and all the snobby music critics like Pitchfork loved it. And, and I did too; it's a great cover.
Todd: The original, is better.
Adina: I want a freak in the morning
A freak in the evening just like me
Todd (VO): And more than anything else, what set "Freak Like Me" apart was just how racy it was. Adina Howard's entire persona screamed sex. As you can tell by the cover of her album (Image of Adina's debut album "Do You Wanna Ride?") which introduced her to America ass-first.
Adina: 'Cause we can - pump, pump - any time of day, it's all good for me
Todd (VO): Yet in reality, the lyrics of this song are not actually all that dirty. But it sure seemed like it compared to everything else from that year. No, seriously, check her out. [Clip of TLC - "Red Light Special"] TLC was more than capable of being sexual, but TLC...
Todd: ...looked like girl scouts compared to Adina.
Todd (VO): And just like every other brazenly sexual woman before or since, there was always a conversation around her. Is this empowering to women? Is it exploitative?
Todd: I, I dunno. It's kind of complicated. I'm, I'm, I'm certainly not comfortable with some of the things of the time that people were saying about her, like, (Excerpt from a newspaper column...) Washington Post columnist Donna Britt called her part of a "culture-wide sickness". And on the other hand, I found a review in (Screenshot of said review...) Vibe that describes her "acute, holike tendencies," and that's from a positive review. Goddamn! Let a girl be. Can't y'all just enjoy the song? It's a good song.
Adina: ...good for me!
Backup vocal: One to the two to the two to the three
Adina, do ya wanna get freaky with me?
Before the hit
Todd (VO): (Picture of...) Adina Howard was born in 1973 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Which means she was only 22 when she got famous.
Todd: That doesn't give me a lot to work with. So instead I want to talk to y'all about the state of R&B in the '90s.
[Videos of Shai - Baby I'm Yours, Soul Train performance of Kurtis Blow's The Breaks, New Edition - If It Isn't Love and Nicki Minaj and Beyonce - Feeling Myself]
Shai: Baby I'm yours....
Todd (VO): Now ever since hip-hop began, there's always been an overlap between it and R&B or soul, or disco or what have you but even so, there was still a pretty clear divide, as opposed to now when it's just the same genre.
Todd: Let's look back at where we were at in 1992.
[Video of Boyz II Men - End of the Road]
Boyz II Men: Although we've come to the end of the road
Still I can't...
Todd (VO): Look at that! They're wearing suits! Suits! (picture of Boyz II Men at a red carpet event) How many times have you seen an Usher or Jason DeRulo wearing a suit?
[Video of Silk - Freak Me]
Todd (VO): And it was not just squeaky clean Boyz II Men either. It was the freakier stuff too.
[Videos of Snoop Dogg - What's My Name and Aaliyah - Back and Forth]
Todd (VO): But at the same time, gangsta rap was starting to really take over. And I don't mean it as just as a genre that a certain demographic listen to like country or metal. No it was going mainstream. And around '92, it started creeping into R&B until, by the end of the decade...
Todd: ...there was basically no divide at all.
[Videos of Jodeci - Talk to Me...]
Todd (VO): A big part of that was Jodeci and...
[...and R. Kelly - Bump & Grind...]
Todd (VO): ...R. Kelly...
[...and finally, Mary J. Blige - Real Love]
Todd (VO): ...and on the female side, there was Mary J. Blige.
Mary J. Blige: Real love...
[Picture of Mary J. Blige biography, "The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul: Unauthorized"]
Todd (VO): The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, they called her. 'Cause the record executives shot down (picture of Mary and Puff Daddy in the studio) Puff Daddy's original idea for her, which was the (words shown at bottom of the picture) "Queen of the Ghetto".
Todd: Which always struck me kinda funny because nowadays Mary J. Blige doesn't seem ghetto at all to me.
Todd (VO): Especially compared to everything that came after her. Mary J. is like pure sophistication. She might as well be an opera singer.
Todd: But at the time? Compared to the rest of the R&B world?
[Video of Shanice - Saving Forever]
Shanice: I've never been so sure about anything before...
Todd (VO): Yeah, okay, yeah, Mary J. does seem more street than this. Nice hat, by the way. Oh and I would be remiss...
Todd: ...if I didn't mention the obvious predecessor as far as ladies in hip-hop talking about sex.
[Video of Salt-n-Pepa - Let's Talk About Sex]
Salt-n-Pepa: Let's talk about sex, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be...
Todd (VO): The funny thing is, is this song isn't really that sexual. It's a message song about wanting to be able to talk about sex. And then they succeeded, it seems like. They won the argument. And once they did that, it was time for someone to...
Todd: ...actually start talking about it.
The Big Hit
Todd: This song kills, just from its opening note.
[Start of Freak Like Me with the opening riff]
Todd (VO): I mean that is just some straight Dr. Dre G-Funk right there.
[Clip of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's Nuthin But a G Thang]
Background singer: You gotta feel it!
Todd (VO): I mean it's got all the same influences. It's even sampled from a George Clinton song just like most of Dre's stuff was. And she even quotes another Clinton song in the verses.
Adina: 'Cause it's all about the dog in me.
[Clip of George Clinton's Atomic Dog]
George Clinton: Nothin' but the dog in me
P-Funk All-Stars: Nothin' but the dog in me, woof!
Todd (VO): She's the only woman I've ever heard call herself a dog. Like usually, that's not a compliment, right? But she means it in a sense that it's usually applied to guys, you know, it's that she gets around and she's not ashamed of that.
Adina: If you are that kind of man
'Cause I'm that kind of girl...
Todd (VO): As I already said, the main selling point here was how explicit she was. Especially for a mainstream chart topper.
Todd: The only person I can think of who managed to do it and get that much success was...
[Clips of Madonna - Justify My Love...]
Todd (VO): Madonna and...
[...and Janet Jackson - Anytime, Anyplace]
Todd (VO): ...I guess Janet afterwards. But even Janet wasn't this open about it. Very few girls at the time were willing to be that blunt.
Adina: 'Cause I'm that kind of girl
I got a freaky secret
Todd: It's, uh, not that secret, lady.
Adina: I got a freaky secret
[Picture of a very sexually suggestive Adina licking her finger]
Todd (VO): This girl is a freak?
Todd: You don't say!
Adina: 'Cause I will be a freak until the day
Until the dawn
And we can - pump, pump - all through the night
Til the early morn...
Todd (VO): Here's a question I have: what's that sound? We can...
Adina: And we can - pump, pump...
Todd (VO): Now I always assumed that it was, you know, 'woof-woof' like a dog barking?
Adina: But it's all about the dog in me...
Todd (VO): But lyric sites tell me the lyrics are "pump, pump".
Adina: Pump, pump...
Todd (VO): I...I... I guess it does sound like a car going up and down in hydraulics. In any case, let this be a lesson, that sound is a...
Todd: ...billion times hotter than any actual words would be.
Adina: I want a freak in the mornin'
And a freak in the evenin' (just for me)
I want a roughneck brother that can satisfy me
Todd (VO): As far as whether or not this is exploitative, uh, eh, I mean she was very young and, I'm a guy and...
Todd: I'm not gonna tell you I'm not enjoying this.
Todd (VO): Yeah, yeah, yes this gets the Todd seal of approval.
NOTE: The Todd Seal of Approval is worthless.
Todd (VO): But if you listen to her, it's confident certainly, but it's not domineering like the hyper-sexual female rappers that came immediately after this.
[Clip of Lil' Kim and Sisqo - How Many Licks?]
Todd (VO): I mean they were very sexual but they were also in your face in a challenging and even kind of unpleasant and gross kind of way. Like they were trying to weed out any scrubs who couldn't handle 'em.
Todd: And as a scrub myself, I never really enjoyed it.
[Back to Freak Like Me]
Todd (VO): Meanwhile this? This? I'm all into. I don't feel threatened by this at all. So like it's not, not for dudes to appreciate but...
Todd: ...even if you're not attracted to her, I think you can get a lot out of this song.
Adina: I need a roughneck brother who can satisfy me
Todd (VO): If it is empowering, I guess it's because she sounds like enjoying herself a lot!
Adina: ...it's all good for me!
Todd: Yeah I know that doesn't sound like a big deal. I mean ain't that how you're supposed to feel when you're having sex? But a lot of the time, no! Sex doesn't sound enjoyable at all, it sounds like work!
[Clip of Ciara ft. Ludacris - Ride]
Ciara: He love the way I ride it
Todd (VO): Like take Ciara. Like most of the time, she sounds like she's trying way too hard.
[Clips of Lil' Kim - Crush on You ft. Lil Cease...]
Todd (VO): That's also true for Lil' Kim...
[...and Foxy Brown - I Can't ft. Total...]
Todd (VO): ...Foxy Brown...
[...and finally... Madonna - Erotica]
Todd (VO): ...from Madonna, honestly, during her way-too-sexy phase. I mean, they just never seem like they were having any fun.
[Back to Freak Like Me]
Todd: With Adina, I don't know if it's the beat or the lyrics or what...
Todd (VO): ...but when she sings about sex, I believe that she's actually, like, having a good time. The song is upbeat but it's just laid back that it doesn't sound exhausting.
Adina: 'Cause we don't give a damn about a thing
'Cause I will be a freak until the day, until the dawn...
Todd: Or maybe it's because she uses the word "freak".
Adina: 'Cause I will be a freak until the day, until the dawn...
Todd (VO): I mean, you just can't take yourself too seriously when you're using freak as a verb. But when you've already turned the sexiness up to ten...
Todd: How do you not get diminishing returns?
The Failed Follow Up
[Clip of Adina Howard - My Up and Down]
Adina: Haven't you heard, baby
About my up and down and round and round...
Todd (VO): The failed follow-up is called "My Up and Down".
Todd: It is of course about...
[Picture of stock numbers]
Todd (VO): ...unstable stock prices. No it's about sex, obviously.
Todd: Adina never, uh, demonstrated a whole lot of lyrical range in her career.
Adina: About my up and down and round and round [haven't you heard, baby]
You should've known by now [you should've known by now, my baby]
About the merry-go-round...
Todd (VO): I mean it's not terrible but I think they accidentally hit the ceiling. I mean it's kinda hard to promote a single when the video has you doing it in a sex swing. And this was too spicy, even for BET at the time.
Todd: Also it rhymes round with round
Adina: About the merry go round [up and down baby]
Todd (VO): Yeah, rhyming words with themselves, that's like a serious mojo killer. Don't ever do that. It's like on Cosmo's list of bedroom dont's.
[Clip of Adina Howard - It's All About You]
Todd (VO): She did release one other single, "It's All About You", which is kind of a serious switch from "Freak Like Me". "Freak Like Me" was about her, it wasn't about you at all.
Adina: And it's all about you...
Todd (VO): I mean, I'm not saying these are bad songs. I could see them easily becoming hits but not as big as "Freak Like Me" obviously. But there's a lot of music that gets made out there, it's hard to break through. And Adina may have been too ahead of her time. A year later...
[Picture of Lil' Kim's cover for Hard Core]
Todd (VO): ...Lil' Kim released her debut album and broke down all kinds of doors but Adina was...
Todd: ...kind of a novelty at the time. If you listen to her album, this is the first song.
[Audio clip of You Got Me Humpin' with the cover of Adina's Do You Wanna Ride album]
Adina: You got me humpin' day and night, oh baby...
Todd: Uh yeah, there was this weird conviction in the early '90s that the word hump was sexy.
[Clip of Bobby Brown - Humpin' Around]
Background singers: Ain't nobody humpin' around
Bobby Brown: Ain't nobody humpin' around
Todd (VO): I think the idea behind Adina's whole persona was that women could make music that was just as sexual as the guys but the problem is a lot of the guys' songs also sucked.
[Video of Warren G & Adina Howard - What's Love Got to Do With It]
Todd (VO): Well anyway, she did manage to guest on a couple of minor hits. She was on a Warren G song.
Warren G: A brother that's down for mine's
Before I made beats, I was down for crime...
Adina: What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love if you don't respect the game...
Todd (VO): Okay actually what does love got to do with it?
Todd: I mean how is love relevant to this situation?
Todd (VO): Yeah this was off the soundtrack of the Jackie Chan movie, Super Cop, and um... (clip of the video featuring...) (chuckling) He's right there! Dance Jackie, dance.
Todd: Jackie broke three bones filming this sequence.
[Clip of Adina Howard - (Freak) And U Know It]
Todd (VO): But the second album, that was the one that was gonna change everything. She had more control, she had better producers. Unfortunately, she also decided to smack talk one of her bosses...
Todd: ...and um, that was the end of that.
[Picture of Adina's second album, Welcome to Fantasy Island, with the word CANCELED flashed in red]
Todd (VO): She got blackballed. The record was never released.
Todd: Weirdly though, one of the songs did manage to get some airplay anyway.
[Picture of the back of the Woo soundtrack with the title of the song]
Todd (VO): This is called "T-Shirt and Panties" written by...
[Circling Jamie Foxx's name]
Todd (VO): What really? Jamie Foxx?
[Picture of Jamie in the Booty Call poster]
Todd (VO): The Booty Call guy, seriously?
Todd: (beat; shrugging) Okay. Let's hear it.
[Audio clip of T-Shirt & Panties playing with Welcome to Fantasy Island album cover]
Adina: T-shirt and my panties on
T-shirt and my panties on...
Todd: Yeah, yeah, I definitely heard this, I don't know where, but I've definitely heard this.
Adina: T-shirt and my panties
Got my t-shirt and my panties on...
Todd (VO): Which honestly I don't get why this managed to survive.
Todd: Like, it's not very good.
Adina: T-shirt and my panties on (you can't deny it) T-shirt and my panties on, got my t-shirt and my panties on...
Todd (VO): I just kinda imagine her standing there in her t-shirt and panties just like...
Todd: "Yep, got my t-shirt and panties on"...
Todd (VO): Nah this song sucks. Who the hell let the...
[Pictures of Jamie in In Living Color as Wanda and in the poster of The Jamie Foxx Show]
Todd (VO): ...In Living Color guy think he should be involved in music? Stick to your stupid WB sitcom that nobody watches...
Todd: 'Cause you're never having a music career.
Did She Ever Do Anything Else?
Todd: Not really?
[Clip of Adina Howard - Nasty Grind]
Adina: My nasty grind (yeah yeah yeah...)
Todd (VO): I mean she has released a few albums but they're all on independent labels. And you think, considering her bad experience with major labels, she'd be happier independently but no she does not like them, she thinks they're all bogus rinky dink operations that got no connections that can't promote you.
Todd: Which makes sense. I haven't heard from her, neither have you.
[Clips of Adina Howard on YouTube demonstrating her cooking skills]
Todd (VO): So what has she been doing instead? Hmm... cooking. No seriously, she, uh, she went to culinary school and now she has a restaurant in Austin. I like to think she has themed entries like "Freak Like Meatloaf"...
Todd: "T-Shirt & Paninis"?
Did She Deserve Better?
Todd: Uh, if she could find the songs to back it up? Sure.
Adina: 'Cause I will be a freak until the day...
Todd (VO): She didn't have the most interesting voice but she had the poise and confidence of a much more seasoned performer. "Freak Like Me", that was gonna be a hard one to top but if she had more support, yeah yeah.
Todd: [rhyming like the guy in the song] One to the two, to the two to the three, Adina deserved better, according to me...
[Makes bad boy pose and walks up and leaves]
Adina: ...and we can pump-pump all through the day
'Til the early morn...
Closing tag song: Tru Faith & Dub Conspiracy - "Freak Like Me"
"Freak Like Me" is owned by Elektra Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!