Jody Watley. Paradise. Classic Albums and Quality over Quantity

JodyWatley_Paradise_EP_CD_CoverArt

My approach to the making of “Paradise” has always been inspired and rooted in what I consider one of the greatest era’s of music – the 70′s and early 80′s. Many of these songs have been tested and performed live before finalizing the recording process. There are live instruments, bass, guitar and live strings by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson  on the title song. We worked to find a balance of the live element with my love and profession over the 15 years of electronic, club and ambient sounds. It wasn’t uncommon for albums to have 7 songs or less (Issac Hayes classic “Hot Buttered Soul” had 4!) . “Shalamar’s” Big Fun  had 7 songs clocking in at just 37:07. It’s about quality not quantity, so technically the term EP is just a contemporary one, but for me this is a FULL CD. The trend of putting a lot of filler tracks to fill up an album is never something I’ve been agreeable to. In this era, I also feel the attention span of the listener no longer support a lot of songs on one project. Perhaps I’ll inspire other artists to reduce the number of ‘filler’ and go back to making stronger more streamline albums they way it was done in the golden age of music – which fits perfectly with today’s distractions.  None of my solo albums have ever had more than 10 and from start to finish my desire has always been to put my heart and soul into doing the best work for you the fans – and for me, to be proud of beyond a lifetime.

 

Jody Watley Paradise. Update and CD Pressing.

We will do a limited quantity of CD’s for the “Paradise” EP, taking stock of comments from Facebook. The cover will differ slightly from the digital release. This package will not be available in mainstream outlets like Best Buy, Walmart, etc. This is another non corporate release by me – my heart and soul, wanting to deliver a bit of ‘paradise’ through my music. My approach is a classic one – there are live instruments on the is record including strings. In the 70′s, one of the great era’s os soul, dance, rock, jazz, etc. it wasn’t uncommon for albums to have 7 songs or less (Issac Hayes classic “Hot Buttered Soul” had 4!) . “Shalamar’s” Big Fun for instance had 7 songs clocking in at just 37:07. It’s about quality not quantity. The trend of putting a lot of filler tracks to fill up an album is never something I’ve been agreeable to. That said,  be one of the first to preorder exclusively at http://jodywatley.bigcartel.com to have your copy personalized and signed. “Paradise” will be a collectible for sure – add this to your digital purchase and Jody Watley Collection. Pre-order your CD now. Pre-orders imminent at iTunes. I appreciate your support!

Design: Ray Easmon and Jody Watley

JodyWatley_Paradise_EP_CD_CoverArt

Jody Watley Birthday Wishes to My Daughter.

Lauren Watley and Jody Watley © 2014 Jody Watley

Lauren Watley and Jody Watley © 2014 Jody Watley

JodyWatley_Shalamar_Lauren

 

Happy Birthday to my beautiful and intelligent daughter Lauren!!  I gave birth to Lauren when I was young and quite naive to love and relationships – which has provided many a theme through my some of my songwriting.  I’d been dating producer Leon Sylvers III for 2 years. Some people have acted as if this was a big secret, and have gone on to make up stories without facts, just speculation. The fact is, is that my career and interviews have always been focused on my music and not my personal life. When I was in Shalamar, during those days it was the same, not really a tabloid mentality of delving into any of our personal lives and of course pre-internet.  Being protective does not represent hiding anything. Leon and I were engaged to be married (actually, he ended up being engaged to me and another girl, she a member of the group Dynasty). I’m wearing my engagement ring on our “Friends” album; a diamond cluster – ‘I’m in love with you both.’ What a revelation – OK, lol.  My failed love relationships and accompanying heartbreak including this one, will be covered in my memoir when the time comes; and what these experiences have taught me about myself, life and love. I carried on professionally and personally as a single mother; being responsible for her every need, loving every minute even in the most difficult times, facing each challenge head on – and to this day a proud Mom without regret. Most of you think because I’ve never worn pain on my sleeve, that I haven’t experienced any. That can’t be further from the truth.

Despite pressure at the time to not have Lauren, not from Leon I’d add, but the guys Howard and Jeffrey in the group back then and Dick Griffey; because I was going to ‘ruin’ Shalamar or mess up our constant touring schedule; I didn’t fold to the pressure or verbal abuse thankfully. While everyone was concerned about dollar signs – I was concerned about myself and this new life.  The grueling schedule was maintained. I worked until I was nearly full term with her. Lauren was going to have to love music because we were onstage almost every night. I was twirling in heels, never gained much weight; contrary to Howard’s constant reminders that not every woman could bounce back like his wife at the time Rainey.

Our schedule often meant staying up late to come up with new choreography to keep the show or television appearances fresh, designing costumes, and often waiting  for Jeffrey and Howard to show up to learn new routines after they were finished doing what guys do on the road.. and working my butt off onstage. Always optimistic, no one was going to have the satisfaction of watching me fold. I was dancing harder sometimes than the guys – in stiletto’s.  We never know how strong we are until we face challenges in life that’s for sure. I worked through my nausea, fatigue and sometimes sadness, though always reciting positive pearls because what our bond would be would be joyful before she even arrived. When she was born, for her first passport she was barely a week old and I’m cradling her in my arms. Then she and I were off to our life adventure – beginning with the continued tour with Shalamar. I refused to let them think that by having a baby, I would be any less the hard worker I was. It was one of the great decisions of my life to have her – she is a gift to my life. I’m proud of the young woman she has become.

Always a petite gazelle Lauren, who I’ve often referred to as my precious and my princess – has always been wise beyond her years, and remains so.  Lauren has always made my friends and I chuckle because she had everyone’s number from a young age; sizing the adults up with her knowing soul.  Early on, she was determined that she hated pants, always a little lady and I honored and enjoyed her determination at a young age. She’s an inspiration to me, a terrific daughter, granddaughter and a great big sister to Arie. Lauren was his first example to be study hard and be a great student – which he became because he witnessed the work ethic of his big sister (as well as having me being the nag lol).

I’m in awe of her intelligence and view of the world. It’s broadened my horizons in so many ways. Parents, you can learn from your children, trust me.  Lauren is wonderful human being and I wish her hopes, goals and dreams for her own life  come true today and everyday as she continues on her journey. It’s always been easy for me to take a back seat to her. I reflect today on nearly every day of her life from seeing her the first time, crawling,  her first steps..all of the baby, infant, toddler moments.. school plays, musicals beaming with pride, awkward open houses, sleep-overs with her friends playing dress up in my petticoats, wigs and vintage dresses. I think of our trips, holiday traditions, Halloweens dressing up and crashing parties, and suriving haunted houses, our dinners, birthdays, going to our special park, meatless sandwiches, laughs and tears (that doesn’t stop) – the homework and crashed computer before her essays were saved, the first tooth lost; nearly fainting having to shake it out..being there for her to look out and see my face and never putting my career ahead of being a present ‘Mom’ for her – graduations, including the most recent from college. A great cook (like me), I love that when she’s home we can cook together and share recipes. All children deserve this. Fame wanes – children are constant, my perspective and priority has always been clear on that; even when they become adults. Birthdays for parents are a bit nostalgic – can’t help it. The public knows me as a singer – to Lauren and Arie, I’m simply their Mom, and I treasure it. Thank you Lauren for sharing my horoscopes (always on point and on time), and being so whimsical.

Lauren is artistic, witty, intellectual, loves animals which is something she has passed on to me – well, except hamsters  - she will laugh and know what I mean on that reference. She’s modest, not flashy in the least and humble; not a show business brat. She doesn’t like spectacle, downplays her outside beauty, but it’s undeniable as it radiates from the inside out. I struggled writing this blog today – because of being protective and private, and not wanting to get in hot water with her (lol). Truth be told I don’t like spectacle either, unless I’m performing. A by product of being the daughter of someone in the public eye is really wanting to have her own identity and not be pre-judged because of who her Mom is, or father for that matter. Both of my children are that way and as their Mom I always want to respect them and want only the best for them – and hope I’ve instilled the confidence to walk boldly on their path in life. We’ve always had a special relationship, she’s like my soul mate. I can say the same for my son. Lauren never hesitates in the most respectful way to make sure I’m not doing too much and has kept me grounded which I am thankful to her for …even making sure I was never showing too much cleavage during my early solo career – not that I had much back then, lol.

I celebrate her today especially – she is a gift and I love her more than words can convey; I tried!

Happy Birthday Ms. Lauren!! Love, Mommie

The BET Awards 2014 and Shalamar – Business and Me.

 

Jody Watley Presents Club Paradise. Design Ray Easmon and Jody Watley

Jody Watley Presents Club Paradise. Design Ray Easmon and Jody Watley

JODY_WATLEY_Superfriends_Club_Paradise_BET_Synopsis

Mock-up of  stage for presentation treatment Jody Watley Segment BET Awards 2014 Proposal.

 

Shalamar Nightlife-ized.

Shalamar Nightlife-ized for Club Paradise. Design Ray Easmon

PrintFor the past 5 years, I’ve been approached by BET to reunite with Jeffrey Daniel and Howard Hewett for the BET Awards to close the show as surprise performers. Throughout the process, my representatives as a condition on with their desired Shalamar reunion of the particular renowned classic line-up in the evolving entity, that I be allotted a spotlight as well. With a solo catalog of hits it just business sense and recognizing the strength of what I bring to the table. Other artists who have come from groups and gone on to great solo success while also making a mark in pop culture request the same. At the core, it’s always down to business for me – nothing personal.  All parties agreed finally after 4 years of no to a “Jody Watley”, “we don’t want her to do that” by various people in other camps – so it seemed we were finally on for 2014. The reluctance or (dis)agreeance was baffling from a business point of view despite these hits which span R&B/Pop/Dance and Hip Hop (Friends with Eric B & Rakim). Having sold millions, and impacted pop culture through my music, video, style, etc. is something I will never allow to be diminished for the benefit and ego others as long as I live. With my fans, I always encourage people to not let their personal value be defined and diminished by others. We all have a choice of how we let other’s treat us. I live that as much as I can in my personal and business life. Some think ‘Oh, you’re not hot, or this or that anymore’ and believe that it’s an opening to get you to think less of yourself and drop your standards. I will never have that mentality. Understand a lot of people are still upset at my solo success – trust me. I say, never give up your power.

On my official invitation letter it appeared they agreed, a solo segment for Jody Watley, a Shalamar reunion with Howard and Jeffrey. I was actually looking forward to it, try as some continuously go around trying to paint a picture of me as some sort of hold-out, or with personal differences. As I’ve said for decades – I have no personal differences with anyone, don’t believe the decades of innuendo by Hewett and his team, Jeffrey and clueless Shalamar ‘fans’. The barrier is always business, creative and ego. Let’s put her in her place and marginalize all that she’s achieved. Never going to happen. I can’t force anyone to raise their standards, but I know I’ll never lower mine. Everything fell apart in May after a few conference calls.  Over the past year my team and I had worked to put something together for two iconic performances for myself as well as the ‘Classic’ Shalamar lineup. I didn’t want to take a call and go into this unprepared. Always be prepared even if other’s don’t expect you to be is my advice.  If you have followed my solo career at all, you should know this is nothing new. I plan, prepare, and always try to bring a level of fabulousness and style to what I do. As a woman, what I’ve learned is we have to be even more on point, because expectations are usually low or tinged with sexism.  I pitched something that would have made everyone look great. This was not just an opportunity from my point of view as was said “a chance to be on television in front of 8 million people”, as Hewett’s manager said angrily after the fact. For me, if it wasn’t going to be right, that was 8 million reasons to not do it. I don’t care about exposure, if it’s the wrong kind. I’ve never been about that.

The politics in this business is real – what do you do? Keep pushing, keep doing the work and being true to yourself and keeping life in perspective. Enjoy the life and opportunities that come to fruition. There’s a lesson in everything. The possibility to reunite and perform with Rakim for our classic and groundbreaking “Friends” was thrilling. I teased this on my Facebook page, during a time discussions were taking place. There is no doubt, Rakim and I would have shut it down with that surprise performance alone, and it would have been perfect as Rakim with younger people is still seen as a Rap/Hip Hop god MC.  It made sense to design a high energy and fierce Shalamar segment which would feature “A Night To Remember.” That is not what Howard Hewett and his team, inexplicably BET nor Jeffrey Daniel wanted. Once we got into it, their terms changed, and I felt like it was all a bait and switch – typical of how some of them do business. BET and Howard’s manager wanted a ballad section – where they envisioned Shalamar coming out. A ballad segment beginning with Howard, which  I reiterate this was not in the original agreement that  “I” agreed to.  I still said fine. Let Howard do one of his ballads, which they wanted after my altered segment sans Rakim — then let’s hit them with “A Night To Remember.”  Their intention and vision was completely different. Rakim was cut, once the music medley was sent. If you don’t know, “Friends” featuring Eric B and Rakim is one of the first to feature the blend of Pop R&B/HipHop/Rap. The single was a multi-format hit single Pop, R&B and Dance. It’s a touchstone in popular music and a formula that became a dominant force in music – the collaboration with a full 16 bar verse. Respect.

The ‘Club Paradise’ theme was cut, and the ability to mash-up my section into something with production elements, video screens, classic imagery, dancers, “Real Love” fashion walkers, etc. It was probably a mistake to begin with to try to link all of these performances, however it has worked for Justin Timberlake (MTV Awards brining out NSync) and Beyonce (Superbowl bringing out Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland for a Destiny’s Child moment).  For “A Night To Remember” my team and I had Jeffrey Daniel coming out in lights to showcase his body popping. Dramatic lighting, sound effects, the whole bit. Modern Shalamar logo, more use of the big screen – a full party vibe for the audience in the venue and at home watching.

This, from my point of view and how I saw it – was also something to generate positive social media as well not to mention any potential upside. No one seemed to care much about  an iconic moment – just let’s get those 3 together onstage. Some were just content to be on TV. The dance feature was dismissed as something that was being forced on them, from my perception “Well, Jeffrey wants to dance” of course he did – as if this was a bad thing? It was in my synopsis! Jeffrey’s dancing, as well as Shalamar as a group concept at our creation by Don Cornelius, the dance was one of the key elements that made Shalamar unique. Our choreography and style made us stand out as a perfect compliment to the music – which began with disco, no matter how much some might hate that fact. BET and Howard’s reps wanted a more ballad heavy presentation which for me would have been lackluster and would have ruined the impact. They requested a full medley with the group coming out on ‘This is For The Lover In You’. I said this isn’t a concert it’s television ‘moment’ let’s hit them with some fresh moves, the ultimate party jam and impact  of “A Night To Remember.”  Proper time would have been required to properly stage and rehearse including choreography to really ‘bring it.’ Some people involved don’t want to dance or be bothered with choreography it appears – that’s not Shalamar, nor is it me. 2 days to rehearse monumental performances wasn’t cutting it.

I love to entertain and give 1000%. Bringing a sense of style is apparent in all of my work past and present. Although the Shalamar that Howard and Jeffrey have morphed into when they’ve done a few shows in the U.K. with their hired singer the dancing is gone, and that’s comfortable for them to simply sing behind Howard – this is not how Shalamar was created before he got there.  To each his own. They can get away with this once a year at Indigo2 in London (using my photo and likeness I’d add to assist with selling the show, one of the reasons I’ve now acquired trademark rights, do the show – stop using my likeness). They wanted to do what they do – I wanted to do what felt like the best for ‘television’ for everyone; something bigger and more exciting. It was not to be, again. This isn’t the first time, and for me at this point represents that are creative understandings and ways about doing business are too far about to bear. Big Boi had done a mash-up of “A Night To Remember” and we had him in our pitch, for the younger viewers if he was available — and I was aware he’d be in town for the BET Experience with OutKast.

Shortly after it all fell apart, Mary J. Blige released her cover of the same song. To me it was another sign from God and the universe. That was the song we were supposed to do – and I had agreed to do it! They were stuck on ballads as if this was the BET Lounge. Fail. They don’t get it and probably never will. To each his own. I felt compelled to write this so you the fans know what happened, as I’m sure there are those who behind the scenes will once again paint me out to be the villainess, and put words in my mouth or misrepresent what went down. They were the ones not willing to compromise. If it were me – I would have agreed to at least have a hot as fire version of ‘A Night To Remember’ for that segment as opposed to nothing at all. The concept of “Club Paradise” was also torpedoed, with new music on the horizon it also didn’t make sense for me to just go on and sing classics, as if my musical journey and continued evolution had stopped. The setting would have been a chic and contemporary one that would have been fabulous for everyone; not simply an uninspired ‘old-school’ moment where we are just onstage meandering about. I will never be talked into doing something I don’t want to do – nor do I expect it from others. That is the great divide and why I work with like-minded people. Life is too short. Bringing forth a quality product in entertainment and not go through the motions is always important – but that’s just me. Creative differences derailed the BET Awards 2014 appearance. I was not willing to diminish my brand as Jody Watley nor the brand of Shalamar which I helped create and am now the legal trademark rights holder of to pump up someone else’s profile and ego. I look forward to rejuvenating the Shalamar brand, which really began with my inspirations for “Nightlife” a topic I’ve talked about over the past year – whether some were paying attention or not. “Nightlife” was a full circle moment bringing me back together with original Shalamar male vocalist Gerald Brown of “Take That To The Bank.” “Nightlife” went into the Top 5 in the UK (Commercial Pop and Urban) and garnered a position at #18 in Billboard on the Hot Dance Club Play Charts.  My love of disco, dance, dance music and fashion is at the core. Perhaps at some point, the ‘Classic’ lineup can get together and get on the same creative page for a ‘Farewell Reunion Tour” which I did pitch some years ago as quiet as it’s kept, but was met with the same dismissive tone.  However, as a business woman I see no reason to let the name “Shalamar” be relegated solely to the past. I have many exciting ideas for a younger generation and marketplace and look forward to working with my team to see them to fruition as acquisition and extension of my business umbrella. I’ve continued to work on my planned release of “Paradise” which is coming soon, and wish everyone the best. This is the same BET who have never invited me to be a part of Black Girls Rock – and I’ve certainly earned an appearance or two (performer, presenter, co-host, etc – that’s another blog) and the same Howard and Jeffrey who have allegedly been dissing me for years or sending others around to do it on their behalf, put publicly creating a false desire of a reunion. There is a lot os sexism in the media and marginalization of black women in particular, that point is not lost on me.

The BET Awards have a terrific line-up this year, congratulations to Lionel Ritchie on his Lifetime Achievement Award – no one seems to hold it against him that he never reunited with The Commodores – but he’s a man in this business. It would have been cool had it worked out but it was not to be. I’m totally fine with that. Artist with longevity and recognized to be a pioneer/trendsetter -songwriter, producer, entrepreneur (Avitone, Avid, JodyWatleyBoutique, Jody Watley Music,  Jody Watley MultiMedia Group, etc).

 

 

UPDATED: JULY 1, 2014 Lots of comments on my Facebook, under the thread. To those who say I should have just done Shalamar – Jeffrey and Howard could have certainly done the performance without me the past 4 and this years ceremony with Carolyn who they perform with in the UK which is more in line with they way they like to perform. I know what’s up – and made the right choice. I watched the BET Awards and enjoyed it. although I wish they’d found time to honor Bobby Womack somehow, or mention him by name in the “In Memoriam.” The segment with 90′s groups Troop, Color Me Badd, and Sylk for the “Throwback” Surprise Performance, which the fans loved. It did affirm my decision to not be a part of it. To my knowledge, none of those acts still record and make music but it was a good look ‘for them’.  I’m guess personally not ready to be relegated the the “throwback” surprise part of the show – again unless it can have the same production and excitement as other artists in today’s commercial music scene. This was probably on my mind as well – my career as a recording artist, songwriter, etc. continues. Perhaps BET will sponsor a  package tour for veteran acts who perform in the segment and keep the music alive beyond that moment – just a business thought.  I enjoyed the Lionel Richie speech and watching him receive his “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Either you come on to do something new, or you wait to be acknowledged properly — although they did turn around and misspell the Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient’s name on screen as  “Lionel Ritchie.”  The beat goes on.