Jody Watley, singer/songwriter/producer/businesswoman, is one of the architects of 21st century pop. From her groundbreaking marriage of rap & R&B (1987’s “Friends,” a collaboration with hip-hop legends Eric B. & Rakim) to her vision-forward marriage of high fashion, street fashion and music in the ‘80s (long before it became the norm), to her fusion of jazz and underground club culture with keen pop instincts, and the ease with which she crossed and still crosses genre, Ms. Watley forged the template that is now everybody’s playbook.
Winner of the Best New Artist Grammy in 1987, Jody Watley’s entire career has been about looking forward, drawing inspiration from personal heroes like Grace Jones, David Bowie, Diana Ross and jazz great Nancy Wilson – iconoclasts who were always ten steps ahead of the pack. The Chicago native’s eclectic repertoire – R&B, hip-hop, House, jazz, pop, drum & bass, ambient, spoken-word – is built on a positive vision and a strong taste for artistic and aesthetic risk.
Her self-titled 1987 solo debut – a showcase for her vocal chops and songwriting skills – was a beats & grooves tribute to her club kid roots, from the underground spots she frequented as a teenager to her stardom (while still a teen) as one of the most popular dancers in the history of iconic TV show “Soul Train.” It yielded the chart topping hits “Looking for a New Love” (which launched the Jody-penned phrase “Hasta la vista” into popular vernacular, becoming so huge that Arnold Schwarzenegger jacked it for his signature line in the movie The Terminator), “Don’t You Want Me,” “Most of All,” “Some Kind of Lover” and “Still a Thrill,” whose video was the first (and as yet unmatched) time a pop star flexed their skills at waaking, the underground Los Angeles dance that is a sibling to both breakdancing and voguing.
1989’s Larger Than Life, her blockbuster sophomore album, yielded the hits “Real Love” (whose influential music video – nominated for seven MTV Video Music Awards – was her second collaboration with acclaimed film director David Fincher, the first being her sleek video for “Most of All”), “Friends,” and the sultry ballad “Everything.” They were all huge hits.
Like many artists who top the charts, Ms. Watley soon found herself stymied by the limited vision of her label, who wanted to shoehorn her into formula. The albums Affairs of the Heart (1991) and Intimacy (1993) displayed her deepening songwriting skills and singing prowess, as well as her assured experimentation with layered musical textures, but label support was missing in action. The powerful, beat-driven spoken-word track “When a Man Loves a Woman” from Affairs sparked controversy for addressing AIDS and domestic violence long before they were topics of national conversation, and her skittish label turned its back on the track and album. Though Ms. Watley’s artistry continued to deepen and grow, she was hamstrung by her label’s lack of support and their adherence to the same narrow definitions of success that saw her leave iconic R&B group Shalamar at the height of its popularity in 1983. Her own definition of success centered then and now on artistic growth and freedom, not simply replicating whatever was or is hot at the moment.
After breaking from the majors and starting her own label Avitone Recordings in 1995, Ms. Watley began collaborating with a Who’s Who of visionary producers and remixers, many of whom were longtime fans and jumped at the chance to work with her: 4 Hero, King Britt, Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez & Little Louie Vega, Mark de Clive Lowe, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Ron Trent, Moto Blanco, and Alex Di Ciò. Thanks to her non-stop touring, her global fan base remains as fervent as ever and they’ve made chart and club hits of Ms. Watley’s indie albums – Affection (1995), Flower (1998), The Saturday Night Experience (1999), Midnight Lounge (2001), and The Makeover (2006) – and her 2014 EP Paradise.
For the past five years, the ever multi-tasking Ms. Watley has focused on both her thriving solo career and the group project “Jody Watley featuring SRL.” Much like Prince had The Revolution, NPG, and Third Eye Girl (among many other projects and aliases) as extensions or branches of his music and creativity, Jody Watley feat. SRL allows Ms. Watley another outlet for her artistic expression. SRL members Rosero McCoy and Nate Allen Smith – gifted singers, dancers, and choreographers in their own right – bring their own cool style and vibe to Ms. Watley’s trademark high-energy, all-love live performances, and the trio’s critically acclaimed concerts draw SRO crowds around the world. With musical influences that include Kaytranada, Anderson Paak, and Little Dragon, they’ve released several chart-topping hit singles in Europe, including the Alex Di Ciò remix of “The Mood.” Their forthcoming album will be a seamless mix of dance grooves, funky beats, deep House, R&B, trap, rock, and ambient ballads accented with guitar flourishes.
Also in the works is Jody Watley: The Jazzy Sessions, a longtime dream project finally come to fruition. Fans were given a taste of what to expect from that forthcoming EP on the bossa nova tinged cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” which shot to the top of the jazz charts within weeks of its release. A lilting, gorgeously melancholy take on the classic tune, the track simmers with tension between the longing of the lyrics and the lush, languid music and arrangement. Though some newer fans were pleasantly surprised that Ms. Watley pulled off a jazz tune, longtime fans saw it as simply the artistic thread being pulled forward from Ms. Watley’s show-stopping cover of Cole Porter’s classic song “After You,” from the landmark AIDS benefit recording project Red Hot & Blue, released in1990.
What links “Waiting” to the rest of Ms. Watley’s far-ranging and impossible to pigeonhole catalogue (which has seen her hit the charts in every decade of her career, from 1977’s Uptown Festival album with Shalamar to 2018’s “Waiting in Vain” single) is the sincerity and honesty from which it springs.
“Everything I’ve ever done has been to be distinctively Jody Watley,” says the pop icon herself, “from my first solo album through right now. Everything that I will ever do always has to be authentic to me, work that I can always be proud of first and foremost. It’s not so much about, ‘Oh, this is going to be popular,’ or ‘Oh, this is going to be a big hit.’ It’s always been so personal to me, everything that I do. And the fans can feel that. They connect with the honesty.”
Performed at private event by invitation only – The Bass Museum:: ‘Better Nights’ Mickalene Thomas’ immersive art experience. The exhibition is an installation, performance space and bar that functions as an experience, a moment, a time, and a place. Including a series of five geometric-patterned mirror works and two collages by the artist, the exhibition features a selection of painting, photography and video by other emerging and prominent artists curated by Thomas.
Description of Event and Artist.
Jody Watley – Exterior Bass Museum. Art Basel 2019. Mickalene Thomas Better Nights Exhibition.
Back in 2013 -Art Basel Switzerland: Better Nights was with Solange Knowles – so this definitely going to be a high quality and unique experience and super cool to be asked. I’m often told how much there are elements her her look and out of the box approach reminds some music fans of me.
It was really difficult to capture the exhibition and do it justice on a phone and so I recommend looking at the professional images.
As always, I’m giving just a glimpse into some of the behind the scenes.
Meeting Mickalene Thomas at soundcheck and have a chance to talk about her process in creating the installation – which took a year and a half start to finish.
With my rhythm section band chilling in green room, impromptu rehearsal of the special arrangement we were doing of ‘Still A Thrill.’
With with fellas: SRL (Nate Allen Smith, John Gregory) Kerry Griffin, Naz Chambi, Wallace Butts Keith Eaddy Roland Hamilton.
What’s on your Meatless Monday menu? There are so many options to keep you full, hydrated and replenished. To give you an idea for me today it lots of water (every day add lemon, fresh cucumber if you need a bit of flavor – with no sugar). Breakfast it was oatmeal with fresh blueberries, banana – and of course I have to have my coffee now having it with a plant based ‘creamer’ – and no sugar which I gave up a while ago. My snack is almonds – main meal is black beans, kale salad with avocado, carrots and red cabbage. My dressing is home made – olive oil, crushed garlic, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, chopped cilantro. I hope you’re all trying it out – find what works for you.
Here’s a mini shoulder roll – do these each day anytime you need to release stress, tension or in general just need a moment to rejuvenate.
Jody Watley. Interview Magazine. “Affairs of The Heart” 1991.
Via RnB Soul Effect TV Twitter / Instagram / Facebook: December 3rd 1991 3rd album “Affairs Of The Heart” was released.
“I Want You” is the first single from Jody Watley’s third album Affairs of the Heart. The official music video, directed by Andy Morahan, was featured on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.
Producer – André Cymone
Songwriters – Jody Watley & André Cymone
Billboard Hot R&B Singles #5
Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play #17
“I’m the One You Need” is the second single from Jody Watley’s third album, Affairs of the Heart.
Produced by house music pioneer, David Morales, “I’m the One You Need” constitutes Watley’s initial foray into house music (though its “Affairs of the Heart” predecessor, “I Want You”, boasted a house version). “I’m the One You Need” was Watley’s seventh Top 20 pop single in the US, and sixth Top five dance single, charting at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #6 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts, respectively.
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 #19
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Singles #23
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play #3
Producer – David Morales
Songwriters – Jody Watley, David Morales & Alec Shantzis
*Morales went on to have great commercial success with Mariah Carey.
“It All Begins With You” was the final single from Jody Watley’s third album, Affairs of the Heart. Reaching number eighty on the U.S. R&B chart.
** The single was a ‘commercial disappointment’ chart wise – however it was a success for me because I recorded it to honor my father, a minister in the Church of God and Christ and gospel on air personality – my first and biggest supporter when I was a little girl – he put it into the universe for me when he said his Princess Jody was going to be a star.
South Africa (RISA) #2
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks #48
Producer – Jody Watley
Songwriters – George Lyter, Michael OHara, Denise Rich
Executive producer: Jody Watley
On a personal note..to listen to this album in full really brought tears to my eyes, proud that I was an remain true to myself no matter what – proud of the quality and growth. Yes, a big departure from my first two albums.
Despite marriage issues and record label woes of the time – I put together a very thoughtful and soulful record. It wasn’t what the masses wanted, or even my label as it was constructed by that point – but it was the record in my heart to write, conceptualize and record as an artist not a Hot 100 pop star doing predictable songs to feed the machine. The title song really says it all about who I am as an artist and a person who loves music. “..songs of love, songs of joy, songs of hope, songs of foreverness, songs of togetherness..”
Revisit this album if you missed it the first time around the maturity may not have vibed well with high school at the time – but now that you’ve done some living it just might.
Over the years it’s been interesting to see some artists get heralded for personal statement albums, being so ‘real’, growing, being fearless and so on… when the albums become blockbusters it’s all ‘bold and brave’ — well “Affairs of The Heart” was bold and brave though not a commercial blockbuster ..really no different in a way from quitting Shalamar when I did – never one for predictable choices.
“It’s all about the way you feel in your heart.” – Jody Watley
I’ve posted before how much I love the rain..the sound of it, the calmness of the sound and the cleansing nature of it in general. It’s one of those simple things in life I mention often to appreciate. I don’t like to have to drive in it..but there’s a rainbow to be found in any rainstorm. Stepping out into my yard to take this selfie and model my limited edition Christmas T-shirt from 2018 in the process.
This week I’ll be performing in The Colors of Christmas Tour with Peabo Bryson, Oleta Adams and replacing Ben Vereen is BeBe Winans. I hope to see you for this unique and beautiful holiday concert. There will be a few of these t-shirts available -makes a wonderful gift for Jody Watley fans.
December 13: McCallum Theatre – Palm Desert, CA: Tickets
December 14: Cerritos Center for Performing Arts – Cerritos, CA : Tickets
Holiday vibes my favorite Christmas song : favorite holiday album “Vince Guaraldi:: A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Silent Night” reminds me of being a little girl looking at the color wheel. I’m more of a fan of low key holiday songs..instrumentals not much on over-singing..really more of a vibe of chill, fireplace, warm cocoa and like slipping your feet into warm fuzzy slippers.
This was at rehearsal with my fellas including Roland Hamilton on keys 🎹impromptu on break! I asked who knew any Christmas songs as we went to break getting ready for Art Basel in Miami – only Roland said yes and so we did this casually for fun. Sometimes this season can be so hectic and full of frenzy and often sadness for many as well..I hope this brings a minute and a half of joy.