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.”
September 24, 2022 – Jody Watley Phoenix (Tempe Park, Bobby Dee Presents :: Freestyle Festival ) 100 degrees and thousands of party people. We had a blast and I met some wonderful longtime fans.
Thank you to the team Kayla, Jasmine & Pamela Broussard (making sure everything went smoothly) and all fans who support by buying the tickets, the merch, being in the heat like yesterday, singing along bringing the energies of love and having a great time, gracias!
Custom Skirt by Dope Tavio.
On my way to venue – stage ready, took time with fans first- all love and reciprocal appreciation.
Video to come on the Official Jody Watley Youtube Channel. Subscribe!
Grammy Award Winning Singer-Songwriter Jody Watley made an appearance at Naper Pride Fest in Naperville, Illinois. With a mission to create equal treatment of all gender expressions and any member of the LGBTQIA+ community, the second festival was another step forward. The Naper Pride Organization has a mission statement that “Everyone deserves to feel valued and included.” As Watley wrote in her 1995 hit “Affection “Doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, don’t matter if you’re straight or gay – everybody needs to feel loved.” the message of love and equality is timeless and very much needed now more than ever. The style icon brought the energy to the stage in a power packed party diverse set list, ending the set with a poignant speech to the crowd and thanking Naper Pride.
Photography by Eva Genevieve-Scarborough
Set List: A nonstop party blend of classic Pop/R&B/Hip Hop and contemporary Dance hits
Some Kind Of Lover (short edit)
Nightlife (Jodie Harsh House Mix)
Dancer (Craig C Deep House Mix)
I Want Your Love (DJ Spinna Mix)/ Your Love Keeps Working On Me / I Want You / Affection Medley)
The Grammy winning Solo career and songwriting catalog of Jody Watley includes blockbuster classics like (“Looking For A New Love”, “Still A Thrill”, “Don’t You Want Me”, “Real Love”, “Friends” the groundbreaking hit ft Eric B & Rakim) to name a few and countless other gems in an ongoing career with over 100 songwriting credits to her Jody Watley Music, BMI catalog). Jody Watley’s “Sweet 16” was recorded by Destiny’s Child on their multiple platinum album “Writings On The Wall” as well as compositions from platinum artist Jermaine Stewart (“Say It Again” album.
Jody Watley received the BMI songwriter award “Medal Of Honor” in 1993 for over a million plays of songs in her songwriting catalog. The Jody Watley songwriting catalog dates back to her Shalamar days co-writing songs and penning lyrics and melodies to “Full of Fire” & “Work It Out” (3 for Love album 1980) “Help Me” & “Playing To Win” (Friends album 1982). Her deep pen continues today with more uplifting solo gems like “Sanctuary”, “The Essence”, “The Healing” “Skin Deep” “A Beautiful Life” and more with her broad repertoire that spans R&B, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop, House Music, Jazz, Drum & Bass, Ambient Chill Electronica, Spoken word (can we discuss the depth of “When A Man Loves A Woman, Affection”) & Inspirational. The recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award at Jody Watley Day at Georgia State Capitol this year, an honorary doctorate recipient in humanitarian endeavors, business & entrepreneurship, we celebrate and honor the Icon in and her legacy in music and Songwriting Dr.Jody Watley.” – Women Songwriters Hall Of Fame August 27, 2022.
Other notable inductees include Marilyn Bergman (posthumous), Gloria Estefan, Siedah Garrett, Indigo Girls, Loretta Lynn at the second year of the ceremony held in Washington, D.C.
I was unable to attend unfortunately due to being sick for two weeks with Covid, and also still taking time to rest while mourning the passing of my Mom and handling her affairs, a video recording of my acceptance speech was playing. This is a very high honor for me to be recognized and in such as esteemed class of other women songwriters.
New in the Jody Watley Fan Art Gallery here on the site is this striking watercolor painting by Paul Sidhu, inspired by the photography of “Don’t You Want Me” in the Jean Paul Gaultier velvet cone bra.
Inducted into Women Songwriters Hall Of Fame last night, though I couldn’t attend due tobeing under the weather it means the world to be recognized as a songwriter and knowing I’ve written many that are a part of the sound of peoples lives, crafting hooks that you can sing along to, and stories that resonate or have meaningful intent. Gospel royalty Keyondra Lockett accepted on my behalf after a rousing tribute performance of “It All Begins With You.”
“The Jody Watley songwriting catalog dates back to her Shalamar days co-writing songs like penning lyrics and melodies to (Full of Fire, Work It Out, Help Me, Playing To Win) and most significantly into her esteemed Grammy winning Solo career of blockbuster classics like (Looking For A New Love, Don’t You Want Me, Real Love, Friends to name a few and countless other gems in an ongoing career with over 100 songwriting credits to her name), that also includes the poignant “16” recorded by Destiny’s Child. Jody Watley received the BMI songwriter award “Medal Of Honor” in 1993 for over a million plays of songs in her songwriting catalog.”
Music Icon and Grammy Winning Artist Jody Watley is being inducted in the 2022 Women Songwriters Hall of Fame. Congratulations are in order.
Gospel royalty Keyondra Lockett will give a special tribute performance to Jody Watley Grammy Music Icon in Washington D.C – 8/27.
Watley’s songwriting catalog spans over 40 years and includes classic hits such as “Looking For A New Love” “Friends” featuring Eric B & Rakim, Don’t You Want Me and more. Watley was recognized by songwriting society BMI in 1991.