“She’s one of the most prominent visionaries of her era, and one whose influence remains a key touchstone in contemporary pop music.” -Dean Van Nguyen, Wax Poetics Magazine 2014, Issue 57 Cover Story
As quiet as it’s sometimes kept, Grammy award winning artist Jody Watley has been at the forefront of some of the most groundbreaking trends and movements in modern pop culture – political statements, music and music video innovation, and the place where all those tracks meet. Check just a fragment of her résumé:
The video for her classic 1987 song “Still a Thrill” (from her Grammy-winning eponymous debut album of that same year) dazzlingly incorporates waacking, the underground freestyle dance (think of it as an even more beat-driven cousin to voguing), and is the first time a major pop star used their artistic platform to showcase this particular means of body expression. But Ms. Watley had actually brought the dance to widespread American attention a few years earlier as a teenage dancer on the iconic TV show Soul Train. Now, waacking has fans and practitioners around the globe, many of whom use the music of Ms. Watley in their routines as a show of respect for an OG who’s kept the flame burning.
Her groundbreaking 1989 cut “Friends” carved the template for both R&B/hip-hop and pop/hip-hop fusions to come, as it was the first time a rapper (the legendary Rakim, of Eric B. & Rakim) wrote original verses for an R&B/pop song.
The video for “Friends” was a landmark of subversive/progressive representation that has still not yet been matched – or given its due as a taboo-shattering cultural artifact. Set in an underground New York dance club, and featuring performances by Miss Watley and Eric B. & Rakim, the club’s denizens are made of up straight, gay, and transgender folk, of all races, body shapes and sartorial aesthetics. B-boys jostle alongside drag queens, Rakim rocks the mic, and Jody serves face and fierceness. It’s a warm utopian vibe. The gathering is organic, and lacks the opportunistic marketing tactic of gay-friendly advocacy that is now on trend for pop divas.
Long before making his mark as a film director, David Fincher (Se7en; Fight Club) cut his stylistic teeth on Miss Watley’s sleek, hugely influential music video for the 1989 smash “Real Love,” perfecting a signature visual look that he would later impart to other pop divas.
Unhappy with the constraints of being on a major label, she parted ways with her industry home and started her own label Avitone Recordings in 1995. Through it she has released four critically acclaimed CDs (Affection, 1995; The Saturday Night Experience, 1999; Midnight Lounge, 2001; The Makeover, 2006) which have collectively spanned the genres electronica, ambient, R&B, and House. They’ve also reinforced her roots in and solidified her ties to the global dance underground, as everyone from 4Hero and King Britt to Masters at Work and Junior Vasquez jumped at the chance to work on these projects.
A fashion-forward visionary from her Soul Train days, Ms. Watley never used a professional stylist but, as a solo artist with a singular vision and keen instincts, carved her own look by weaving vintage clothing and contemporary street fashions from her own closet with high-end pieces from fashion designers who hadn’t yet caught the public or industry eye (Jean-Paul Gautier; Rifat Ozbek.) Photographers from the legendary Francesco Scavullo to firebrand Steven Meisel lined up to work with her. For her iconoclastic and influential eye, she was honored with a feature in VOGUE Italia’s groundbreaking “Black Issue” in 2008.
But that was all then. “NIGHTLIFE” is now.
“Nightlife,” lushly co-produced by Ms. Watley and rising hot production team Count De Money, is a horn-laced, bass-driven, beat-pumping call to glamorous arms. It’s an anthem of uplift and inspiration where the dance-floor is a designated refuge of self-creation and spirit preservation. On one hand, the track celebrates dance music tradition, its classic sounds and motifs (nodding to disco, House, soulful R&B,) while looking squarely to the future. As an artistic statement, it’s a perfect encapsulation of Ms. Watley’s career thus far: This is where I’ve been / this is what I’ve done / this is where I am and what I’m doing right now / this is how I’m mapping the future.
When asked what inspired the song, she cites old-school classics like McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” and the O’Jays’ “Message in Our Music.”
“Those were songs that made you dance but made you feel inspired,” she says. “It really started from there. I wanted to hear music like that so I had to write it because I haven’t heard anything like that from anyone else in a long time. All my songs start with what I’m feeling and what I want other people to get from it. There’s a strength that resonates through [“Nightlife”] just the same – but in a totally different way – as my first solo single, ‘Looking for a New Love.’ I want people to feel great because things in the world aren’t great and we need sources of strength and inspiration, someplace to go to feel good about ourselves no matter what else is going on in the world.”
As one third of the seminal R&B/pop trio Shalamar, whose rich, distinctive harmonies propelled the group to stardom, Ms. Watley was the femme anchor for what was so unique a sonic blast that the British music press coined the term “the Shalamar sound.” But the classic Shalamar sound actually had two acts. The second was the one most people are familiar with, but the first featured the underrated Gerald Brown before he left the group. (He’s the one singing co-lead on the group’s first mainstream hit “Take That to The Bank.”) “Nightlife” is a reunion of old friends as Gerald joins Jody to sing the song’s catchy hook, “It’s in the music…,” which has its own story behind it.
“Well, the hook is something that came about because I performed the song for about two years before recording it,” explains Jody with a smile. “I’ve been opening my show with it for a little while now, and it’s really grown and taken shape organically. If I’d recorded the song when it first came to me, it would be missing so much of what’s there now because a lot of elements slowly kicked into place. One of those is the line, ‘It’s in the music.’ As time went by I just started hearing it in my head. I had been listening to Change, “Glow of Love,” some Shalamar, and Phyllis Hyman, “You Know How to Love Me,” and it just hit me – It’s in the music. And I was like, ‘That needs to be the tagline for the song.’ I recorded it first and then I thought, ‘I’m hearing a male voice alongside my voice for the first time in forever.’ [Laughter] So then I got Gerald Brown to add his voice with mine, and that provided the element I felt that line deserved.”
Driven by a career-best vocal performance, “Nightlife” is the kind of multi-purpose dance anthem you listen to while getting dressed for the club, and then lose your mind to when it comes blasting through club speakers. And it pays homage to both Ms. Watley’s dance roots and her embrace of the here and now as it pulls the thread of waacking into its grooves, with the diva commanding, “Waack it / just waack it out…” Her love for the form has everything to do with her love of freestyle dancing.
“When I say ‘I’m gonna waack it, gonna waack it out / now turn, turn and walk it out…’ I’m visualizing people listening to it,” she smiles, “even if they don’t know what waacking it out is. They know it means to do something and to have fun with it, and then walk it out. That’s the spirit, embracing the freedom and the rhythm of the music. I think that element of my dancer background is always in my music – even with the ambient and mellower things. The groove has to hit you just like the lyrics. It has to all come together.
“Waacking, I’ve been doing since I was a teenager on Soul Train. It’s showing the music because you’re hitting the accents, and that can be any range of movement. It can be kicking your leg. It can be hitting a pose where it’s a fashion pose, or hitting a pose where it’s just you falling to the ground and hitting a beat, whereas voguing is more fashion poses specifically. Waacking is about showing the music, hitting beats. I love it because it’s freeing and fun. It lets you hear music in a different way. You’re not just dancing to the song; you’re listening for specific elements – like a bass-line, or a lyric line that makes you go boom-boom. It makes you see the music by movement.”
A thumping preview of the forthcoming EP Paradise (due in early 2014,) “Nightlife” has already garnered acclaim from both longtime fans and tastemakers like the Okayplayer website, who praised it as “born to rip the runway…” Those reactions are cool validation for a sense of purpose and integrity that hasn’t always been understood by industry types, but that is at the core of Ms. Watley’s relationship with her music, her fans, and herself.
“Everything I’ve ever done has been to be distinctively Jody Watley,” she says thoughtfully, “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.” – Ernest Hardy
THE CLASSIC BIO.
Jody Watley is a GRAMMY Award Winning Pop/R&B innovative music maker, songwriter, producer and style-forging pioneer in music, video, dance and fashion as recognized in VOGUE, VOGUE Italia, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Essence and Vanity Fair in addition to being named one of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People. Watley has the distinction of being included in the first celebrity driven ad campaigns “Individuals of Style” for GAP and the famed “A Face Is Like a Work of Art” for LA Eyeworks. Watley established the trend of high fashion, mixed with street chic, and individuality raising the bar for the next generation of young black Pop/R&B artists decades before the industry would embrace cross marketing and branding in the mainstream.
The Chicago native is one of the first already established artists to embrace the shifting paradigms in the music business and digital platforms embracing the entrepreneurial side releasing music independently and social networking since the mid 90’s. Jody Watley continues to represent longevity, artistic growth and class.
Jody Watley ranks as one of MTV’s most nominated artists for her David Fincher directed video “Real Love” with 7 nominations. She was the first woman of color to appear on the cover of a high fashion magazine in Japan ‘SPUR’ in addition to being the first black artist or woman in the fitness arena to have a #1 million-selling video titled “Dance To Fitness.”
With an amazing 32 Top Ten Singles and 13 #1 Singles in the Pop, Dance and R&B music genres over the past three decades, 6 Hot 100 Top Ten Singles, 15 Top 40 R&B Singles from 9 albums as a solo artist – not including her Shalamar catalog (A Night To Remember, The Second Time Around, Take That To The Bank), Watley’s multi-format hit singles include such classics as “Looking For A New Love,” with it’s popular sardonic catch-phrase “Hasta La Vista Ba-by” later used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in blockbuster movie Terminator; “Don’t You Want Me” and her groundbreaking collaboration with Eric B and Rakim “Friends”, Watley is widely regarded as one of Pop/R&B’s pioneering icons.
One of the defining artists of the 80’s, Watley’s “Friends” was the first multi-format crossover smash crrover hit to introduce and pair the custom and specialized 16 bar verse with a rapper and singer in Pop music in 1989. The formula became such a popular mainstay in the commercial mainstream The GRAMMY’s added the “Rap/Sung” Category in 2002.
Known for combining beauty and style as integral aspects of her career as a recording artist and dynamic live performer, Jody’s list of accomplishments and achievements is indeed impressive: an American participant in ‘Band Aid’ the historic Sir Bob Geldof British charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, invited by special invitation to perform for a sitting President and First Lady at The White House; recipient of Billboard Magazine’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2009, nominations for NAACP Image Awards, American Music Awards and The Soul Train Awards. She’s been featured in VOGUE, ITALIAN VOGUE (including the Historic “The Black Issue in 2008), Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Essence and named one of America’s Most Beautiful People by People Magazine. Songwriting honors from BMI are also amongst her achievements for many of her hit singles. Jody Watley also appeared on Broadway in the hit musical GREASE! as the pivotal character Rizzo.
2006’s “The Makeover,” Watley’s last full length was released as an exclusive with former retailer The Virgin Megastore in a forward thinking strategic partnership; debuting as their top seller in-store where it remained for 5 weeks at #1. “The Makeover”debuted at #3 in The Top Electronic Albums at iTunes; producing 3 Top 5 Billboard Hot Dance Singles. Her cover of the CHIC classic “I Want Your Love” reached #1 in the U.S. In the U.K. the single also achieved #1 chart status on Music Week’s Commercial Pop Chart. (Click Avitone link on the page to read more). In 2001, she released the critically acclaimed “Midnight Lounge” heralded by the UK’s Blues and Soul as ‘the best album of her career,’ an ambient electronic opus continuing her less commercial leanings into the new millennium with her distinctly bold creative progression as an artist, songwriter and producer.
Jody Watley Music (BMI) contains a diverse range of titles in her publishing catalog with licensing opportunities for platforms including commercial advertising, video games, film and television.
As an entertainer Watley continues to perform selectively around the world with her dynamic live show; a unique blend of modern electronica, pop, dance and soul hits and rare grooves all in distinct Watley sound and style.
In October 2012, Jody Watley was one of the stars of “Loving The Silent Tears,” an international musical event with a cast of 16 esteemed artists from around the world directed by Tony nominee Vincent Paterson (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cirque du Soleil) with choreography by Emmy winner Bonnie Story held at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The music was composed by Academy Award winners Al Kasha and Nan Schwartz to the poetry of humanitarian Supreme Master Ching Hai with the theme of finding one’s own peace.
June 2013, Watley’s broad range took her to China as a part of the “Night of Fortune GRAMMY All-Stars Concert” performing in front of 40,000 fans at Chengdu Stadium. Her eclectic musical palette also lent itself to collaborations with new Electro-Pop Band “French Horn Rebellion” for the winter 2012 single “Cold Enough” and the infectious and much buzzed about indie summer single “Dancing Out”, influenced by the pop sounds of the 80’s with a contemporary electro-pop twist. The video for the single premiered on Billboard.com.
July of 2013, Watley unveiled the preview of her new single “Nightlife” the shimmering electro disco stomper written and produced by Jody Watley along with Julien and Raphael Aletti (Aletti Brothers) of Count De Money for Peace Bisquit with co-production by Peace Bisquit’s Bill Coleman. “Nightlife” features backing vocals by original Shalamar male lead Gerald Brown for the full classic nod to her past as an original member of the group.
Watley made high profile summer 2013 appearances at ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans’ Mercedes Benz Superdome Superlounge, a GRAMMY All-Stars Concert in Chengdu, China at Chengdu Stadium and a standing room only concert at Washington D.C.’s historic Howard Theatre; her first concert in the city in 25 years.
November 2013 – Jody Watley’s “Nightlife” featuring another Shalamar original Gerald Brown takes her into the Top Ten in the UK peaking at #5 Urban and #6 Commercial Pop in the UK’s venerable industry publication Music Week and continued to rise on the Hot Dance Club Play on Billboard extending Watley’s singles chart streak.
Currently, the proud mother of two young adults is working on a variety of creative projects encompassing new music and literary (penning her first novel, and a memoir).
Jody Watley served two years as an elected Governor on the Los Angeles Chapter Recording Academy Board from 2009-2011. The Musicians Institute in Hollywood elected Watley to their board of Governors for a two year term in November 2012.
Jody Watley Longform Bio-
Jody Watley has consistently broken new ground in music, video and fashion: her 2006 album “The Makeover” benefited from an exclusive direct collaboration with the Virgin Megastore Music Chain that debuted as the #1 nationwide store best-seller and #3 debut on iTunes Electronic Albums Chart. “The Makeover” produced 3 Top Ten Billboard Hot Dance Play singles; “Borderline” (#2), “I Want Your Love” (#1) and “A Beautiful Life” (#5). The #1 cover of the CHIC classic “I Want Your Love” returned Watley to the top of the UK charts after two decades at #1.
After licensing some of her music to renowned taste-making company Giant Step and working with dance music writer/producers Masters At Work, and Roy Ayers Jody released “Midnight Lounge” also in Japan; making it available for U.S. release through Shanachie Records, with the key dance cut “Photographs” released in the U.K. on renowned indie label Chillifunk. “One of the things that people haven’t realized is that – I’ve been involved with creating, producing and writing songs for all my solo work since the early ‘80s,” says Jody. Check out Watley’s early thoughts on songwriting here:
Chicago native Watley made her first stage appearance in a spontaneous moment onstage with her godfather – music legend Jackie Wilson. “I was a bedroom mirror performer as a child and really shy”, Chicago born Watley has said. “I remember my first pair of go-go boots though and pretending like I was Diana Ross – my first music inspiration. I was a little girl who always had big dreams and aspirations. My junior high group was called ‘Black Fuzz’ because we all had giant afro’s. I was in talent shows, dance contests and took music class in school. In Chicago, my choir teacher was the sister of Dinah Washington.
Having grown up in various cities around the United States, Watley is a graduate of Los Angeles’ Dorsey High School after her parents settled in Los Angeles.
I entered myself into Miss Black Teenage Illinois while a student briefly at Kenwood Academy; ran for school President, and Queen of Southeast Junior High in Kansas City, Missouri ..” Watley states. “I was the child who was always imaginative, full of ideas – not just a dreamer, but a girl always trying to do and be something. Living in so many places helped me adapt to change, but also made me more of an introvert in many ways..”
Soul Train and Beginning Influence.
As a teenaged dancer on the iconic show Soul Train, Ebony Magazine’s “The New Generation” Issue from August 1978 the article noted Watley as a trend-setter to young girls who watched the show in an article spotlighting “The Outrageous Waack Dancers” of which she was a part of. The article noted the freestyle dance that was gaining popularity. People tuned in to Soul Train to see what to wear, to learn the latest dance moves, see the funky clothes and to hear the best in soul music.
“The Hippest Trip In America: Celebrating 40 Years of Soul Train” on VH-1 featured Jody proudly speaking on her pivotal Soul Train days and being one of the most popular dancers to come from the show which opened the door of future opportunities including being handpicked by Don Cornelius to be a part of the group Shalamar which began as a part of Soul Train Records. She appeared with founder and host Don Cornelius along with music legend Smokey Robinson at The Grammy Museum in addition to The Paley Center For Media discussing the impact of the show and the Emmy nominated documentary. Jody Watley was among the performers including Patti LaBelle, Jeffrey Osbourne, The O’Jays and more on the launch of the inaugural Soul Train Cruise.
As an original member of Shalamar along with her fellow Soul Train alumni Jeffrey Daniel were a part of hits ‘Take That To The Bank’, ‘A Night To Remember’, ‘The Second Time Around’ and ‘ ‘(This Is) For The Lover In You.’ Watley’s distinct tones, design, dance and style would contribute to Shalamar through various line-ups which included male lead vocalists Gary Mumford (1977), Gerald Brown (78-79) and Howard Hewett during her tenure. Watley co-penned the songs “Full of Fire”, “Help Me”, “Work it Out”, and “Talk To Me” for the group. After 6 years, Watley quit Shalamar abruptly in 1983 while on promotional tour in England due to lack of payments of advances, royalties, disagreements with Solar Records founder Dick Griffey. The departure was also a build-up of ego clashes within the group which were documented in the British press at the time and in 2009’s TV-One documentary Unsung: Shalamar. Watley reunited with the group in 1998 for the Babyface cover recording and video directed by Hype Williams for their classic “This Is For The Lover In You.” The group also made an appearance for British television’s Top of The Pops for the single.
A participant in Sir Bob Geldof’s history making charity single “Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas” alongside Sting, U2, George Michael, Boy George, Phil Collins and more while living in London would be Jody Watley’s first post Shalamar endeavor.
Jody Watley officially launched her solo career in 1986 upon returning to America with a plan and vision for the next phase of her life and career, eager to make a distinct mark free of label and group constraints. Signed by renowned music executive Jheryl Busby to MCA Records, Watley’s breakout debut would garner her the prestigious GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist and featured production from Minneapolis’ former Prince bassist Andre Cymone whom Watley shared co-writing on the bulk of the album and handpicked by Watley. David Z. was brought on by the label to oversee and contribute to the production of Andre Cymone, who was not seen by the label as having a hit-making track record. Legendary producer of CHIC and Power Station Bernard Edwards, a friend of Watley’s since her Shalamar days committed to producing a track with Watley while living in London. The Edwards – Watley collaboration was encouraged by Duran Duran’s John Taylor while recording the Power Station album. MCA added to Watley’s picks by adding Patrick Leonard, who was having success with Madonna at the time. The debut album also featured a duet with music superstar George Michael. (See Discography for full chart info) whom Watley had met during the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” During this time she had the opportunity of a lifetime performing with one of her childhood idols, Stevie Wonder on his MTV Special: Skeletons, also featured were Salt N Pepa and renowned musician Stevie Ray-Vaughn. Watley’s fashion forward looks and style caught the eye of major fashion publications who were eager to feature her in lay-outs; uncommon at the time for music artists beyond music superstar Madonna.
Known for combining beauty and style as integral aspects of her career as a recording artist and dynamic live performer, Jody’s list of accomplishments and achievements is indeed impressive: she’s received Billboard Magazine’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, nominations for the MTV VMA’s (where ‘Real Love’ remains one of the most nominated videos with 7), NAACP Image Awards, American Music Awards and Soul Train Awards. She’s been featured in VOGUE, ITALIAN VOGUE (including the Historic “The Black Issue), Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Essence and has been named one of America’s Most Beautiful People by People Magazine and has received songwriting honors from BMI. Watley’s “Sweet Sixteen” originally featured on her full length ‘Flower’ was covered by mega girls group Destiny’s Child on their “Writings On The Wall’. Watley’s publishing catalog via Jody Watley Music contains an diverse range of titles.
Jody Watley also helped usher in a new era in the merge of music, fashion and celebrity appearing in the first celebrity ad campaign for GAP.
Jody Watley was the first black woman to appear on the cover of a Japanese high fashion magazine cover. Dubbed “The Face” her appearance on the launch of “SPUR” in Japan was accompanied by television commercials and billboards in major cities in the country.
Another first for the artist was releasing a million selling video “Dance to Fitness“, which had not been achieved by a black woman or musician.
Playing the role of Rizzo on in the hit musical GREASE took Watley to Broadway in 1995.
Performing by special invitation at The White House during the first Bush administration and receiving another invitation by former President Jimmy Carter to be a part of Habitat For Humanity and meeting former First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are amongst treasured experiences in her journey.
Force of Nature’s Tsunami Relief in Malaysia welcomed Watley and a host of other international artists including The Black Eyed Peas, Boys II Men, The Backstreet Boys, American Idol’s Paula Abdul and jazz musician Diana Krall and more. The participants subsequently had the honor to meet the King and Queen of the country.
Part of one of the first global HIV/AIDS awareness projects “Red, Hot & Blue” for which she performed the Cole Porter jazz classic “After You Who” the project included a diverse global cast of musicians including Annie Lennox, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, David Byrne and U2; Watley continues to work with charities promoting tolerance, as well as prevention and care for those living with HIV and AIDS in addition to involvement mentoring young girls and working to inspire underprivileged youth.
Recently completing her two-year term in 2011 as a Governor on The Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy included Watley’s participation in various events for the Academy including The GRAMMYU Program.
Currently completing her 10th album, inspired by her musical journey; influences will include disco/funk from the era of which she began her music career in the late 70’s and her love of groups like CHIC; while blending with her recent acclaimed forays into ambient electronica.
Beyond her stellar career Jody Watley is the mother of two young adults and has always kept great parenting in the life of her daughter and son a major priority resulting in more time at home than globe-trotting for some years. Jody Watley is also busy penning her first novel in a series, stating enthusiastically; “Writing is a longtime passion dating back to my youth when I wrote poetry, short stories and full novels that I’d rent out to friends to earn lunch money. I’m very excited about this novel and other literary works swirling in my head. They’d all make great films or stage plays as well! A longtime passion for fashion, style, beauty and health has also led to my ‘Style’ blog.”
As an entertainer Watley continues to perform selectively around the world with her dynamic and live show; a unique blend of modern electronica, pop, dance and soul – hits and rare grooves spanning 30 years in the mix in true Watley style.
Recent performances have included: Chengdu Stadium Sports Centre “GRAMMY All-Stars”, Billboard Live in Japan, The Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Smooth Jazz Cruise, Dave Koz and Friends, Soulfood Music Festival, BB King’s New York, The Birchmere DC/VA, and more. Jody Watley has also performed at private events for clients ranging from Revlon, Diesel, Cole Haan, Swatch and Kraft amongst others.
Bio Source References:
DON CORNELIUS AND SOUL TRAIN
Don Cornelius on Jody Watley, Soul Train and Shalamar, LA Times “She Took The Soul Train To Stardom”, by Stu Black, Dec. 13, 1987:
At 17 she was picked by show creator Don Cornelius, to be one-third of a singing group he was forming for his new record label.
“Jody became more than just a regular,” says Cornelius, executive producer and host of “Soul Train” since it’s inception 17 years ago. “She and her partner, Jeffrey Daniel, set the standard for the ‘Soul Train’ ’70s and ’80s ‘Soul Train’ dancer. They are creative, their dancing abilities were undoubted and they always seemed to know what to wear.”
In 1976 Cornelius and his then-partner Dick Griffey formed Soul Train Records. “I bought a master, a finished record a medley of Motown hits, which he called ‘Uptown Festival.’ The group’s lead singer Gary Mumford, was excellent. I decided to replace the background people, however with two Soul Train dancers who would work behind Gary. I said, “Let’s use them.” My partner said, Jody Watley can’t sing.” I said, “It doesn’t matter, only the look matters. Besides she had told me that her mother had been a gospel singer. I had a cockamamie idea there must be some kind of singing in her genes..”
EARLY TRENDSETTER SOUL TRAIN:
As a teenager, Jody Watley became one of the most popular dancers in the history of the internationally notable dance show Soul Train. Her trendsetting style and influence was noted early on: Ebony Magazine Article: The New Generation “The Outrageous Waack Dancers” Pages 64-67, August 1978, Johnson Publications Many will recall how Jody Watley influenced girls all over the U.S. though her role as dancer on the show. “Girls would copy her hairstyles..” Another of her innovations was the use of fans in her dance routines.
JODY WATLEY ON SONGWRITING:
American Songwriter, 1989
80’S DEFINING ARTIST:
Life Section, (February 16, 1996) Best Bets Jody Watley Greatest Hits – “..who set standards for fashion and music in the late 80’s.” USA Today
PIONEER, INFLUENCE AND CONNECTION TO HIP-HOP, TOP 40 POP/R&B:
Watley’s collaboration ‘Friends’ with Eric B and Rakim was the first to popularize the 16 bar rap solo coupled with Pop/R&B. This formula became a staple in contemporary music: Icons of Hip-Hop Culture: An Enclyclopedia of the Movement, Music, Culture, Vol. 1 2007 Greenwood Press by Mickey Hess ISBN-10: 0313339031
” With a respectful Kangol tip to Chaka Khan and Melle Mel and their Grammy winner ‘I Feel For You’ the successful team up of Eric B and Rakim would make permanent the now formulaic Pop/R&B singer X featuring a rapper X a prerequisite for a Billboard chart topper”. To The Break of Dawn: A Freestyle On The Hip-Hop Aesthetic by William Jelani Cobb, 2007 NYU Press Page 142 ISBN 0814716709, 9780814716700
“Chaka Khan’s 1984 single ‘I Feel For You’ famously included a rap intro from Melle Mel and Jody Watley enlisted the rhyme skills of none other than Rakim for an interlude on 1989’s “Friends”. In short order , the rap bridge became a standard part of the R&B song structure. “The Billboard Book of Number Two Singles Christopher Feldman, Jody Watley ‘Larger Than Life/Real Love” Publisher Watson-Guphill , ISBN 0823076954, 9780823076952000 The track ‘Friends’ was one of the first collaborations with a Pop/R&B singer and a hard-core rapper.
BLENDING FASHION, STYLE, MUSIC & POP CULTURE INFLUENCE:
Jody Watley: Pop’s Fashionista Godmother: Miles Marshall
“The Icon Muses on her Past, Her Comeback Plans and Why Rihanna Owes Her a Debt of Gratitude”, April 16, 2012
Harpers Bazaar May 1989, Photographed by Francesco Scavullo Pages 126-127 Jody Watley is making a substantial dent in the annals of hot pop history..her smashing good looks and style have not hurt her.. GAP Ad Campaign 1989 Individuals Photographed by Herb Ritts Subsequently released as a part of the GAP: Individuals “Portraits of The GAP Collection” Book Chronicling the ads used over the years. Publisher: Melcher Media 2006 Harpers Bazaar September 1990, “Americas Ten Most Beautiful Women” Issue Photographed by: Matthew Rolston Page 180-183 “The Hot Beauty” Watley is a student of style. She creates her own video concepts and styling .
Jody Watley combines seemingly contradictory elements with ease – the soulful with the mundane, the outrageous with the classic. ” – Anna McDowell People Magazine: America’s 50 Most Beautiful People May 09, 1990 http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20063273,00.html Rolling Stone Fall Fashion: Italian Collection Pages 9-13 Photographed by William Laxton Harpers Bazaar- November 1991, Photographed by Andrea Blanch Pages 142-145 “Irreverent, Irrestible Dance Diva Jody Watley has always brought bravura style and energy to the Pop-Soul party…
Watley’s reputation has rested on a rebellious fashion sense and a taste for uptempo.. “Affairs of The Heart” marks a shift in emphasis..” – Alan Light
SAKS FIFTH AVENUE Fall Catalogue 1996 Photographed by Victor Skrebneski Pages 81-96
Vanity Fair: October 1991 Spotlight: ‘Soul Survivor’ Written By Lynn Hirschberg Pages 196 – 197 Photo: Michel Comte “Her knack for reinvention has always complimented her music” – Lynn Hirshberg Allure Magazine, “Upkeep” Jody Watley, George Wayne, August 1995 People Magazine “Best Bodies” Issue 1995 “Jody Watley” Photographed by Dana Finemen Page 111 The Black Issue: VOGUE Italia, Jody Watley “Outstanding Ladies” Photo: Michel Comte ,
July 2008 LA Times Magazine, “She Took The Soul Train To Stardom” Dec. 13, 1987 Stu Black Pages 26 – 35 “Jody came in with so much intact” – Jheryl Busby Rolling Stone, “Jody Watley’s New Love” June 18, 1987, Anthony DeCurtis Page 23 USA Today,
HEALTH & FITNESS
Dance To Fitness Overview 1990 http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/26269/Jody-Watley-Dance-to-Fitness/overview Grammy Award winning songstress serenades the at home exerciser with ‘Dance To Fitness’. Consisting of light aerobics Watley’s was one of the first to feature an African-American female artist.
ARTISTIC GROWTH AND CHANGE:
“Jody Watley Makes A Stylish About Face”, January 26, 1990, Jefferson Graham Page 8D Eager to broaden her musical range and change her image. “It’s important to be distinct not just musically” she says but visually distinct as well….I want people to know that I wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album …not the pawn of someone else, or a marketing man’s idea..”
US Magazine ” Jody Watley -Soul Survivor” March 1992 -Arion Berger’ Pages 53-56 “I call her a quiet tiger.” says Louil Silas Jr. an executive at MCA Records. “She’s had a definite opinion of herself visually and musically from day one.” Watley decided to approach ‘Affairs of the Heart’ much the same way she did with her workout tape ‘Dance To Fitness’. She thought of the project as more of a breakthrough than a marketing move. “There wasn’t one black person in a fitness video” she recalls “and I thought it would be great if I opened that door”.
Essence Magazine, People: Jody Watley, by Scott-Poulson Bryant Page 62 March 1994 More so than her previous three solo albums it reveals maturity of an artist with more on her mind than the latest dance groove.
USA Today, Jody Watley’s High Voltage Rebound July 17, 1995 by James Jones IV She doesn’t apologize for her last two albums, Affairs of the Heart’ and ‘Intimacy’, where she recorded softer, supper-club oriented fare and ballads. “I call those my adolescent albums,” she explains. “As a singer and a songwriter, I have to be able to explore different influences and styles. Everybody expects me to do the same thing all the time. To me that’s just wrong. I don’t like to be tied down to formulas.”
Billboard Magazine, “Watley Takes Control of Her Own Destiny With New Album on Avitone June 24, 1995 , The Rhythm and the Blues, by J.R. Reynolds Discussing Declining Sales: Watley admits that her new indie status presents challenges she didn’t face while signed to MCA. Still, the artist remains confident. “I’m an artist who likes to keep changing and developing..” Watley says she’s more interested in broadening her creative boundaries and issuing lasting messages of substance than in having record-breaking sales.She says “My earlier albums were more mainstream and dance oriented. The last two moved into deep relationship themes lyrically – which has become very important to me”.
Billboard Magazine: “Watley Relaxes in The Midnight Lounge” by Michael Paoletta January 22, 2003 Watley predated the neo-soul movement with the lesser heard ahead of their time “Affairs of The Heart” and “Intimacy”, and the import only “Flower”. “An artist should always explore new frontiers.” Watley says. “These frontiers must reflect you as an artist. It’s really quite simple, but when superstardom greets an artist, it’s very easy to get sidetracked. But I’ve never had a desire to compromise myself…Having a strong vision or belief can cost you corporate support. To be an artist is different from being a pop-star”. Three years ago Destiny’s Child recorded “Sweet Sixteen” a song written by Watley and D’Wayne Wiggins of (Tony! Toni! Tone!) for its multi-platinum album “The Writing’s On The Wall”.
EMBRACING NEW AND SHIFTING MUSIC INDUSTRY PARADIGMS: Hits Daily Double: Megamove: “..Virgin Megastores worked out an arrangement to be the exclusive terrestrial source for Jody Watley’s new CD ‘The Makeover’ and damned if the CD didn’t debut as the chains best-selling new release of the week..” – August 15, 2006, hitsdailydouble.com
Alan Jones (Dec. 01, 2008) Club Charts, Datafile, Jody Watley I Want Your Love, Music Week UK p. 8 “Rhianna wasn’t even born when Watley was having hits with Shalamar but the two fought an epic battle at the Upfront and Commercial Pop Charts this week.”
All Rights Reserved. Jody Watley / Avid Music Inc. 2012