Albumism: Happy 30th Anniversary to Jody Watley’s Second Solo Album “Larger Than Life” Originally Released March 27, 1989 – Read it Here on Albumism
Happy Music Anniversary to my second solo album “Larger Than Life” featuring Top 10 singles “Real Love” the groundbreaking collaboration with Eric B & Rakim “Friends” the ballad “Everything” as well as the beautiful “Precious Love” :: The album cover with photography by legendary fashion Steven Meisel and Art Direction by Lynn Robb and I, is also in 1000 Album Covers published by Taschen.
OTD March 18, 1989 – Via Steven Housman Billboard Music Chart Facts :: Jody Watley debuted at No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with her single, “Real Love.” This was Watley’s 6th entry on the chart as a solo performer after spending 7 years as the female singer for the R&B dance trio, #Shalamar. “Real Love” became her 4th Top Ten peaking at No. 2 for 2 weeks and was prevented from the top spot which was occupied by Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl.” “Real Love” also spent one week at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B Chart and was certified Gold and No.1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Play Chart.
The fashion forward video directed by David Fincher remains one of MTV’s Most Nominated Videos Of All Time. “Real Love” was written by Watley and Andre Cymone. Between 1987-98, Watley charted 12 solo singles on the Hot 100 alone which included 7 Top 20’s and 6 Top Tens. She won the Best New Artist Grammy for 1987.
Single photography by Steven Meisel. Hair: Oribe Makeup: Francois NARS Art Direction: Lynn Robb and Jody Watley.
Styling: Jody Watley
“Accept no substitutes- always go for the real thing..”
#TBT On The Cover of the UK Music Magazine Blues and Soul in 1989.
Celebrating 25 years of my second album. Most fans think of my solo debut as the breakthrough and it was – as well as being trendsetting in style and video. However my second album is the one that was really quietly the most pioneering and to me overshadowed. My infusion of high fashion, commercial ad campaigns and layouts – uncommon for any black artist at the time, and only by one other Madonna. ‘Larger Than Life’ ushered in a raised bar for other female artists that would follow. The pioneering “Friends” featuring Eric B & Rakim; the first to feature Pop/R&B/Hip-Hop 16 bar verses and crossing over R&B, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop – as well as a genre crossing video featuring transgender, drag queens, underground club culture, B-Boys and Girls, voguing and Jean Paul-Gaultier couture blended into a mix of high end and street chic as well as my highest charting ballad ‘Everything.” There was no press release to stir controversy and bring attention about the casting of the video – for me it wasn’t about that. Everyone in the video was real, friends of friends – not models or professionals. Tyrone Procter helped cast it. Eric B and Rakim called some of their friends. What I wanted to represent the types of clubs I liked dancing at full of of types of people united by the music and stepping out in style to get down on the dance floor. It was a real club scene in the west village on a hot summer afternoon in NYC. It went over the heads of a lot of people..my label didn’t know what to make of it, and weren’t happy with it – but let me do what I envisioned and I’m thankful.
I also found success overseas in the Japan, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom among others as well. It was always a challenge because I wasn’t the typical ‘urban black artist’ and was always in a struggle to shine on my own terms, remaining true to myself, wanting to have standards, authenticity to my artistry. 25 years later this is still true in everything I do whether on the commercial radar or not. It’s true no matter what your job or career is – be the best you.
“Real Love” which remains one of MTV’s Most Nominated Video’s and “Most of All” are featured on the Top 28 David Fincher video’s : HERE
When I look at my children, I think of the passage of time primarily, otherwise I just live life. Thinking it’s been 25 years since my second album and ‘Real Love’ makes me smile. I remain proud of the work. The single was written by Andre Cymone and I – he the music, me the lyric and melody. The video was directed by David Fincher (who went on to become an Academy Award winning director) and who fulfilled my wish when I told him I wanted to be on the runway – fashion forward. It all holds up quite well 25 years later…and so have I!
Julio Castiglioni posted to my Facebook page today: “This week, 25 years ago, REAL LOVE reached the #2 in Billboard Hot 100. Good times in music!”
I’ve worked with some great make-up artists over the years learning many invaluable beauty secrets that always come in handy. When I sit in the chair, I’m not just the artist but an excited student. The cool thing is I’ve been able to catch the best when they were up and coming and watched them go into higher demand. Paul Starr was one such make-up master.
We met as a suggestion by Liz Heller an executive back then at my former label MCA. I was in the process of choosing the beauty team (hair and make-up) for my second album and wanted to go for a more high fashion style direction.
Paul was seemingly quite shy and low-key when he walked into to Liz’s office. His “Hello, Ms. Jody Watley” oozed a grand quality though not obnoxious or Hollywood. I’ll never forget that first impression. Exotically handsome, jet black hair with his own great brows and cheekbones; Paul was striking as he handed me his portfolio for consideration. After those few first awkward moments that are natural and always dreaded in these types of meetings, we connected right away. He was surprised that we shared a love for fashion, strong eyebrows and an affinity for creating timeless and classic make-up looks. When I think back on it, though Paul was trying to land ‘the job’ – I was also being assessed no doubt from him. Did Jody Watley measure up to his up and coming stature? It’s safe to say, we both made it beyond the initial scrutiny and unspoken ‘style and beauty’ microscope.
People look at the 80’s as if everything was kooky and kitsch. Of course there was a lot of that and it was an exciting and fun time in music – but that was never my style. I sought out creative partners who were like-minded in that regard.
Paul and I talked about the legendary Way Bandy (I knew my stuff, he’d later joke with me about), our favorite models past and present as well as bonding over our love and near obsession of expensive import fashion magazines. Paul and I also talked about film stars like Joan Crawford (those brows), Bette Davis (whom he’d end up working with in her later years) actresses with loads of attitude and over the top glamour such as Joan Collins who was wearing us all out as Alexis Carrington-Colby on the hit show ‘Dynasty’ at the time. Over the years Paul shared some funny and memorable stories of these ladies…as well as one of my favorite stories about Prince. Paul Starr worked with a diverse range of talent; his dear friend Boy George, music legend Little Richard and too many A-list actresses, celebrities and supermodels to list. Always the globetrotter, Paul traveled the world on jobs for fashion layouts and advertising campaigns including L’Oreal, Lancome and Chanel to name a few. Integral to helping develop the Smash-Box cosmetics line – Paul was also the founding beauty editor for FLAUNT Magazine and the first make-up artist to work in-house at cosmetics giant Estee Lauder. I remained one of his biggest fans.
We shared a love for all types of music especially bossa nova. When working on photo sessions or video’s – he’d always have really good mix-tapes of songs he’d put together to set the vibe just right and would make sure I had one to take home at the end of the day.
Jody Watley with Paul Star, 1990.
Paul and I worked together on what are undoubtedly some of my most memorable looks including the video for “Real Love” – there’s a funny story there as well in one of the scenes where David Fincher flipped the frame and wanted Paul and Ernie Banales (my hair stylist for many video’s – until he passed on suddenly) to walk out of the frame together as I’m standing there giving attitude in my black custom-made suit. We had such a laugh at that scene because they’d been primping all day in the event the scene would happen. As the day turned to evening, both gave up and at that point were feeling frazzled – and that’s when Fincher called them without any time to fluff. They were mortified! We laughed so hard afterward, and that moment is forever captured on film.
We were able to showcase our appreciation of those classic black and white golden era of film era in my video to “Most Of All”, also directed by David Fincher – and go full on couture diva for my video “Friends.” Originally, I’d requested Paul to do my make-up for the album cover for “Larger Than Life”. I’d selected Steven Meisel (discovered from those fashion imports of VOGUE Italia) and he wasn’t having it; he would only work with his team of Francois Nars (make-up), and Oribe (hair). Paul recreated the album cover look as one of the beginning scenes of the “Real Love” video and when my daughter, a little girl at the time visited the set, Paul did a touch of make-up for her as well – much to her delight.
Jody Watley in Vanity Fair by Michel Comte. Make-up by Paul Starr
Paul would offer to come to my home strictly as a gesture of friendship always wanting me to be “flawless”. He escorted me to one of the best parties ever given by photographer Herb Ritts and introduced me to many of his clients friends like Naomi Campbell and Iman.
Jody Watley in Vintage stepping out to the Herb Ritts Party. Make-up, Paul Starr.
Paul was with me from LA to Joshua Tree, New York, London, Paris and Tokyo to Pittsburgh for the filming of my #1 “Dance To Fitness” video. I remember Paul asking why did we have to film there and my feeling a bit exasperated – but that was Paul.
Our last professional work was in 1998 for my ‘Flower’ album and video for “Off The Hook”.
"Off The Hook" video. Jody with Paul Starr, Ray Allington and Kithe Brewster
Jody Watley "Flower" Cover by Norman Jean Roy. Make-Up, Paul Starr
A vegan and a strict macrobiotic; accommodating Paul’s meal requests became somewhat legendary every time we worked together. I learned about organic fruits and vegetables from Paul. Catering would balk because at the time it was probably not so common for people to eat vegan, gluten free and so on. My label would complain at the extra meal costs if catering sent out for food instead and say to just give him a salad..we’d laugh about that as well because it wasn’t really expensive – and would still have to be organic and not just any salad. In essence, we didn’t just work together, we became friends and shared a lot of laughs.
Paul and I hadn’t seen each other in a quite a while and had bumped into each other at the newsstand – of course – both of us there to browse and purchase the latest editions of fashion magazines from Europe at Book Soup. We were thrilled to reconnect.
I’d spoken to Paul on the phone and we’d made plans to get together to have tea in a few days. There was a very zen and serene tea garden called called Elixir that we were both fans of. I was still in the early creative planning stages for the visuals for my ‘Chameleon’ project and he was anxious to collaborate with me again.
When I received the shocking call that he’d passed away, just 3 days after we’d spoken on the phone – I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say I was deeply saddened and heartbroken.
I miss Paul and think of him often. I’m sure all of his friends and colleagues who were fortunate to know him or work with him feel the same way.
Good times and great memories never fade away.
Rest peacefully Mr. Paul Starr – Forever Young.
All Rights Reserved Jody Watley. Avid Music Inc. 2012