Sweet Sixteen. Jody Watley. Destiny’s Child.

Working on the ‘Flower’ album at the time in 1998, flying up north to work with D’Wayne Wiggins, the idea from this song came to me while waiting to be picked up. I was thinking about girls who try to grow up too fast, teen pregnancy and many of the ramifications that come after, someone I knew was devastated when learning his daughter was pregnant at 15 and that was in my consciousness as well, I also thought about one of my nieces who’d say she couldn’t wait to be grown. Ask her now and she’ll laugh and say I want to be little again!

Humming the melody in my head and praying I didn’t forget the melodies or lyrics (it happens) to ’16”, pre-cell phones to record these types of creative moments. “she was searching for the love she missed yeah..so she ran away..slow down you’re moving way to fast..16 there’s so much of life ahead..sweet 16 do you know where you’re running to..” I named her Jackie in the song for no particular reason though I grew up on songs in rock and folk music.

Luckily by the time arriving at the studio the idea was still in my head and as I began signing it, D’Wayne began playing his acoustic guitar..we recorded the song instantly. Ad it turns out my ‘Flower’ album on Atlantic was a massive let down when they decided to not release it despite two Top 5 dance singles and a very good reception to the very R&B vibe of ‘Off The Hook’ — I’d wanted to make a dance album with Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl, Todd Terry, Masters At Work. The label wanted R&B but wanted Pop success..it didn’t make sense and subsequently the project was held up. I was disillusioned with the music business.

The bright side of the experience was making a few solid connections at the time. D’Wayne was one of them and since the ladies were a discovery of his, he asked if he could play the song and perhaps place it on their album ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’, as a songwriter I was like cool – even though the song was written for myself..it fit this group of young ladies and their audience demographic. They wanted to make a couple of tweaks to the song and added a bridge they wrote and call to it ‘Sweet 16′ rather than ’16.’ Shockingly, initially I was left out of the songwriting credits on the first pressing of the album. I was made aware by one my fans ironically through my website at the time and had to end up having my attorney sort it out and have all parties involved make it right.

Nevertheless, I’m very proud and happy they did the song..and the business, songwriting and publishing was handled in the end.

Their “The Writing’s On The Wall” album was a multi-platinum seller and turns 21 today. 16 is a gem in my songwriting catalog even as an album cut. Lyrically, it’s also such another topically timeless theme and conversation to have with girls wanting rush into adulthood, low self esteem and navigating life in the right direction at a young age Β  Β “.. Sweet 16, do you know where you’re running to..”

 

 

Wattage.