by Matt Bauer
The Incomparable Jody Watley
Icon can be an overused word. Yet in the case of the one and only Jody Watley a true visionary and trendsetter whose now40 year career has proved a fierce, trendsetting influence not only on generations of subsequent female artists but in haute couture and choreography as well-it's entirely deserved. The incomparable Watley will be in full effect when she hit the stage at the Bear's Den Showroom at the Seneca Niagara Casino on Friday, May 26 with Shalamar Reloaded bringing a lifetime of legendary hits and uncompromising style to the stage.
“Shalamar Reloaded (SRL for short) is a brand new experience” explains Watley over the phone from Los Angeles when asked about the group she created in 2015. Featuring male lead vocalist Nate Allen Smith and distinguished choreographer Rosero McCoy, they have toured to international acclaim while readying an album for the end of this year. “We're not resting on our laurels, so to speak. We're putting a fresh spin on classic material with a full band and fresh choreography and visuals, celebrating what I've done while mapping out the future.”
Innovation has been a key fixture of the Chicago born Watley's career since she first caught the public eye as a 14 year old dancer on the legendary “Soul Train” television show, becoming an audience favorite for her dance moves and fashion sense which led her to being picked by Don Cornelius for the group Shalamar in 1977. As the original female voice on classics like “Take That To The Bank,” “Right In The Socket” and “A Night To Remember,” Watley would help propel Shalamar to platinum status, making the trio one of the most beloved R&B acts of the early 1980s, before leaving for a solo career in 1983 and working in England before releasing her watershed, eponymous solo debut in 1987.
With smashes and MTV favorites like “Looking For A New Love,” “Still A Thrill,” “Don't You Want Me” and “Some Kind of Lover” the album was a confident and fully realized artistic statement by a one of a kind talent that went double platinum and earned a Grammy award for best new artist. “A good portion of my show is dedicated to that album,” says Watley. “Whether it's 30 years old or 3 years old I've always strived to make music that's timeless."
“The music industry is very hard whether you're a male or female,” she adds. “And one thing that I always advise young artists is to be careful about is the quality of songs that you choose because you may be singing them thirty years later.” She continued to fine-tune her sound and image on 1989's Larger Than Life which spawned the top 10 ballad “Everything,” “Real Love” (one of the most nominated videos in MTV's history) and the groundbreaking duet with Eric B & Rakim, “Friends” which set the blueprint for future hip-hop and R&B fusions and is reflective of the eclecticism that has helped define Watley's art.
She's subsequently collaborated with cutting edge artists likeKing Britt, Dam-Funk, French Horn Rebellion, Roy Ayers and Mark-de-Clive-Low. Spanning decades and mixing genres like Funk, Disco, R&B, Pop, Hip-Hop, Electronica, Boogie and Jazz, Jody Watley's discography is easily one the most diverse in modern music. “I grew up listening to James Brown, Karen Carpenter and Nat “King” Cole” she says of her influences . “I've always been able to embrace different styles and I think it's important to keep evolving.”
As her music has evolved, so has Watley's fashion forward sense of style. Named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People magazine, featured in the first celebrity modeling campaign for The Gap, and in the pages of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Essence and the historic 2008 Black Issue of Vogue Italia as well as running her own boutique, Watley continues to be a revolutionary fashion figure.
After selling millions of albums and being honored by BMI with a songwriter's award and included in Billboard's Greatest Dance Club Artists of all time, Jody Watley remains a vital artist having just released her latest single and EP “Sanctuary,” a balmy, soulful celebration of domesticity on her own Avitone recordings label. “We live in very troubled times and home is a refuge and I thought it was very important to celebrate home life and family and love, wherever home may be,” she said.
The audience make up on her current tour reflects her inclusive and diverse vision. “We have people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Everyone can expect to have a great time. People put their phones away for a couple of hours and one thing that I always see is people interacting and making friends.” Learn About More Shows and Events At SenecaNiagraCasino