Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Pre-order Book!
Pre-order Book!



Jody Watley Returns
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 3120 times since Fri Sep 1, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Jody Watley at Gay Games VII's Opening Ceremony at Soldier Field. Photo by

Steve Becker,


It may seem hard to believe, but the ever-youthful singer Jody Watley has been in the music business for more than a quarter of a century, starting with her days in the R&B trio Shalamar. Since then, she has definitely made her mark as an individual artist, with Looking for a New Love, Still a Thrill and Everything among her numerous hits.

Now, Watley is back with a sound that's even stronger than before. Her ninth solo album, The Makeover—a collection of covers that includes Madonna's Borderline remade as a ballad—was released Aug. 8 on her own Avitone label. During a phone conversation, she talked with Windy City Times/Identity about the record, performing at the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Games, and that controversy involving Chicago radio station V-103.

Windy City Times: Tell me about this new album—the concept behind it, your collaborators, etc.

Jody Watley: Musically, it reflects where I am now. It's danceable, but with soul and passion. It's also romantic in a new way, so there are ambient cuts and material that reflects where I am as a writer.

In the packaging for The Makeover, there's a 12-page [ booklet ] . There's music and there's glam, but there are also descriptions about why I did each song.

Throughout the years, I've always tried to stay outside of the boxes that people have sometimes have tried to put me in. That journey is not always an easy one, but it's a rewarding one. The people who get what I do really appreciate that I'm an artist who tries to put out quality work and not anything that's ... un-Jody. [ Laughs. ] It's Jody Watley 2006—and better than ever.

WCT: Now, I have to admit that when I heard that you were doing a makeover of Borderline, I was a little skittish—because you and I both know that there are some artists who don't do makeovers so well.

JW: [ Laughs. ] Right, and perhaps I was naive—but I think that 90 percent of Madonna's fans who have heard Borderline love it. They love the creative input and that I didn't try to do a carbon copy of it. It's a whole different take and it's done with love and emotion, and you can't be mad at that.

The dance-pop version will always stand on its own, and this is just another interpretation of it. I'm a fan of Madonna, so I'd never do anything where she'd say, 'Oh my God— [ I know ] Miss Jody didn't do that.' I would think that she would appreciate it. If you take away the preconceived notion away from it, it's beautiful. It's a love song and it really takes you closer to the lyrics and the melody. Reggie Lucas, who wrote songs for Phyllis Hyman and others, certainly deserves credit for writing this.

I know some feathers were [ initially ] ruffled and I'm like, 'Love, everybody!!!' [ Both laugh. ]

WCT: When I heard it though, honestly, I thought it was a stroke of genius [ because ] I thought it was going to be a carbon copy. Now, I'm hearing the song everywhere. I saw the second-season premiere of [ the LOGO show ] Noah's Arc and it's played during a pivotal scene ...

JW: Thank you.

I'm so happy about [ the song being in the premiere ] . [ Noah's Arc Executive Producer ] Patrik-Ian Polk contacted me about it. I know the show and thought the idea was fantastic. It's a new exposure for the song. I think it's awesome.

WCT: And also, it's about bridging generations [ between the original and new versions of the song ] . I was telling someone the other day about [ pop duo ] Hall & Oates, and he said, 'Who?'

JW: [ Laughs. ] One thing about music is that great songs and melodies will be timeless. The hip-hop genre is that it's kept abreast by classic grooves and putting a new spin on them. Often, that makes people want to go hear the original.

WCT: So, do you feel that any song can be remade or that some songs should be left alone?

JW: Some songs should be left alone. For example, in working on The Makeover, there are a couple of my own songs that I gave makeovers to. However, there is nothing else I can do with Real Love, and it's been covered by a couple of dance artists in Europe. Their interpretations were pretty much carbon-copy. Also, there are some Stevie Wonder songs that no one can ever sing but him. And speaking of Madonna, there's Like a Virgin...I don't know.

I heard Jessica Simpson's new song [ A Public Affair ] ; it's like Madonna's Holiday. It made me think of artists with signature sounds; fans always want you to do that over and over again. I see some artists who don't really change it up too much; it's like a safe [ harbor ] for them because they don't want to throw people off too much. But I've been throwing people off—with consistency—and I love it. [ Both laugh. ]

WCT: But they keep getting back on. [ Both laugh. ] But let's switch gears and talk about performing at the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Games ...

JW: It was fantastic. It was one of the highlights of my career singing that song and being from Chicago. When I recorded that song, It All Begins With You, it reminded me of my father, a minister who passed away many years ago. There was a spiritual feel to it.

When I was asked to perform at the Gay Games, I submitted several songs for them to choose from, depending on the theme of the ceremony. When they picked that song, it was really ironic to me. Just being there [ stirred up ] so many emotions.

WCT: When did you realize you had a large gay fan base?

JW: I knew from the beginning, with the shows, promotional tours and fan letters. I live in Los Angeles and I'm always in West Hollywood, which is heavily gay— [ plus ] I have friends who are gay. It's just always been—I appreciate it and I've never shied away from acknowledging my gay fan base. It's very important; just ask Barbra Streisand. [ Laughs. ] The gay audience is a very loyal one.

WCT: And we do like our glam, strong women.

JW: [ Laughs. ] Yes. Yaaaaaay!!! [ Both laugh. ]

WCT: Now, I want to talk about this whole V-103 incident. The way I understand it, they contend that they asked you to not speak about the Gay Games because you only had a small window of time, but you responded that you've been in the game long enough to know how to compress a lot of information into a small amount of time.

JW: Absolutely. If you tell me, 'Miss Watley, we're glad to have you but we're only going to give you 30 seconds,' this is what I would say: 'I'm in Chicago [ and ] I'm so happy to be here. I'll be at Soldier Field performing at the Gay Games tonight. Tomorrow, I'll be at the Virgin Megastore signing copies of my forthcoming release, The Makeover, which will be out Aug. 8. I love you all. Thank you.' I can say everything I need to say in 20 seconds. I stand by what I [ said happened ] .

They mention time constraints but it was very specific. It wasn't just 'We're short on time, so let's make this quick.' It was, 'Just so you know, you can't discuss the Gay Games.'

What I hope comes out of it is what we're doing now. People need to talk about it, and it doesn't have to end up being a negative thing. I would hope that any station would embrace all of its listeners. If I'm an advocate for anything, it's for human rights and acceptance. Otherwise, you just have a cycle of ignorance, hate and violence.

Chicago was so fantastic with the Gay Games; [ the event ] was on the front page of everything, it was on the news and at all the bus stops. It certainly wasn't a secret, and that's why [ the V-103 situation ] was a surprise. Perhaps with the next artist who comes to that station, it won't be such a taboo thing. And with Black people, it's such a cultural thing, too. There's a lot of homophobia.

WCT: And as a Black person myself...

JW: So you know what I'm saying. I just hope that they learn something. It's under a corporate umbrella, and I visited a sister station [ and mentioned the Games ] . I can draw my own conclusions, because it was OK for one station but not OK for another, which has primarily Black listeners. What is that about? My blood pressure's going up just talking about it... [ Laughs. ] It's about love, people. It's 2006.

WCT: Gay people, at least in this country, have come a long way—but still have a long way to go.

JW: Yes, that's true. I happened to see [ gossip columnist ] Perez Hilton's Web site and he talked about the outing of Lance Bass, saying that's 2006 and that it won't hurt his career. First of all, that's not for you to say. Number two, just experiencing what I did, [ Hilton ] is very naive, because some people will look for any reason to silence your voice. Not everyone is ready [ to come out ] .

WCT: You're currently featured on the Bravo show Workout.

JW: Yes. I got involved because my trainer worked with [ host ] Jackie Warner. The show follows some of her clients as well as the other trainers. I've been working out with Doug off and on for the past 10 years. I watch Bravo and I feel that a good portion of my fan base watches the network.

It's nothing over-the-top. When they're filming me, I'm getting ready for The Makeover. I do a special performance on the last show.

WCT: What's the biggest change that you've witnessed in the music industry over the years?

JW: [ One change ] that I don't like was when record companies starting merging in the '90s ( and they're still merging ) . It makes it harder to get things done. Also, there are radio stations de-regulating ownership. Now, if one corporation owns 2,000 stations and one station [ doesn't like a song ] , it sucks for you because you can't get on any of them.

However, the good thing is that the Internet and digital media are changing the game and I love that, being an entrepreneur. I started Avitone in 1996; I was inspired by Prince when he left Warner Brothers and started his NPG stuff.

If you really love music, you're not going to be dictated to by what you hear on the radio anyway. Everybody gets sick of the same 10 songs all the time, so it forces people to seek out [ other ] music.

WCT: What is the essence of good music?

JW: Oh, gosh. The essence of good music would have to be the passion behind it. It's like when I wrote Looking for a New Love; I was feeling that way.

Honesty may be [ a better word ] . If you're coming from an honest point of view instead of being contrived, it's lasting. Whatever that's like, it's like doing it for real. Some singers can sing their ass off, but you still don't feel it. It's gotta be honest.

The Makeover is available on the Internet at and as well as places such as Virgin Megastore.

This article shared 3120 times since Fri Sep 1, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Ann Hampton Callaway releases 'Revelation' 2021-05-12
--From a press release - The latest in a string of singles, Ann Hampton Callaway, releases "Revelation", a song she composed to a Robert Frost poem which she kept in her jeans pocket when she was a teenager. Callaway wrote the ...

Gay News

Tina Turner, The Go-Go's among 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees 2021-05-12
- The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame revealed its 2021 inductees, calling this class "the most diverse list of inductees in the history of the organization." In the Performer category, inductees include The Go-Go's, Tina Turner, ...

Gay News

Jody Watley: Conversation with an icon 2021-05-09
- Singer Jody Watley has been many things during her illustrious career, including an activist, fashion plate—but, most certainly, a musician. Among her many achievements in that latter area are a Grammy win; a Lifetime Achievement Award ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Tig Notaro, films, E. Lynn Harris, Nick Jonas 2021-05-09
- Emmy- and Grammy-nominated stand-up comedian Tig Notaro (HBO's Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted), will return to HBO this summer with the first-ever fully animated stand-up special, HBO announced. The special ...

Gay News

Citadel Theatre to return in fall with a four-show 2021-22 season 2021-05-08
--From a press release - LAKE FOREST, IL - Citadel Theatre Company will return to live, in-person, indoor performances in September with a season of four productions — three plays plus the company's traditional holiday musical - according to Artistic Director ...

Gay News

Ravinia Festival announces 2021 summer programming 2021-05-06
--From a press release - HIGHLAND PARK, IL — The Ravinia Festival, under the direction of its new President and CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon, announced the concert schedule for 2021 today, celebrating the reopening of the park for the first time ...

Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE announce Chicago summer events 2021-05-06
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Choose Chicago, and Chicago's cultural community today announced "Open Culture" — the next phase of ...

Gay News

Northalsted plans to hold Market Days Aug. 6-8 2021-05-04
- The Northalsted Business Alliance plans to host Market Days August 6-8, adding a Friday night edition, the first in its 38-year history. As vaccinations increase and Illinois begins planning for stage 5 reopening, organizers of the ...

Gay News

Heather Headley to headline Goodman Theatre's May 22 virtual gala 2021-05-03
- Goodman Theatre announced that Tony-winning Broadway actor and Grammy Award-winning singer Heather Headley will headline the company's "Together Center Stage" virtual 2021 gala fundraiser. "Together Center Stage" is slated to stream Saturday, May 22, ...

Gay News

Jeannie Tanner show at City Winery on May 20 2021-05-03
- On Thursday, May 20, at 7 p.m., City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., will host the first in-person performance of "3 Martini Jeannie." Throughout the pandemic, every Friday at 5 p.m., Tanner celebrated the close ...

Gay News

Vintage House show honoring Chicago House Music with DJ Lori Branch May 5 2021-05-03
--From a press release - Chicago, IL. May 3, 2021. Paving the way for every DJ behind her, DJ Lori Branch is continuously receiving flowers for her talents and dedication to music. Currently, through May, Spotify ( billboards highlighting Chicago music ...

Gay News

Windy City Smokeout to return July 8-11 2021-04-29
- The outdoor country-music/BBQ festival Windy City Smokeout will return to Chicago on July 8-11 outside the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. Hosted by BBQ joint Bub City and the venue Joe's Bar, the event will ...

Gay News

Pride in the Park' on June 26-27 2021-04-29
- There will be at least one big LGBTQ+ event in Chicago this summer. Pride in the Park is slated to take place June 26-27 in Grant Park. It will be 2-10 p.m. on June 26, and 3-10 p.m. the following day. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Joe Exotic' series, Luther Vandross, singer's announcement, star couples 2021-04-25
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell has been tapped to play the title character opposite Kate McKinnon in the series Joe Exotic (working title), Deadline reported. The limited series centers on Carole Baskin (McKinnon), ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Brandi Carlile, 'Legendary,' children's book, film festival, Janet Mock 2021-04-18
- Lesbian musician Brandi Carlile memoir, Broken Horses, debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Sellers list, a press release announced. In addition to the hardback book, a very special audiobook edition of the ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.