My friend Jim calls Shalamar the most underrated pop group of the Eighties, and he might have a point. The threesome of Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Daniel and Jody Watley created some of the most bubbly, well-crafted pop-R&B of it’s time, even incorporating new wave and rock textures into their music by the time of 1983’s “The Look”. They’re probably best known for the hit singles “This is for the Lover in You” (which Babyface re-recorded with the three original members in the late Nineties) and “A Night To Remember”. If Jeffrey Daniel’s face looks familiar to you, it’s because he appears in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Bad” videos. He apparently was also moonwalking almost a year before MJ “created” it for “Motown 25”, as the below listed clip will demonstrate.
Anyway, Shalamar’s story is worthy of it’s own column sometime in the future. Back to the topic at hand. The female third of Shalamar, Jody Watley, reintroduced herself to the market as the high-fashion edition of a Janet Jackson or Madonna. With Prince associates David Z. and Andre Cymone (who she later married), her first album was a Top 10 success and also won her the Grammy for Best New Artist, largely due to the success of “Looking for a New Love”, an attitudinal slab of techno-funk that spent a month at #2 on the U.S. singles charts (thankfully, it spent that time behind a song worthy of beating it: U2’s “With or Without You”.
While Jody’s subsequent albums failed to set the world on fire, her first album is easily one of the best dance-pop albums of the Eighties, and very easily the equal of Janet’s “Control” or Madonna’s debut. She was certainly a more striking visual artist than the other two: with a highly defined fashion style adopted from several years living in London, not to mention cheekbones that you could cut yourself on. She was also the first woman I ever saw with a tattoo, but that’s neither here nor there.
Finally, let’s give her some long-overdue props for originating the phrase “Hasta La Vista, Baby” two years before Tone Loc used it in “Wild Thing” and three before Arnie uttered it in “Terminator 2”.
Oh, and one more thing…she was voguing and embracing gay culture before Madonna…as this video from 1989 (“Vogue” came out a year later) will attest to. Hey, is that Rakim rapping in a video filled with drag queens??
…By the way, if this list had stretched to 150, both “A Night To Remember” and “Friends” would have been included.