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45 at 33: Jody Watley‘s Looking For A New Love

The only female solo singer on Bob Geldof‘s original Band Aid record*, Jody Watley’s Looking For A New Love was the first in a medium line of hits for the former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar vocalist, who, by the end of the ’80s, seemed poised to join the same league as dance-pop heavyweights like Madonna and Janet Jackson.

Like the latter, Watley aligned herself with a purple Prince cohort, Revolution bassist André Cymone, who whipped up some of the most funkiest, hard-edged club confections of the era for his muse.

Lyrically, Watley reflected on a recent sour romantic breakup. Fusing her own defiance of “I‘ll show you” with the dance-heel feel of the track, the Chicagoan came up with the basic premise of Looking For A New Love, which became her debut solo release. The track was brash, ballsy and engaging; a bit Tina Turner, a bit of Diana Ross in her Nile Rodgers phase, and more than a bit Flashdance done in a parallel universe by Donna Summer, one of Watley‘s biggest inspirations.

Musically, there is jazzy piano, a portentous synthesized whistle, and the singer’s original stark 8-track demo vocal, which ensured that way the emotional urgency of Watley‘s delivery was still intact.

“Hasta la vista, baby”, one of its key phrases, was a calm, cool and collected sayonara long before it got cheesed up by the Terminator himself, winding up on innumerable answering machines for a generation.

Looking For A New Love reached No. 2 in the US (13 in Britain), and while Watley’s follow-up, Don’t You Want Me, might be more danceable, but it’s nowhere near as iconic, despite sharing its title with the Human league perennial.

Steve Pafford

*Jody on Do They Know It‘s Christmas?: “It was a great day. If there were cell phones back then, we’d probably have some of the greatest selfies of all time! I asked George Michael that day if he’d sing a duet with me if I got signed, and he said yes; he kept his word, and appears on my solo debut in America. I also went on a few dates after the recording with John Taylor from Duran Duran — he was very flirtatious that day! — including a royal premiere that featured their theme from a Bond movie [A View To A Kill]. It was a crazy experience going out with John, with tons of young girls always camped out in front of his flat screaming and showing their love for him.”

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