Best New ArtistWatley debuted as a solo artist in 1987, when she signed with MCA records. Her self titled debut, Jody Watley, was released mid-1987. Watley's debut single, "Looking For A New Love", became a smash hit with an instant catch phrase ("Hasta La Vista ...Baby"), and was an influential slice of dance-pop with an original and trend-setting video. The single stayed at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 4 weeks, and sold over 750,000 copies in the US. Her self-titled debut album also spawned several more hits, like "Don't You Want Me", "Still A Thrill", fan-favorite "Some Kind Of Lover", and "Most Of All". The album, which spent three weeks at #1, sold over 2 million copies in the US and nearly 5 million copies worldwide.
At the 30th Annual Grammy Awards, Watley was named Best New Artist, and was also nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance - Female. That same year (1988), she was also nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards, three Soul Train Awards and an American Music Award. For the year, Watley was almost as popular with the MTV/teen audience as Janet Jackson and Madonna: she scored major #1 hits on the pop, R&B, and dance charts and produced songs that are, in retrospect, some of the most memorable dance hits of the decade.
Larger Than LifeJody's second album, Larger Than Life, released in 1989, solidified her as a pop icon in the music industry. The album sold over four million copies worldwide, and hit the Top 5 on the R&B Albums chart in America. The first single release, "Real Love", was a sizeable hit that set a trend with its new style of bass-thumping dance. In America, it hit #1 on the R&B Singles chart, the Single Sales chart, and the Dance chart, while hitting #2 on the Pop chart; the single also went gold there for attaining sales of over 500,000 copies. The album contained three more Top 10 Pop, Dance and R&B hits: "Friends", "Precious Love", and "Everything".
In 1990, Watley released a million-selling home video, Dance To Fitness, a first for a black woman. Jody continued to be visible appearing in ad campaigns for GAP, and fashion layouts in such high profile magazines as Harper's Bazaar, VOGUE, Rolling Stone, and Essence. Jody Watley was also named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People of 1990.
During the summer of 1990, Watley's "Real Love" video made history when it was nominated for seven MTV Video Music Awards including Breakthrough Video at the 1990 award show. That record was held until Michael and Janet Jackson's video "Scream" recieved eleven VMA nominations in 1995. The same year, she was also nominated for two Soul Train Awards, an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Female Artist, and a Narm Award for Best Selling R&B Female Album.
A remix album, You Wanna Dance With Me?, was released in 1990 and hit gold in America. That year Watley broadened her musical horizons by contributing a jazzy rendition of "After You" to Red, Hot, & Blue, an AIDS-awareness charity recording by contemporary stars singing Cole Porter.
Earlier in her career, Jody Watley took part in Bob Geldof's Band Aid alongside such stars as Sting, Bono from U2, George Michael Their charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas" helped raise millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.
It All Begins With YouOn September 22, 1991, Watley released the unsuccessful but critically-praised Affairs Of The Heart; the album peaked at #21 on the Billboard albums chart, but sold less than 400,000 copies in the US. Watley claimed to have had only minor marketing and promotional support for her new sound and artistic vision. The album did score the smash singles "I'm The One You Need", the #4 hit "I Want You", and the ballad "It All Begins With You", which she was invited by President George Bush in 1991 to perfom at the White House.
In 1993 Jody released yet another MCA album, entitled Intimacy. Though the album only reached the lower Top 30 in the US, and sold about 250,000 copies, it achieved success on the R&B charts with songs such as "Your Loves Keeps Working On Me", which also hit #2 on the Dance chart, and the sexy rap/hip-hop tune "When A Man Loves A Woman" which peacked at #11, In the U.K. the controversial Driza Bone Remix of "When A Man Loves A Man" topped the dance charts. Watley acknowledges a devoted fan base, that includes the gay community.
In 1995, Watley took an independent and entrepreneurial path releasing Affection, on her own Avitone label. It sold nearly 100,000 copies and even spent a few months on the Billboard R&B chart, which are notable accomplishments for an independent release.
During that year Watley also appeared on Broadway in the hit musical Grease! as Rizzo, and appeared in the prestigious SAKS FIFTH AVENUE CATALOG.
In 1996 Watley scored a platinum-selling single as a guest vocalist on Babyface's "This Is For The Lover In You". The single, which also featured vocals from LL Cool J and Watley's former Shalamar groupmates Howard Hewitt and Jeffery Daniels, was a remake of Shalamar's Top 10 hit by the same name. Babyface's version peaked at #2 in America and the song's video was an MTV mainstay that year.
Starting AgainWatley released the singles "Off The Hook" and "If I'm Not In Love" on Atlantic Records in 1998, which both hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Charts, though they failed to hit with any other genre. The album Flower was released only in Europe and Asia. The critically-acclaimed release was championed by many U.K. magazines, including Blues and Soul, and Echoes magazine among others. Though, Watley's days as a American solo superstar were now clearly past her.
In 1999, the group Destiny's Child released a cover of Watley's "Sweet Sixteen", on their multi-platinum The Writing's On The Wall. MCA Records released Jody Watley's Greatest Hits, as well as The Jody Watley Millennium Collection in 2000.