Almost Hits: Jody Watley, “Still A Thrill” (1987)

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Y’all might not remember it, but Jody Watley was arguably the Beyoncé of the late 80s, giving Janet Jackson and Madonna a real run for their money as the top dance floor diva. Plucked from obscurity as a teenaged Soul Train dancer and placed into a made-to-order R&B band called Shalamar, Watley soon built up skills as a singer and songwriter before leaving the group in 1983. At first, that looked to be bad timing as Shalamar scored their biggest hit ever with “Dancing In The Sheets” shortly afterwards, but Watley trumped that in a big way with her blockbuster self-titled release in 1987.

That record spun off a couple of top ten hits — “Looking For A New Love” and “Some Kind Of Lover” — clinching her a Best New Artist award at the 1988 Grammies.

Jody Watley even generated enough momentum to make minor hits from the deep cuts, and one of them was the heavy funk number “Still A Thrill,” which peaked at 56.

I recall a few years earlier when the Pointer Sisters turned the tables on male falsetto by singing “Automatic” lower than the natural female vocal range and rode that song to near the top of the charts. Watley does the same trick for “Thrill,” and like when a woman whispers, it captures your attention. The video is an attention grabber too, just because Watley looks awful damned sexy, but I can’t figure out if she’s dancing or merely moving from one vogue pose to another.

That Minneapolis funk groove does it for me, too, replete with a supple synth bass line and an in-the-pocket rhythm guitar. It’s awfully similar to the 1985 Prince-penned tune from André Cymone, “Dance Electric.”

Didn’t Cymone co-write “Still A Thrill” with future wife Watley, and also produce it? Why, yes…yes he did.

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