Jody Watley – I’m the One You Need
I’m not one of the world’s most graceful dancers. This is a fact that rarely bothers me – I can usually keep time (unless Take On Me is playing) and what does it matter if I’ve barely moved on from my school disco moves? My philosophy is that as long as I’m enjoying myself and not hurting anyone else with elbow juts then it’s nobody else’s business. Only on rare occasions do I harbour the desire to break into a carefully rehearsed routine, the kind which would temporarily render my fellow dancers awestruck before they swiftly picked up the gist and joined in for a mass display of choreographed amazingness. Today’s record, were it ever to come on in a club these days, and were I ever to be in a club these days, would be one of those occasions.
I adore all kinds of pop stars – polished, unpolished, good singers, ropey singers. Every pop star has something unique about them, i.e. the thing or things that make you love them, and what I love about Jody Watley is that she exudes elegance and authority at all times. An outstanding example of this is I’m the One You Need from her third album Affairs of the Heart. Now, in other hands, a title like that might lead to a certain amount of imploring, or perhaps even begging. Not Jody: she is telling you, calmly and gracefully, with perhaps just a mild hint of threat, and it is both reassuring and a bit thrilling at the same time. Hers is the kind of voice I can imagine restoring order to the world following a global catastrophe – I’d certainly do anything she told me to over a public address tannoy, calmly and without question. Marry that to a poised, glacially cool production from David Morales and you have pretty much a faultless record that insists you dance.
Just take a moment to appreciate that piano introduction, which is one of my favourites in all of pop – theoretically it could be the start of a ballad, were it not for the flourishes at the tail end which clearly signpost a Morales production (and if you’re anything like me the goosebumps will have set in at this point). This glorious beginning lasts for eighteen seconds, which gives you just the right amount of time to put down your drink, say “will you excuse me, there is an exceptional record coming on” and stride purposefully to the dancefloor, ready to launch into something that isn’t quite voguing but also isn’t that far off. You are then plunged into a deep, dark and driving – but still somehow very stately – house record, packed full of Morales-isms such as swirling synths, orchestra hits (very So Hard) and glistening piano riffs. This sound would turn out to be one of my favourite things about the 90s (peaking, if you ask me, with this stunning mix of Bjork’s Hyperballad).
I’m the One You Need was perfect in its original form, but as it’s the 90s we’re discussing we have to take into account the rule that any record likely to induce toe-tapping had to come with dozens of remixes – it might well still be an issue these days, but I’ve stopped caring quite so much. In the case of I’m the One You Need I count seventeen different contemporary mixes, edits and versions over on Discogs. I’m quite sure they all have something to recommend them, and quite often a remix can elevate a song from fairly pedestrian to spectacular spectac-u-lar (see especially Shocked by Kylie) – but nothing beats the original album version of this. For the single release in 1992 we were gifted a Driza Bone remix, who at the point were ‘hot’ from their brilliant reswizz of I Love Your Smile by Shanice. This doesn’t work as well in my opinion – though it was spot on for the American market at the time (where it was a no.19 hit), it was a sound that was never quite as big over her (or maybe just with me, what do I know). Anyway, I strongly suspect the original Morales version might have stood a better chance in the UK. Here it is anyway – the best addition is the spoken word bit at the beginning (“do you want the most…or do you want the best?” THE BEST PLEASE.
Looking at Jody’s entries on the Official Charts website, I have to wonder what on earth we were doing from 1987 to the mid 90s that was so much more important than buying her records in huge quantities. For someone with so many recognisable classics – a list that includes Looking For a New Love, Still a Thrill, Don’t You Want Me, Some Kind of Lover, Most of All (a lost Pat Leonard gem), Real Love, Friends, When a Man Loves a Woman and Off the Hook (and also for me the incredible Another Chapter), it’s slightly astonishing that she only visited the top 40 four times – and the top 20 only once. Perhaps the UK division of MCA had their hands full with Kim Wilde, eh?
Thanks to what I can only imagine are complicated rights issues, there is very little peak-period Jody Watley available on streaming services, which means that the only version of I’m the One You Need you can easily access is – hooray! – the original. However, I would like it if someone got their finger out and put all the albums up there. A whole new generation is missing out on some top quality pop.
Entered chart: 11/04/92
Chart peak: 50
Weeks on chart: 3
Who could sing this today and have a hit? I reckon someone else who possesses elegance and authority – Jennifer Hudson.