Prince Muse Jill Jones on Dance Mantras and Being Banned from MTV
Almost 30 years after releasing her debut album and having a music video banned from MTV, former Prince collaborator Jill Jones has just released a new song called “Forbidden Love” from her album I AM, now available on iTunes.
Jill sung backup for Prince and Teena Marie and has released music consistently since 1987. We caught up with Jill about her days as part of Prince’s Paisley Park fam, her new musical direction, and her thoughts on the pop stars of today.
Jill’s last few albums were more “more folk or dreamscape,” she said, but after remarrying, she was feeling more joyful and started meditating and practicing yoga. Then, she got back to her dance roots.
“All these little things came into place and I only wanted to try to keep items and things and people around that made me smile,” she said.
So she wanted to make more empowering and happy music. But she gravitated to dance because girly pop “never really sticks” for her. In fact, the first song she ever recorded with Prince as a teenager was a pop song called “Boom Boom” that never saw the light of day.
“[Prince] listened and said, ‘I don’t know,'” she said. “I said, ‘I don’t know either. I don’t think it’s really me.'”
So they took those songs off her debut album.
“It’s like a bad blood transfusion or something,” she said. “Something was disingenuous.”
The music Jones did release on that album was always bigger in Europe, though — and she attributes this to MTV’s banning of her first video in America.
“It got banned from MTV because they said it was too sexy,” she said. “Years later, talking to my friends, [I realized] it was a political thing. Prince wouldn’t play a show for MTV and they started to give him the squeeze.”
This kind of give-and-take was commonplace in the music industry back then. But lucky for Jill, European clubs have always been into her music.
“I think the culture [in Europe] lends itself to having more quality time, more downtime to go away to the Mediterranean for six weeks for a holiday,” she said, explaining why dance music is so popular in Europe. “It’s not as stressful. If you’re in Ibiza, you’ll see even older people walking into [clubs]. They want to know. They stay curious.”
So when it came time for her to make a more triumphant-sounding album thanks to her personal fulfillment in life, she returned to dance.
“Dance song are like mantras in an odd way,” she said. “Whatever you constantly tell yourself, that’s your mantra.”
As for today’s pop music, Jill says the most surprising thing is that “kids from Disney and Nickelodeon are running it.”
“It’s like, go back to school,” she said. “You’d be far more interesting. Take some time, go back to school, then come back.”
Instead, Jill see these artists as “scrambling and crawling and clinging to something that maybe be over,” she said. And thanks to social media, these pop stars are being overexposed.
“It’s like a Polaroid,” she said. “The old Polaroids — with too much overexposure, it fades away and burns out.”
With many young pop stars, there unfortunately could be a result of “soon ripe, soon rotten,” she said.
“There has to be some type of pacing,” she said.
She’s not trying to slag off our entire generation, though — she acknowledges that the great talent isn’t getting enough exposure.
“My generation is responsible for it,” she said. “They’re not doing a good job to find those young people and bring them to the forefront. There are some music heads I’m friends with who are running things now and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ They’ve sold out.”
“It’s mind-boggling from an artistic point of view,” she continued. “[All of the music] sadly turns back to ‘I don’t have any money, I want more money, I have to get more money.’ The music has become really safe. In the indie arena, I think we have stronger girls saying a lot.”
She points to Haim and FKA Twigs as artists who are making bigger statements with their music. Bigger pop stars, though, are “like Bratz dolls,” she said. “They’re your toys until you get rid of them.”
“How long will you guys hold some of these people’s hands and when are you guys going to drop them?” she said. “It’s all in your hands. Your generation, what you do for a living is so vastly different from these women who are performing. How long can it stay interesting?”
Jill also feels for the younger stars, because when she was most active in the 80s and 90s, there wasn’t as much scrutiny on popular artists.
“You’d never know something about Diana Ross,” she said. “Everything was handled so properly. The image stayed as an image and you could love them forever. I can always love Marilyn Monroe — but did I follow her every day when she was bugging about Joe DiMaggio? Maybe I would’ve thought she was a mess. Or maybe not. I get to hold onto these stars I adored because I didn’t see so much of them. Now, you see someone do something stupid and you think, ‘Well, she brought it on herself.'”
Listen to Jill’s new song “Forbidden Love” from her new album I AM below.
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