'80s Hitmaker Howard Jones Finds Ways to Reinvent Himself

Howard Jones isn't content to sit back and milk his '80s hits.
Howard Jones isn't content to sit back and milk his '80s hits.
Simon Fowler / howardjones.com

Forget the fact it's been nearly 30 years since Howard Jones wrote the songs that made him a radio staple. With a string of chart triumphs including tracks such as "New Song," "Life in One Day," "Like to Get to Know You Well," "No One Is to Blame," "Hide and Seek," and "What Is Love," his career has taken him well beyond the status of a mere one-hit wonder. True, he's frequently relegated to classic-rock radio these days, but Jones' creative instincts are still vibrant thanks to his determination to reinvent and reconstruct his musical inventory in ways that lead to new challenges and achievements.

"I had the great good fortune to have a string of hits early on," the 60-year-old artist reflects. "It's my calling card, my artistic heritage. It's enabled me to continue to record and tour. There are certainly those who only know me from my hits, but there are also those people who know my whole career and want to hear my newer material as well as the old. In effect, I have two audiences. There's the one who only wants to hear the hits, and then there's the other, who wants to hear me perform my new music and remains very supportive regardless."

Jones' latest endeavor is an ambitious multimedia project he's dubbed Engage. Incorporating film, visuals, modern dance, and a special app that allows audiences to come to the show dressed in costumes befitting the theme, Engage has had a limited run of live performances in London, L.A., and New York. Because of the complicated logistics involved in staging an opus of this sort, Jones hasn't been able to take the show on the road for a full tour, but he hopes to release an album and film to expose it to a wider audience.

His penchant for mixing media dates back to his early career, when he readily incorporated dance, miming, and technology into his live shows. "I've always loved films, dance, and classical music," Jones insists. "I'm always trying to advance and push things forward."

Be warned: Jones' upcoming appearance at Bayfront Park with fellow '80s icon Culture Club won't be of the Engage variety but instead a more straightforward concert featuring what he describes as his "electronic backing band." Even so, though many artists resent the fact they have to continually recycle their greatest hits, Jones says he's never felt saddled by his back catalog.

Culture Club, With Howard Jones

8 p.m. Friday, August 14, at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $40 to $300 plus fees via livenation.com.

"I've always believed in working with the situation you've been given. Rather than wish I was in another place or dealing with different circumstances, I'm always trying to figure out how I can make the circumstances I've been given work the best they can. I try to find a good balance and not be discouraged by others' expectations."

Indeed, Jones speaks about the future with the giddy enthusiasm of an artist half his age. There's a pair of projects he's especially excited about, each involving some soundtrack contributions. One is for the British film Eddie the Eagle, starring Hugh Jackman, and the other is for the animated feature Animal Crackers, which will feature the voices of Emily Blunt, Ian McKellen, Danny DeVito, and other stars. He says the opportunity to offer new material for the big screen has had a liberating effect.

"It's quite interesting," he observes. "With film music, you don't have to be cutting-edge or think about the fact you're competing with younger artists. It really gets back to more traditional song structure."

As far as a return to the charts is concerned, Jones remains realistic. "It's not a problem," he insists. "It would be great if every new record I do is a massive success, but I know that's not going to happen. As long I can remain creative, I'm happy to simply strike a balance and not be discouraged."

Culture Club with Howard Jones. 8 p.m. Friday, August 14, at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $40 to $300 plus fees via livenation.com.

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