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Thu. Nov 14th, 2019

Madness To Creation

Where Insanity and Creativity Collide!

MTC’s A to Z Throwback Reviews: Paula Abdul, from Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader to Pop Stardom to Show Biz!

7 min read

What a stunning career that Paula Abdul has had.  Along with Michael Jackson and Madonna, Paula Abdul is another one that I think of when it comes to awesome music videos on MTV and for insane levels of choreography in her music videos.  What needs to be highlighted is her vocal prowess and her catchy pop songs.  Through her music career, Paula Abdul has won a Grammy and an Emmy for her music video and choreography work.  She is also tied with Diana Ross for seventh all-time in number one singles in the Billboard Hot 100 charts for females.

Paula Abdul was born in San Fernando, California to Jewish parents.  She decided to attend broadcasting school at Cal State Northridge, however, the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team came calling and she became a cheerleader for the Lakers, within a year, she was head choreographer.

Paula Abdul began her choreography work in music videos, in particular for the song “Torture” by The Jacksons and for Janet Jackson in the “Control” era.  She also did choreography for the movies “Coming To America” starring Eddie Murphy and “Big” starring Tom Hanks.  Thus began her music career.

She began singing for the musical film “Junior High School” and record companies took notice.  In 1988, Paula Abdul released the smash album “Forever Your Girl”, which would reach number one for ten weeks on the Billboard 200 charts.  The album produced three number one singles in 1989 including:

“Straight Up”

“Forever Your Girl”

“Cold Hearted”

and one number one single in 1990, the single and memorable video for “Opposites Attract”

The album went on to sell two million copies in 1989 in the United States alone and it led to two Grammy nominations.  “Straight Up” was nominated in the 32nd Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance but lost out to “Nick Of Time” by Bonnie Raitt.  However, Paula Abdul would pick up a Grammy in the same year for Best Music Video for “Opposites Attract”.  Paula Abdul would also release a dance remix version of this album called “Shut Up And Dance”, which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200 charts.  Maybe critics cite this album as influential in the dance remix era as a whole.

After being sued by Yvette Marine, which Paula Abdul and Virgin Records won the lawsuit, Paula Abdul released her biggest selling album “Spellbound”.  “Spellbound” would go on to sell seven million copies worldwide.  The first single entitled “Rush Rush”, would be number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for five consecutive weeks.

“Rush Rush”

The music video to “Rush Rush” featured Keanu Reeves in a “Rebel Without A Cause” James Dean motif.  The second single, “The Promise Of A New Day” also hit number one.

“Spellbound” also produced a top ten single in “Blowing Kisses In The Wind” and top 20 singles in “Vibeology” and “Will You Marry Me”.  Many songs were written by members of The Family Stand.  Prince even helped with the songwriting with the song “U”.

The success of “Forever Your Girl” and “Spellbound” led to a world tour for Paula Abdul sponsored by MTV dubbed the “Under My Spell” tour.  This led to the famous commercial promoting Diet Coke where Paula Abdul appears to be dancing with Gene Kelly of “Singin’ In The Rain” fame.  Paula Abdul would also receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December of 1991.

Paula Abdul would face a major personal demon in the form of an eating disorder known as bulimia.  Bulimia is where a person will binge like crazy in order to get the sensation of tasting the food and then purge it out of their system.  Paula survived bulimia and in 1995, attempted her comeback with a third album entitled “Head Over Heels”.  The first single “My Love Is For Real” mixed Middle Eastern music with fusion R&B and the music video was played in theaters across the world as a prologue to the film “Clueless”.  The song peaked at Number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts.  The second single entitled “Crazy Cool” peaked at number 13 on the dance charts, while “Ain’t Never Gonna Give You Up” was released as a third single, but it never charted.  “Head Over Heels” would achieve gold status in the United States, selling over 500,000 copies.

“My Love Is For Real”

Paula Abdul would then take a break from the music industry and starred in the ABC television movie “Touched By Evil” in 1997.  Paula, however, would write the track to “Spinning Around” in anticipation as the lead single to the follow-up album “Head Over Heels”.  That album never materialized and Kylie Minogue received the song and the song became number 1 in numerous countries.

Paula would serve as lead choreographer for “Reefer Madness” and “American Beauty” and in 2000, Virgin Records released her “Greatest Hits” album, which included the previously unreleased single “Bend Time Back ‘Round”, which was on the 1992 soundtrack to Beverly Hills 90210.

Paula Abdul would see considerable success, some argue she is more famous in show business than she was in music.  She would be a judge on the world-famous show “American Idol” and also served as a reporter for Entertainment Tonight.  Paula Abdul would also be a judge on The X-Factor, which helped propel the career of Leona Lewis.

In 2007, Virgin Records released a second Greatest Hits compilation of Paula Abdul which included her music videos.  Paula also starred in “Hey Paula!”, which was a reality television show that only aired for one season on Bravo.  Her jewelry line also sold more than 34,000 pieces on the QVC channel.

In 2008, Paula Abdul enjoyed a brief comeback in her music career with the song “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow”.  The song was released on Randy Jackson’s “Music Club Vol 1” compilation album.  This led to a Super Bowl pre-game performance for Super Bowl 42, and the song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts and number 11 on I-Tunes.

In 2009, Paula Abdul appeared on “Rah!”, which was a reality show about cheerleading competitions and released the song “I’m Just Here For The Music”.  The song became the 15th song in her career to crack the Billboard Hot 100 at Number 62.  Paula Abdul would also leave American Idol.

Then Paula Abdul would enjoy brief stints in “Live To Dance”, which was cancelled by CBS after one season and one season on The X-Factor.  In 2013, she would be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for The Carnival: Choreographers Ball.  Then Paula Abdul would be a judge on the American and Australian versions of the dance competition show “So You Think You Can Dance”.  She would also make guest appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race and for “Real Husbands of Hollywood”.

Madness To Creation’s take:  The late 1980’s and early 1990’s was the Paula Abdul era.  I remember the cassette tape of “Forever Your Girl” as that was actually one of my first cassette tapes that I’ve owned, so writing up this review brought back some childhood memories.  Her music was fun to dance to, and her melodies in her singing were great, not overdone, it was how a pop singer should sing, make it to where it’s infectious and catchy to sing along to.  I never cared for her career in show business because I’m not a fan of shows like American Idol because I feel that they are glorified karaoke contests.  There are numerous bands and recording artists that are spending thousands of dollars on gear to travel hundreds of miles just to play a $50 gig, I don’t like how some American Idol artists get to the front of the line with a recording contract without having to pay their dues by playing in front of ten people at a dive bar location.

Anyways, pardon my digression. Her music reminds me why pop music was so great growing up.  Who can forget the hooks and melodies to songs like “Cold Hearted” and “Straight Up”?  Seriously!  I will wonder what her career would have been had it not been for her eating disorder that she had.  It is a shame that a woman has to go through that, women are beautiful no matter their shapes and sizes, plus it’s what is inside of a person that truly matters.  It’s a shame that our media objectifies women like that, that they have to look like some supermodel from a magazine cover or from the movies.  America can be a really calloused and superficial country like that.  In regards to her music, she gets a 7 out of 10 stars for me.  Her hits are memorable and her music videos are influential in terms of creating choreography scenes where the music video and the song match up in order to tell a story in the music video.  My favorite Paula Abdul song is definitely “Straight Up”, I’ve always thought that would be a good rock song to cover.

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