Paula Julie Abdul was born in San Fernando, California, to Jewish parents, Harry Abdul, who was born into the Syrian Jewish community in Aleppo, Syria, but was raised in Brazil and then immigrated to the US and Paula’s mother, Lorraine, who was a concert pianist. Abdul has one sibling, an older sister named Wendy. Abdul began taking dance lessons at an early age in ballet, Jazz, and Tap and was inspired to become a dancer from Gene Kelly’s performance in the classic 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain. She was a cheerleader in high school and at 15 years old, received a scholarship to a dance camp near Palm Springs. In 1980, Abdul appeared in a low-budget Independent musical film, Junior High School. She attended California State University at Northridge, where she studied broadcasting, but during her freshman year, she was selected from a pool of 700 candidates for the cheerleading squad of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team, which became known as the famed Laker Girls and within a year became the team’s head choreographer. Abdul was discovered by The Jacksons, after a few of the band members had watched her while attending a Lakers game. Abdul then choreographed videos for several singers throughout the 1980s, including many videos for Janet Jackson during the time of her Control album’s success. In 1987, Abdul used her savings to make a singing demo. In 1988, Abdul released her pop debut album, Forever Your Girl, which produced five American Top Three singles. In 1991, she won her first Grammy for Best Music Video for Opposites Attract. Her follow-up album, Spellbound, contained even more chart-topping hits such as Rush Rush, whose music video starred a young Keanu Reeves. Personally, Abdul battled privately with bulimia for years, but eventually recovered but her future albums never matched the success of her first two. She then took a break from the music industry but continued her work as a choreographer. In 2002, Abdul reappeared in the spotlight as a judge on the hit Fox music competition show American Idol, alongside fellow judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell and stayed a judge for nine seasons of the show before leaving in 2009. In honor of her 52nd birthday, here is a Top 10 list of Paula Abdul songs.
10. Knocked Out: The first single released off of Abdul’s 1988 debut album, Forever Your Girl, “Knocked Out,” was written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, LA Reid and Daryl Simmons and became a Top 10 R&B hit. On the song, Abdul sings about being “knocked out” by her love for a guy with lines like, “You’ve got me knocked out turn me inside out/It’s you that makes my heart beat/You’ve got me knocked out/Baby there’s no doubt/You swept me off of my feet…Never did I think love could be so amazing/But the things that you’re making me do/It’s driving me crazy.” The song’s theme was universal as every girl has had the feelings Abdul was singing about at one time or another.
9. Vibeology: The fourth single off of Abdul’s 1991 follow-up album titled Spellbound,” “Vibeology” reached # 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a big success on the club charts. It hit # 3 in Canada and remained on the charts for 27 weeks. The song’s lyrics had Abdul singing about how the object of her affection puts out a certain sensory vibe with lines like, “Ya Got That V-I-B-E-OLOGY/Your Body is Pumped Next to Me/Ya got that Sensuality/And I Love What Ya Do When Ya Do What Ya Do/Ya Got Me Pumped/In the Groove When Ya Move.” It’s a great dance track as well as the perfect song to tell your sweetheart how he or she makes you feel when they are in close proximity.
8. Straight Up: Off of Abdul’s 1988 debut album, this song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 where it spent three weeks and brought her worldwide attention. It was the third single off the album and was ranked fourth in the Top 100 hits of 1989. The black and white music video, directed by David Fincher and choreographed by Abdul herself, won four 1989 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Editing, Best Choreography, and the first Best Dance Video. It also featured Abdul’s friend, Arsenio Hall in a small cameo appearance. The song’s lyrics have Abdul singing about whether or not her boyfriend is being truthful about his feelings for her or just stringing her along with lines like, “Lost in a dream/Don’t know which way to go/If you are all that you seem/Then baby I’m movin’ way too slow/I’ve been a fool before/Wouldn’t like to get my love caught in the slammin’ door/How about some information—please/Straight up now tell me/Do you really want to love me forever oh oh oh/Or am I caught in a hit and run?” It was a direct song that resonated with many women who have endured similar situations.
7. The Way That You Love Me: Off of Abdul’s 1989 debut album, Forever Your Girl,” the song initially didn’t gain much attention with its dance-pop remix, but when it was rereleased in its original edit, “The Way That You Love Me” became a mega smash, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, #11 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music chart and #2 on the Canadian singles chart. The lines of the song have Abdul crooning how she adores how her lover shows his passion for her and that his material things/wealth doesn’t mean nearly as much as his affection with lyrics like, “It ain’t the clothes that you wear/It ain’t the things that you buy/It ain’t your house on the hill/It ain’t the plane that you fly/It ain’t your black limousine/It ain’t your ninety-foot yacht/It ain’t the things that you’ll get/It ain’t the things that you got/It ain’t the money or the diamond rings/Honey I ain’t impressed with your material things/It’s the way that you love me…It ain’t your friends at the top/It ain’t their fortune and fame/It ain’t your heavy connections/It ain’t the Hollywood game/Ain’t famous people or the parties they throw/Honey I ain’t impressed with all the people you know/ It’s just the way that you love me (In the heat of the night.)” With all of the celebrity couples nowadays, with their breakups and scandals, one wonders if any celebrity feels this way about their current significant other/ lover anymore?
6. Blowing Kisses in the Wind: The third single off of Abdul’s 1991 follow-up Spellbound, this love ballad peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #4 in Canada. The song’s music video had Abdul dancing on a theater stage, ballet-style. The song’s lyrics speak of Abdul feeling as if her emotions aren’t being returned by her beloved with lines like, “So tell baby tell, your true heart/Say what you say, when you’re all alone/I’m trying, trying to try, to feel you and see if I see/I’m feeling alone and all I want is to get through/So baby, you’d see that the way you’re leaving me, it won’t do/It’s like I’m/Blowing Kisses in the Wind/Givin’ you love that you haven’t been given/I cross my heart and hope to die/I’m only wishing you’d love me like I.” Unrequited love can be a truly heart-breaking experience and with this song, Abdul conveyed the sentiment exquistely!
5. Cold Hearted: Off of her 1989 debut album, “Cold Hearted” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming the album’s third song to top the US chart. The song also ranked sixth in the Top 100 hits of 1989. The music video had Abdul dance suggestively with her backup dancers in front of record execs. The dance floor included scaffolding where Abdul and her dancers hung onto and grinded against each other and Abdul wore a fishnet see through dress. The song’s lyrics talk about a scoundrel who is playing with Abdul’s heart with lines such as, “He’s a cold-hearted snake/Look into his eyes/Oh oh oh/He’s been tellin’ lies/He’s a lover boy at play/He don’t play by the rules/Oh oh oh/Girl don’t play the fool—no/ You’re the one givin’ up the love, anytime he needs it/But you turn your back and then he’s off and runnin’ with the crowd/You’re the one to sacrifice anything to please him/Do you really think he thinks about you when he’s out.” What girl/woman hasn’t had a guy who pulled the wool over her eyes in a relationship? Abdul made the unpleasant situation danceable and catchy.
4. Rush Rush: Off of Abdul’s 1991 album Spellbound, this love ballad topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was major success in the US. The song also spent five weeks atop the US adult contemporary chart and peaked at #6 on the UK Singles Chart. The song’s music video featured a young Keanu Reeves where he played a James Dean-type character in a Rebel Without A Cause-themed video. The song’s lyrics are basically a love letter begging the object of Abdul’s affection to “rush” to her side with lines such as, “You’re the whisper of a summer breeze/You’re kiss that puts my soul at ease/What I’m saying is that I’m into you/Here’s my story and the story goes/You give love, you get love and more than heaven knows/You’re gonna see/I’m gonna run, I’m gonna try/I’m gonna take this love right to ya/All my heart, all the joy/Oh baby, baby please/Rush, Rush/Hurry, hurry lover come to me/Rush, Rush/I wanna see, I wanna see ya get free with me.”
3. Opposites Attract: Off of Abdul’s 1989 debut album, “Opposites Attract,” was the sixth and final single off the album. The lyrics are about a couple who love each other despite being completely different in about every way possible. In the song’s music video, Abdul dances with a cartoon character known as MC Skat Kat. The idea of MC Skat Kat came from Abdul’s love of Gene Kelly and his 1945 film Anchors Aweigh, where Kelly dances with Jerry Mouse from the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. Abdul even choreographed the animated character’s moves to match her live-action dance moves in the video. The video won the Grammy in 1991 for “Best Short Form Music Video.” The song’s lyrics have Abdul crooning about her and her lover’s vast differences, but how they are irresistibly attracted to each other despite them with lines like, “Baby seems we never ever agree/You like the movies and I like T.V./I take things serious and you take ’em light/I go to bed early and I party all night/Our friends are sayin’ we ain’t gonna last/Cuz I move slowly and baby I’m fast/I like it quiet and I love to shout/But when we get together/It just all works out/I take–2 steps forward, I take–2 steps back/We come together, cuz opposites attract/And you know–it ain’t fiction/Just a natural fact/ We come together, cuz opposites attract.”
2. Forever Your Girl: The title track off of her 1989 debut album, “Forever Your Girl,” was the second #1 single off the album. The song’s theme is about loyalty in a relationship and despite rumors to the contrary, Abdul professes to remain faithful to her man and “forever your girl.” The song spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and charted at #24 in the UK and #17 in Germany. The song’s music video had Abdul acting as a choreographer and directing a performance by a group of children. An 8-year-old Elijah Wood and 10-year-old Nikki Cox were among the children featured in the video. Lines of the song included Abdul crooning about never straying for her man with lyrics such as, “Baby pick your head up/Come on and look me in the face/Cuz I can tell that somethin’Is bringin’ you down (Why are you down?)/Is it the rumor that another boy/Wants to take your place (I hear he’s after your heart)/Have you been hearin’ the stories, they’re goin’ around (All of my friends are talkin’)/Baby just remember I gave you my heart, ain’t no one gonna tear us apart/He could promise the moon and the stars above/Even if he promised me the world/Just remember I’m forever your girl” What guy wouldn’t want to hear such things from his lady?
1. The Promise of a New Day: The second single off of Abdul’s 1991 album Spellbound, this song was released while Abdul’s “Rush Rush” was still high on the music charts and played heavily on radio stations. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Canadian charts as well. The song’s music video was recorded in front of a green screen in Hawaii. However, since Abdul was unable to film the clip due to other commitments, she shot the necessary scenes elsewhere, which were then edited into the video. The video featured stunning images of nature and featured a message at the end from The Rainforest Foundation International, stating, “The Indians say: When the forest dies, we all die. Leave the jungle alone.” The song’s lyrics speak of rebirth of a person and of the earth with lines such as, “Eagle’s calling and he’s calling your name/Tides are turning, bringing winds of change/Why do I feel this way?/The Promise of a New Day…As thru time, the Earth moves under my feet/One step closer to make love complete/What has the final say/The Promise of a New Day/And so time over time/What will change the world/No one knows (No one knows)/So the only promise is a day to live, to give and to share with one another/See the wisdom from mistakes in our past/Hear the younger generation ask/Why do I feel this way?/The Promise of a New Day.” It’s an uplifting and hopeful message to live each day to the fullest and to not take our natural resources for granted. A message I fear has been lost since this song was first released and needs to be found again.