Paula Abdul, b. July 19, 1962, San Fernando, California, USA.
Paula Abdul's pop music career peaked in the late 1980s and carried into the early 1990s. However, her primary career has always been as a dancer and choreographer. That is often overlooked when she is viewed as another short lived pop singer from the decade that gave us an overdose of eye candy and fluffy tunes.
To consider Paula Abdul as just another pretty face signed to a record deal overlooks all too much. In reality, producers and promoters saw her physical appearance as a liability. There is a reason you will find few full body shots of Paula Abdul, especially from the early part of her career. They felt her legs and hindquarters were "too big" and worked hard to keep them out of the shot, even though they were promoting a dancer/singer and not a singer/dancer. Paula came with developed dancer's legs and was considered "too mannish" for the image marketing wanted to promote for a female pop singer.
Paula was the younger of two daughters born to Lorraine and Harry Abdul, and from an early age decided that dance was her bag. Inspired by seeing Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, she began dance classes at the age of nine and never lost interest. Those who instructed her said she had a natural aptitude for dance and an inate ability to entertain.
Just remember I'm forever your girl
He could promise the world
You gotta remember
I'm forever your girl
In 1978 she appeared in a small screen musical called Junior High School. Acting was interesting, but not what she wanted to do, and she continued to pursue a career in dance. In the early 1980s she auditioned for an open slot for the Los Angeles Lakers' cheerleading squad. After beating out hundreds of other competitors for the spot, she soon was promoted to choreographer for the group and proceeded to revolutionize cheerleading and is one of the reasons they now often call them "dance teams" instead of "cheerleaders."
Recognition for her dance and choreography skills brought attention that gave Paula work as a choreographer on such films as Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall and choreographed dance routines for The Tracy Ullman Show. This led to work with Janet Jackson as the choreographer for her Nasty video. From there, many of the top music stars of the 1980s wanted Paula to work on their video choreography.
Now having lots of money and plenty of connections in the music business, Paula decided to try her hand at a singing career. She recorded a demo and brought it to the Virgin America label. This led to the 1988 release of her debut album, Forever Your Girl, containing the single Straight Up, which managed to stay at the number one position on the charts for three weeks, along with other hits such as The Way That You Love Me, Opposites Attract, Cold Hearted and the title track. Sitting outside a bowling alley in a car with no heat in the winters of 1988-1990, you could find a strange warmth coming from her presence on the radio. Her singles from the album strung themselves out over a two year period and in 1990 Virgin released Shut Up and Dance (a collection of dance remixes) to capitalize on the popularity and danceability of her hits.
Straight up now tell me
Do you really want to love me forever
Or am I caught in a hit and run
The follow-up to Forever Your Girl came in 1991 with Spellbound. Its first single, Rush Rush, stayed at number one for five weeks. The album was strong in the adult contemporary market but less powerful overall on the pop charts. She was becoming more respected as an artist and seen as reaching beyond being a dancer who was dabbling in a singing career, but the huge meteor ride of her first album was cooling off.
Big budget videos and slick production outweighed Paula Abdul's less than powerful voice and she was seen by many as a savvy woman who knew how to work the industry. Despite not selling as well as her first release (a mere, insignificant 3 million copies of the album sold), Spellbound is seen by most fans and critics as her best album.
Something's going down
Turn my world around
I woke up and I found
I was spellbound
Now comes the trip wire. Confronted since her early days about not having the right "body type" to be a pop singer, Paula admitted in 1992 to be wrangling with bulimia and headed to a clinic. Her marriage to Emilio Estevez collapsed in 1994 and she was sued by a former back-up singer who claimed to have been the true lead vocalist on several of Paula's hits. Paula Abdul and Virgin Records won the case.
In 1995, trying to put these issues behind her, Paula released her third album, Head over Heels, and didn't hide her body from view on the cover. The comeback album was far less successful than its predecessors, never reaching higher than number 20 on the charts. She kept a strong focus on dance trends and tried to capitalize on her experience with a more seductive and mature approach, but there were new faces and sounds on the radio now and Paula was a star many saw as having peaked and now just playing out the hand.
She has since married a guy named Brad Beckerman, who is set to inherit the Starter clothing empire, made numerous television appearances, and continues to be recognized as one of the better dance choreographers. She has released two dance/aerobic videos, Get Up and Dance and Cardio Dance and started her own national dance education company called Co Dance.
She has not given up on any of her projects, saying she will continue to record, dance and go with whatever her talents guide her to do. We shall see, but only if we pay attention. No one will ram her down our throats again, so we can take her in measured doses and change the channel or sit closer depending on our personal opinions and tastes..
Happy 40th Birthday, Paula.
Are you ever going to come over?
I still have the scented oils
and incense and peppermints
I told you about.
Let me know.
Research committed at Allmusic.com
And a bunch of fan sites
And the racing program at the Indianapolis 500
Various Paula Abdul lyrics used without permission