Monday, June 18, 2012

Music Video Monday: Paula Abdul



Tomorrow, Paula Abdul turns the B I G 5 0!! Half a century. Wow. Most of the people now know her as that wacky judge on American Idol who seemed drunk or on drugs all the time, while sending her love to all the Idol singers, especially when the mean ole' Simon Cowell was especially harsh in his accurate judgements. It has actually been heartbreaking to see the trajectory of Paula Abdul, whom I once had a crush on (when I was a junior in high school).

Paula Abdul first hit the charts in the fall of 1988 with her single "Straight Up", which featured Arsenio Hall in the music video. I forget which, but this was not the first single released from her debut album Forever Your Girl. One or possible two singles were released but failed to chart. "Straight Up" was pretty catchy, though, and should have been the lead single. It was a hit. Other hits followed, including "Forever Your Girl", "Opposites Attract", "Cold Hearted" (one of my all-time favourite videos because it has great choreography, I love the way she sings really fast and the sound of those words smashed together, and the uptempo violin playing was something I never heard before), "The Way That You Love Me", and "Knocked Out." It was a good debut.

Abdul got her start as one of the L.A. Lakers cheerleaders. She had a choreography career going (the dance sequences in the beginning of Eddie Murphy's Coming to America was her creation) and she was one of Janet Jackson's girlfriends in the music video to "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" (I still think it's someone else's voice that she lip sync's when she says: "I know he used to do nice stuff for you, but what has he done for you lately?"). Besides her catchy hits, I liked her ethnic mix. You did not know what her make-up is. She's not exactly Caucasian. Is she part black? Arab? Hispanic? I'm a sucker for mixed-race women and hope to find one for my wife. However, Paula Abdul is definitely not it.

In 1991, her sophomore album came out. I was in Navy Basic Training, near the end of my training, when her lead single "Rush Rush" was released. This song always makes me think of those euphoric end of days at boot camp and the summer at "A" School in Mississippi. In fact, "Rush Rush" was my favourite single of 1991 and is my all time favourite Paula Abdul song. In the video, she remakes Rebel Without a Cause, featuring actor Keanu Reeves, who was known for Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. His acting is every bit as wooded here as it is in most of his movies. Hard to believe that he would achieve phenomenal success by decade's end with The Matrix. The second single was "Promise of a New Day", which is also a great and optimistic song...from a year that was full of optimism (we had just won a victorious war in the Persian Gulf and President George Herbert Walker Bush proclaimed that we had "kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!"). The album, though, wasn't all that great. One of the songs on the album is called "Will U Marry Me?" In that decade, she ended up being married to Emilio Estevez for a short period of time (I thought that was an unlikely pairing).

In 1995, her third album was released and was forgettable, even though she experimented with a Middle Eastern sound on at least one song. Sometime in the mid-2000s, an American Idol reject had one of the funniest exits ever. It was some large African American lady who launched a series of bleeped out explicitives in which she claimed to be a better singer than Paula Abdul who "hadn't had a hit single in 20 damn years." Yeah, whatever.

Paula Abdul had about 10 really good songs in her. She, unfortunately, has not aged well. I fear that she's become a lush. I want to know, "what the hell happened?!?" How could someone who made a brilliant song like "Rush Rush" not make music any more? That's one song that is on my list to play at my wedding reception someday. I love the feeling it evokes in me. Hopefully, I'll meet a lady who feels the same way. It's a beautiful love song and a classic that has held up well in the following two decades.

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