The choreographer/singer/reality TV judge turns 55 on June 19. Let’s take a look at her innovative music videos that made her a superstar of the 80s and 90s.
It’s hard to believe that Miss Paula Abdul turns 55 today. The former L.A. Lakers cheerleader rose to fame in the 80s as a much sought after choreographer, who most notably defined Janet Jackson‘s moves in several of her music videos. But it wasn’t long until Paula wanted a taste of the spotlight herself, and she got it in a big way with the release of her solo debut album, Forever Your Girl in 1988. Although it took an arduous 64 weeks, the album finally hit no. 1 on the Billboard music charts and achieved multi-platinum status. From then on until the mid 90s, Paula was a fixture on the pop charts.
Of course millennials have come to know the star through her second phase of stardom: as a reality competition judge for American Idol and later for a spate of similar TV talent shows like Live to Dance, The X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance.
In celebration of Paula Abdul’s 55th birthday, we’ve listed some of her most iconic music videos that helped solidify her place not only as a pop artist but also as a visual innovator through her music videos.
Straight Up (1989)
Directed by David Fincher and filmed in black and white, “Straight Up” was a big hit on MTV. The single was already rocketing up the charts before the music video came out, but the latter — which showed Paula’s slick choreography along with giggly guest appearances by Arsenio Hall and actor Djimon Hounsou — took the song’s cool factor over the top. A bit of trivia for you: Djimon Hounsou also made a peek-a-boo appearance in Janet Jackson’s 1990 music video “Love Will Never Do (Without You).”
Forever Your Girl (1989)
With the success of “Straight Up,” Paula’s record label quickly released “Forever Your Girl,” which became yet another big hit on both the music charts and on TV. The video, which again was directed by David Fincher, showed Paula directing a children’s dance performance, along with adorable kid parodies of Robert Palmer and Don Henley music videos. Among the famous young performers were actors Trevor Wright, Elijah Wood and Nikki Cox. One word: ADORBS.
“Forever Your Girl” may have shown Paula Abdul’s cutesy side (dimples and 5-foot frame and all), but the music video for “Cold Hearted” was dripping with sex appeal. Under David Fincher’s direction, the video was an homage to choreographer Bob Fosse from the movie All That Jazz.
For Paula, this music video was the most difficult to choreograph and rehearse. “I think more dancers injured themselves on this video shoot than any other,” she said. “Just a lot of things, like sliding on our knees, working with raw elements of scaffolding; nothing was very comfortable. We were working with real wood, metal, concrete. Because it had to be gritty.”
Opposites Attract (1989)
By now Paula Abdul had built a reputation for being an impressive visual artist. But she took things to a whole different level with her cartoon animated video “Opposites Attract.” Working with Disney animators who created the character MC Skat Kat, which was inspired by Gene Kelly‘s dance with Jerry Mouse (of Tom and Jerry fame) in the film Anchors Aweigh, Paula choreographed all of MC Skat Kat’s moves to match hers in the music video. Directed by Candace Reckinger and Michael Patterson, the idea paid off: In 1991 the superstar won a Grammy Award for “Best Short Form Music Video” — the only Grammy of her career.
Rush Rush (1991)
Although a risky undertaking, the single “Rush Rush” was the first track released off of Paula’s sophomore album Spellbound. It was the first ballad by the singer released as a single and was stylistically unlike her previous uptempo hits. However, the risk turned out to be a smart move, and in June 1991, the song hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for five consecutive weeks.
As for the music video? One word: Keanu. (And sigh.) Inspired by the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, the video stars Keanu Reeves as James Dean‘s character Jim, with Paula playing Natalie Wood‘s character Judy. Directed by Stefan Würnitzer, some of the scenes were shot at the famous Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.