That is the question I'm asked whenever people find out that I've been a Paula Abdul fan for over 25 years. It's a valid question. 25 years is a long time. Out of the thousands of celebrities to grace planet earth, why Paula Abdul?
To begin, I never imagined that I’d be a fan of anyone for 25+ years let alone a fan of Paula Abdul. It started with a series of small events that gradually occurred over time and eventually led to my admiration of her work. I think Paula is genuine, funky, and cool. Her brand of entertainment has always been family oriented and she's a great role model no matter who you are, no matter the age. You don't have to look very hard to see that she has a big heart.
Paula Abdul first stepped onto the music scene way back in 1988. Yours truly must have been around 10 years old at the time. Back then I was a dorky little kid who liked playing Legos and listening to Weird Al and of course, oldies on the radio (song’s from the 60’s and 70’s at the time).
My mother had her fill of hearing Weird Al’s comedy on repeat for the millionth time. I remember it like it happened yesterday. She threw a cassette tape of Paula's "Forever Your Girl" album at me while I was sitting on the floor in my room, music playing, building with Legos. She was pleading with me to listen to some mainstream music like the "cool kids." That was my first introduction.
I didn't want to listen to it. I looked at the tape and set it aside. It was just another cassette tape with a photo of a pretty girl on it. That was all it meant to me at the time. I had no clue how that one tape would have a lasting impact on my future. (To confess, I may have listened to it once to appease my mother and that was it.)
Determined to get me to like Paula Abdul, my mother rented "Straight Up: The Video Collection" for me from our local Blockbuster while I was visiting on vacation in 1989. It was a documentary that included the music videos used to promote the "Forever Your Girl" album. That was my first time witnessing Paula in action. She was dancing and having fun in her videos. I thought the videos were stylish and cool. I enjoyed the choreography in Paula’s video for “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me,” “Straight Up” was instantly recognizable as a hit song – very catchy. “Forever Your Girl” featured Paula dancing with kids. And the video for Zip A Dee Doo Dah... as a kid that was so cool too.
I wanted to join-in and be a part of the fun. As a child I didn't have a lot of fun... I was tossed back and forth between my parents: one living on the east coast, one on the west. Add to that a Stepmother that used to beat me and wouldn't even allow me to watch The Muppets and you get the picture. Paula Abdul's songs and videos were a moment in time where, like my Legos and Weird Al, I could escape and just have fun as a kid.
For the next few years when I was in Oregon on vacations, my mother would always rent that video collection for me. That was just the start of me becoming a “fan” of Paula’s.
My love of the “Forever Your Girl” album caused me to pay attention to the album credits and linear notes. I never in a million years ever thought that I would actually meet Paula or become friends with her producers, songwriters and background vocalists.
From there I did get into the music of the 90’s, big time. I’m a huge fan of Janet Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Enigma and Mark Morrison to name a few. I was also rockin’ out to 90’s staples by Sir Mix A Lot, Ace of Base, En Vogue, Ce Ce Peniston, Color Me Badd, Nu Shooz, Prince, C+C Music Factory, P.M. Dawn, Taylor Dayne, Whitney Houston, TLC, Michael Jackson and countless others. But Paula Abdul kept popping up in my life and I think that’s part of what kept it going.
In 1991 my mother started renting Paula’s “Captivated” video collection that featured the music video for the mega-hit song “Opposites Attract” – Paula's tribute to the Gene Kelly film “Anchors Aweigh,” where Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse from the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. That video caught my attention because I was a huge fan of animation and now Paula was dancing with an animated cat. That was magical to me. I was completely captivated by it and thought the song and video were perfection.
The “Captivated” collection shared some behind the scenes footage of the making of the video and that also fascinated me. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" had just been released and became an all-time favorite of mine - the timing of the song and video were perfect.
Also in 1991, Paula Abdul released her “Spellbound” album. I have fond memories of my mother blasting the album at top volume throughout the entire house on Saturday mornings as she made breakfast, waking me up to the throbbing baseline and jazzy-funkiness of “Vibeology.”
“Vibeology” was a new song on the "Spellbound" album. It was the cherry on top that solidified my admiration. I liked the “Forever Your Girl” album, and yes it was really cool that Paula was dancing with an animated cat but “Vibeology” really caught my attention - I took it like bait: hook, line and sinker.
Listen to it (and love it) here:
This song has it all. It’s Paula Abdul. It’s a fun, funky dance/pop-song. It also has jazz and opera components woven in. Did I mention the bassline? The song is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and I haven’t heard anything close to it since. The “ow!’s”, “I’m in a funky way,” “horny horns,” “eye yei yeiiii!’s” – the “go go go” chants, it’s all so perfect. The background music and vocals are well done. The Family Stand did an excellent job constructing this song. It’s so creative. I think that’s why I admire it so much. It’s the first song that got me really excited about music. Even the CD artwork was brilliant.
I immediately bought the single on cassette tape because I had a Sony Walkman at the time and I played the crap out of that tape. I still have it. I had to transfer the “Keith Cohen's Vibe The House Mix” of “Vibeology” from cassette to MP3 because it was only available on the cassette and LP singles and I love that damn remix almost as much as I love the album version of the song. The creative reworking of the instruments, the lyrics, adding the additional verse… 26 years later and I still enjoy playing the remix. I would love to hear the demo of the album version and various drafts to understand the creative process crafting that song. Hey, a guy can dream right?
Here's the amazing Vibeology (Keith Cohen's Vibe The House Mix) remix:
“Vibeology” is still my #1 all-time favorite Paula Abdul song.
1991 was quite a year. MC Skat Kat, the cat that Paula was dancing with in the music video for "Opposites Attract" came out with his own album and single "Skat Strut." I remember spending time at my Grandpa Stan's house with my Cousin Aleia and we would anxiously wait to see the "Skat Strut" music video which featured a brief appearance by Paula (and became one of the most requested on MTV at the time).
In 6th grade our Physical Education teacher did a month-long course with our class on dance and choreographed our movement. She used Paula's "Shut Up and Dance - Remixes" album in class - specifically the "Opposites Attract (1990 mix)." I remember that was the most enjoyable time I ever had in P.E. class.
At the launch of her "Spellbound" album, backup session singer Yvette Marine filed a lawsuit against Virgin Records claiming she was entitled to co-lead vocal credits on Paula's "Forever Your Girl" album. During the trial I heard on the news that Paula would eat meals with fans, taking them out for breakfast or lunch. I had never heard of celebrities doing things like this before. Again, another reason I liked Paula - she was relatable. I always hoped one day I might have an opportunity to have lunch with Paula. Virgin Records won the lawsuit and Paula went on to have 2 #1 hit songs from the "Spellbound" album including "Rush, Rush" and "The Promise of a New Day."
In 1992 Paula announced she would go on a world tour - the Under My Spell tour. I was 13 years old, still not allowed to watch MTV. My father denied my plea to see Paula in concert. He said the only way I could go was to win tickets. I tried to, unsuccessfully. That had an impact on me.
At the end of 1992 I was placed in Boys Town, NE by my Father and Step-Mother. It turned out to be a good thing for me. I had space and less chaos around me. I was allowed to be an individual. I bought a brand new CD/Stereo boom box. Paula's "Spellbound" and a Weird Al Yankovic's "Greatest Hits" were the first 2 CD's I ever purchased. At Boys Town I was able to watch MTV whereas at home my Father and Stepmother forbid it. I had a chance to be hip and cool and grew up a lot there.
In 1993, Jeremy, (one of my roommates at Boys Town who was much older than I was) and I were having a conversation about music and I told him I had Paula's "Spellbound" album. He asked if I had heard Paula's "new song" on the "Beverly Hills 90210 Soundtrack." I thought he was trying to trick me. I had not heard about it. I went into his room and he played "Bend Time Back Around" for me. That song was also exciting to hear!
WOW. That song was so freakin' cool. Why wasn't it a single? It should have been! It would have been a #1 hit for sure. Another amazing infectious dance song - great instruments, the harmony, loved the backgrounds and Paula's vocals never sounded so strong. I added a new CD to my collection.
Paula's Under My Spell Tour was released on VHS the same year and I was so excited I managed to get myself in trouble for talking back or not doing my chores - something silly, right after I bought it - so they grounded me from it for 24 hours and I remember that was a really long day having to wait to watch the concert. I was so happy to see Paula performed "Vibeology" and the tour performance of the song was way better than the music video. I really liked that she danced with animated Skat Kat and then brought him on stage. That was cool. It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.
The only Paula Abdul merchandise I ever had hanging on my walls was the Paula Abdul Top-Hat Spellbound Tour Poster and one of the boys in my house at Boys Town was mad at me and destroyed it. I was never able to replace it.
That was the end of my following Paula Abdul until I stumbled upon her Head Over Heels album by accident in December of 1995. (Yeah, I didn't even know that earlier in 1995 she had released an album because my Dad and Step-Mother kept us kids sheltered.)
To keep things in perspective, we didn’t have the Internet or smartphones back then so aside from the two albums and video collections, I had a hard time following Paula as a kid.
In December of 1995 at 16 years old I stumbled upon Paula's 3rd studio album, "Head Over Heels" during a shopping trip at the mall with my Aunt Debbie on Christmas vacation in Oregon. I remember I was mesmerized the first time I heard "Crazy Cool". The song was cool, sexy and psychedelic sounding. "It's All About Feeling Good" was classic Paula Abdul fun. Then "Ho Down". WOW! Another amazing dance song but this time Paula is rapping and there's the jazzy/funky beats that I loved in "Vibeology".
I was still living in Nebraska- but now that I was old enough my Father and Step Mother enrolled me in Job Corp. I was studying culinary arts at the time and used to get up at 4:50am to get breakfast ready for 200 people. I remember I would listen to "Head Over Heels" while walking to the kitchen from the dorm. I also loved "Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up" but "Ho Down" was definitely a stand-out song for me.
Imagine my surprise in 1997 when I moved back to Oregon and learned that a song called "Crazy Love" existed on the Japanese edition of "Head Over Heels." The internet was still in its infancy but a great guy named Jon Kallis had the ability to hear a sample of "Crazy Love" on his Paula Abdul web site at the time along with news bits, info, photos, etc. I would eventually get a copy of the Japanese import.
I think "Crazy Love" is such a strong song, it's sad it was not featured as a single on the U.S. album. It would have done better than "My Love Is For Real." Jon is a really great web designer and had one of the best Paula Abdul web sites on the internet at the time. We would meet 19 years later in Las Vegas. (In 2016)
At the end of 1997 Paula Abdul was the guest star on "Muppets Tonight" and anyone who knows me and knows how much I like Paula, also knows how much I love the Muppets. It was really neat seeing Paula interact with characters I have admired my entire life.
The synopsis of the show includes a crazed robot of President Lincoln that runs amuck throughout the Muppet Studios while Clifford repeatedly tries to grab a kiss from Paula Abdul. Paula sings "Opposites Attract" with Clifford and "Lean On Me" with the Muppets.
In 1997 I would launch my own Paula Abdul web site for two main reasons. The first was based on a bet with my brother Byron that I would never learn HTML or build web sites. The second, I was tired of visiting multiple incomplete fan sites to try and get news on any possible Paula songs or albums that might be coming out. I wanted to build one complete web site that contained everything in one convenient place.
After spending countless hours working on the site, I've kept it going for 20 years this year. It made no sense to stop working on it after so many wonderful experiences I've enjoyed because of it. My love and admiration for Paula lives on. The cool thing is now I can share the love with my wife and kids who also enjoy Paula's wonderful music. I've always been a promoter of all things Paula.
Who else could make singing about a topic as serious as breast cancer as fun as Paula Abdul? My kids, my wife and I all love Paula Abdul’s “Check Yourself” music video and thought she did a fantastic job when we all saw her perform at The Total Package Tour.
I've never gotten carried away with my admiration. Photos of Paula don't grace the walls of my home - except for the ones of me with Paula. It's not an obsession - I haven't seen every episode of everything she's done... I have a healthy admiration and respect for the fun, the dance, and the music that Paula Abdul has brought into my life. For that, I am grateful.