In the wake of Madonna's success, many dance-pop divas filled the charts, but out of them all, Paula Abdul was the only one who sustained a career. The former L.A. Lakers cheerleader and choreographer began to make inroads in pop music when she was hired as an assistant dance director on the Jacksons' Victory tour, which led to a job choreographing Janet Jackson's videos for Control. Abdul's work on Jackson's videos helped make the album a hit, making her a sought-after choreographer. After working on The Tracy Ullman Show and videos for ZZ Top, Duran Duran, and the Pointer Sisters, Abdul began a recording career, releasing her debut album, Forever Your Girl, in 1988. The first two singles drawn from the record were moderate hits, but the release of "Straight Up" at the end of the year made her a superstar. Staying at the top of the charts for three weeks, "Straight Up" began a string of six number one singles (with "The Way That You Love Me" recharting at number three in 1989) that ran through the summer of 1991.
Abdul's singles were hits not because her singing was exceptional -- her voice is thin and transparent -- but because she worked with savvy producers who had a knack for picking songs with solid pop and dance hooks. Abdul's spectacular big-budget videos helped push the sales of Forever Your Girl past seven million in the U.S. alone. While her second album, 1991's Spellbound, wasn't as successful, it still sold over three million copies and spent two weeks at number one.
After Spellbound, Abdul took a few years off. During that time, she successfully fought a lawsuit filed by a former backup singer who alleged it was she, not Abdul, who had sung on Forever Your Girl. Abdul released her third studio effort, Head Over Heels, in the summer of 1995, but the album failed to match the success of its two predecessors. The singer withdrew from the spotlight for several years before resurfacing in 2000 to co-write "Spinning Around" for Kylie Minogue. Debuting at the top of the charts in Australia and the U.K., the single effectively relaunched Minogue's career, and Abdul experienced a similar surge in popularity when she joined the judging panel of American Idol in 2002. Her positive comments and erratic behavior made her a household name to millions of young T.V. viewers who hadn't grown up with Abdul's music. Rumors began to circulate in 2007 about Abdul's return to the studio, and a statement on her website in January 2008 confirmed them, promising a new Abdul album by that summer. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine