Paula Abdul is about to start performing a new round of dates in her “Forever Your Girl” Las Vegas residency, and you can be sure she’ll be incorporating her signature dance moves alongside the hits that made her famous, including “Opposites Attract,” “Cold Hearted” and “Straight Up.”
Those songs have been with Abdul for 31 years, appearing on her 1988 debut album, “Forever Your Girl.” At the time of its release, Abdul was already a successful dancer, choreographer and cheerleader. Although she didn’t have experience as a singer and musical artist, she was eager to find a way to break in. Luckily, she found just the thing that would take her career to the next level.
But it almost didn’t happen.
Abdul’s mom Lorraine, who worked in the film industry as an assistant to movie director Billy Wilder, had her own assistant whose boyfriend, musician and producer Elliot Wolff, had written a few songs.
“My mother’s young assistant walked up to my mother and said, ‘Miss Abdul, my boyfriend’s an aspiring songwriter.’ And my mom said, ‘Who’s he written for?’ And she goes, ‘Well, nobody that’s notable yet, but can I submit a song from him?’ And my mom said, ‘Sure,’” Abdul recalled in an interview with HuffPost at Build Series.
Shortly after that, Abdul made her weekly visit to her parents’ house for “chicken and Rice-a-Roni.” Her mom told her about Wolff’s demo, calling it “the most God-awful thing you’ve ever heard.” Still, her mom played Abdul the cassette.
“It was like an eight-track recording with someone plunking on a computer and singing notes that I’ve never heard of, like in-between notes. It was strange. We were laughing and crying, and my mother threw it in the trash can. And I dug it out of the trash can and said, ‘There’s something really cool about this song.’”
That song was “Straight Up.”
Abdul soon approached her record company with Wolff’s demo.
“They looked at me like, are you crazy?” said Abdul. But she begged the label to let her record the song.
When the record executives agreed, Abdul recorded the track, along with Wolff’s other song, “Cold Hearted,” inside his small apartment ― in the shower, she said. Abdul told HuffPost that in the original master recordings, you could actually hear a neighbor banging on the wall next door and shouting “Shut up!”
“Straight Up” hit No. 1, and with the success of subsequent singles as well, Abdul became the first woman to notch four No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles off a debut album.
“That changed my life,” she said.
Eternally grateful, Abdul doesn’t tire of performing the song live, especially in Vegas.
“It’s very interactive with the audience. It’s a visual feast. Everyone’s standing up and singing,” she said of her stage show, which incorporates theatrics and storytelling. And yes, MC Skat Kat, the animated cartoon from Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” video, also makes an appearance.
“It’s a different kind of show, and it’s just very joyful. And it’s funny,” she said.
Staying true to her core, Abdul showcases the familiar choreography from hits like “Straight Up,” alongside new moves throughout the concert.
“And in case you’re wondering if I jump off of things, I do. And I get it over within the very first number!”
Check out the full Build Series interview with Paula Abdul below, and go here to see her dates at the Flamingo Las Vegas.