Before she became best known as a judge on the likes of “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and “The Masked Dancer,” Paula Abdul was ruling the charts with songs like Straight Up, Forever Your Girl, and Opposites Attract. She may only have released three albums, but they were successful enough to make her one of the biggest stars of the ’80s and ’90s. Her first album was one of the most successful debuts from the era, selling seven million copies in the US and setting a new record for the most Hot 100 No. 1 singles from a debut album. Her videos were just as popular as her songs, earning 17 MTV Music Video nominations along with a Grammy for Best Music Video for Opposites Attract. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Paula Abdul songs of all time.
10. Alright Tonight
Kicking off our list of the 10 best Paula Abdul songs of all time is Alright Tonight. Despite never being released as a single, the song, which was written by singer-songwriter John Hiatt, remains a firm favorite with Abdul’s fans… and proof of why the deep cuts can sometimes be just as exciting as the big hits. A lively, energetic number with a great vocal from Abdul, it’s a definite highlight of the singer’s 1991 album, Spellbound.
9. The Promise of A New Day
Released as the second single from Abdul’s 1991 album, Spellbound, The Promise of A New Day is a bright, upbeat tune that finds Abdul feeling in a particularly optimistic mood about her relationship and the future. Written by Peter Lord and V. Jeffrey Smith, the song was a major hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1991 and bringing Bryan Adams’ seemingly unstoppable rein at the top with Everything I Do (I Do It For You) to an end. Although she seemed unbeatable at the time, The Promise of a New Day was the last of Abdul’s single to ever reach the number one spot.
8. Ain’t Never Gonna Give You Up
Ain’t Never Gonna Give You Up was released as the third and final single from Abdul’s third studio album Head Over Heels in January 1996. Written by Bryan Abrams, Curtis “Fitz” Williams, Elliot Wolff, Howie Tee, Kevin Thornton, and Mark Calderon, the song picked up a ton of airplay, helping it become Abdul’s first top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1992. With some lovely backing harmonies from Color Me Badd and an exuberant performance from Abdul, it’s the kind of song that’s impossible not to groove to.
7. My Love Is For Real
After taking four years away from the recording studio, Abdul made her return in 1995 with her third studio album Head Over Heels. My Love Is For Real was released as the album’s first single in May 1995. It was intended to be Adbul’s major comeback, but times had changed in the years she’d been away, and not all of her audience had stayed loyal. Although it reached No. 1 in Hungary and broke into the top 20 in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, the single failed to make an impression in Europe and only managed to make a small dent in the US charts, peaking at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. For all that, it’s still a great song, with a catchy beat and some very sensual vocals from Abdul.
6. Opposites Attract
Even if the song itself was terrible (which it’s not), Opposites Attract would still deserve a place on our list for introducing the world to MC Skat Kat, the cute cartoon character inspired by the Gene Kelly film “Anchors Aweigh,” where Kelly dances with Jerry from the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon series. The video snagged the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video while the song as one of “the liveliest cuts” from One or the Other) became one of the biggest dance-pop singles of 1990, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the charts in Canada and Australia and peaking at No. 2 in the UK.
5. Forever Your Girl
After scoring her breakthrough with the hit single Straight Up, Abdul continued her roll of success with Forever Your Girl. The song, which finds Abdul pledging to stay faithful to the man she loves, became her second chart-topper from her eponymous debut album, spending two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1989.
4. Rush, Rush
As Billboard writes, Abdul’s first single from her 1991 album Spellbound represented a shift in musical direction for the singer, becoming her first pure ballad ever sent to radio. It was a risky move, but one that more than paid off. Not only was it a hit with the critics, but it was a smash with the public, spending five consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. It’s since been named the 16th most successful song of the 1990s in the US by Billboard.
3. The Way That You Love Me
According to Song Facts, The Way That You Love Me was first released in November 1988 as the second single from Forever Your Girl. That time around, it failed to make much of an impression, charting at a disappointing No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100. But after Abdul’s next three singles went to No. 1, her record label decided to give it another shot at success – a move that was vindicated when the single shot to No. 3 on the Hot 100 in September 1989.
2. Cold Hearted
With a dance-worthy groove, an unforgettable music video, and a dazzling performance from Abdul, this story about a man set to get his comeuppance is impossible to resist. Released in June 1989 as the fifth single from Forever Your Girl, Cold Hearted soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, spending eight weeks in the top ten and ranking sixth in Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100.
1. Straight Up
The first two singles from Forever Your Girl failed to make any ripples in the charts. But before anyone had a chance to write her off, Abdul released Straight Up, a mid-tempo dance number written and produced by Elliott Wolff. Released as the album’s third single on November 22, 1988, it quickly started picking up major airplay. By February 11, 1989, it had climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top 10 in over 11 other countries. Later that year, it picked up six nominations at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.