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Paula Abdul Hit Songs: 11 of the ’80s Pop Star’s Most Danceable Tracks

They're "Straight Up" fabulous!


With her expert dance moves and wildly catchy songs, Paula Abdul was one of the pop goddesses who defined the late ’80s with hit songs like “Straight Up,” “Opposites Attract” and “Forever Your Girl.” Each track topped the charts, and their stylish music videos were MTV staples. While Abdul only released three albums, she continued to stay in the spotlight through her seven-year run as an American Idol judge in the aughts.

Paula Abdul in 1989
Paula Abdul in 1989Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty

Abdul had plenty of success even before she was a pop star. She started out as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers and soon became a choreographer, working with the likes of Janet Jackson, Debbie Gibson and Taylor Dayne. Her choreography background came through in all her music videos (who could forget her dancing up a storm with an animated cat?) and her songs remain delightful to sing and dance along to — even if we may not quite have her moves! Here are 11 of the best Paula Abdul hit songs, for your nostalgic listening pleasure.

1. “Straight Up” (1988)

This sassy plea to an unreliable lover was Paula Abdul’s first big hit, and over 30 years after it was released, it remains a gem of ultra-catchy pop goodness — it’s impossible not to sing along with the “oh oh oh”s and “ah-buh-buh-buh-bye buh-buh-buh-buh-bye”!

The sleek black-and-white music video, which opens with the singer showing off her impressive tap-dancing moves (and features appearances by talk show host Aresnio Hall and actor Djimon Hounsou), helped cement the song as one of the ultimate late-’80s confections.

2. “Opposites Attract” (1988)

This bouncy pop-meets-hip-hop tune features a truly unforgettable, Grammy-winning music video in which Abdul dances with a street-smart, rapping cartoon cat. ’80s kids everywhere were mesmerized, and the song was so popular that the cartoon (known as MC Skat Kat) had an album of its own, The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob, in 1991!

3. “Forever Your Girl” (1988)

The title track off Abdul’s massively successful debut album, “Forever Your Girl,” is the embodiment of the singer’s bubbly energy.

Even with all the ’80s production (hello, drum machine!) there’s an old-fashioned sweetness and simplicity to the song. As Abdul said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “I always feel like I was born in the wrong era. I grew up being obsessed with MGM musicals,” and it definitely comes through in her signature song.

4. “Cold Hearted” (1988)

This kiss-off to a bad boy (or, as she puts it, “a cold-hearted snake”) featured another memorable music video that this time took things in a sexy direction. In the video, Abdul and her fellow dancers gyrate around a sculptural set of scaffolding, in a visual homage to director/choreographer Bob Fosse‘s classic 1979 film All That Jazz.

The legacy of the video (and the movie) lives on: Just this year, millennial pop diva Ariana Grande used similar visuals in the video for her song “Yes, And?

5. “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me” (1988)

Abdul’s 1988 debut album, Forever Your Girl, spawned five top-10 singles and went platinum seven times over. The dance club-ready “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me” was one of these hits, but it had a surprisingly circuitous path to the top.

The song was Abdul’s second-ever single, and at first it didn’t receive much notice. After the wild breakout success of “Straight Up,” “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted” and “Opposites Attract,” all that changed, as it was re-released in 1989 and ended up a hit.

6. “Blowing Kisses in The Wind” (1991)

Abdul’s sophomore album, Spellbound, was released in 1991 and produced a number of hits. While many Paula Abdul hit songs are known for their danceable energy, “Blowing Kisses in the Wind” is a power ballad built around a dramatic metaphor.

7. “Rush Rush” (1991)

“Rush Rush” is another tender ballad, and in typical Paula Abdul fashion, it had another cinematic music video. The video for the slow-dance-ready song paid tribute to the iconic 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, with none other than Keanu Reeves in the James Dean role.

The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed there for an impressive five weeks, making it the biggest of Paula Abdul hit songs.

8. “The Promise Of A New Day” (1991) Paula Abdul hit songs

The peppy “Promise of a New Day” holds the distinction of being Abdul’s final number one single to date. The video for the song wasn’t as successful as her previous efforts, as it was filmed in Hawaii, with Abdul awkwardly composited into the scene and shot using a lens meant to make her look taller.

9. “Vibeology” (1991) Paula Abdul hit songs

In the early ’90s, house music was taking over dancefloors, and Abdul got in on the fun with this funky track. Abdul played the song at the VMAs, starting out dressed in a suit and fake mustache, before taking it off and revealing a sparkling leotard, in a performance that famously received mixed reviews.

10. “Will You Marry Me?” (1991) Paula Abdul hit songs

While Abdul didn’t write the majority of her songs, she co-wrote “Will You Marry Me?” and the song had personal significance, as it was released right after she announced her high-profile engagement to Emilio Estevez (the actor/pop star couple would split in 1994). The song is also notable for featuring the legendary Stevie Wonder on harmonica.

11. “My Love Is For Real” (1995) Paula Abdul hit songs

Abdul’s final album, Head Over Heels, didn’t make as much of a splash as her previous two, but the single “My Love Is for Real” made it into the top 40, peaking at number 28 on the pop charts. The song marked a stylistic departure, as it incorporated elements of Middle Eastern music, including backing vocals from the Israeli singer Ofra Haza.

Read on for more of our favorite ’80s music!

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