Friday, January 17, 2014

Paula Abdul, The #43 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Abdul was born in San Fernando, California.  She began taking dance lessons early in life in ballet, jazz and tap.  She was a cheerleader and an honor student at Van Nuys High School, graduating in 1978.  In 1980, she appeared in the low-budget independent movie, Junior High School.

Abdul studied broadcasting at California-Northridge.  In her freshman year, Paula was selected from over 700 candidates for the cheerleading squad of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team.  Within a year, she became head choreographer of the Laker Girls.

In fact, Abdul was discovered by the Jacksons, after a few members of the group had watched her while attending a Lakers game.  The Jacksons signed Paula to do the choreography for the video to their single "Torture".  The success of that video propelled Abdul to high demand as a choreographer, as it was the height of music videos.  She was chosen to be the choreographer for the Jacksons' Victory tour.

Abdul choreographed many videos during the 1980's, including videos for the Control album for Janet Jackson.  As choreographer, Abdul won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography in a Video for Jackson's "Nasty".  She choreographed sequences for the giant keyboard scene in the movie Big starring Tom Hanks.  She also has choreographed for the movies Jerry Maguire, The Running Man, Action Jackson, American Beauty, Coming to America and Oliver Stone's The Doors.  

In 1987, Abdul won an American Music Award for Choreography on the ZZ Top video for "Velcro Fly".  She used her own savings to make a demo tape, although her voice was relatively untrained.  She worked tirelessly on her singing, helped by her vocal coach and producers.  She released a pair of singles, achieving a Top 10 on the R&B chart with "(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me". 

In 1988, Paula released her debut album Forever Your Girl.  The LP showed both its overall strength and longevity when it took 64 weeks to reach #1 on the Album chart, and then stayed there for 10.  The lead single was an out-and-out smash, reaching #1 for four weeks in the United States, #1 in the Netherlands, #2 in Sweden and Norway, #3 in the U.K., Germany and Switzerland, and Top 10 nearly everywhere in the world.

Abdul was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Straight Up".  Paula's choreography experience served her well in her solo career.  Her video for "Straight Up" was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards, and it won four:  Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, Best Choreography in a Video, and Best Editing in a Video.

The album would go on to sell over seven million copies in the United States alone, one of the biggest debut albums in music history.  The follow-up was "Forever Your Girl", well chosen because it gave Paula her second consecutive #1 song in the U.S. and Canada.

Abdul won Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist at the American Music Awards, a remarkable and nearly unprecedented achievement for a new artist.  She also won the award for Favorite Dance Artist and was nominated for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist and Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Forever Your Girl.  "Cold Hearted" made it three in a row for the likable new star, reaching #1 in the U.S. and #2 in Canada.

Abdul re-released "(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me", and this time, it landed at #3 in the United States and #5 in Canada.

The album was becoming a blockbuster, and a fifth single was culled from the release, and amazingly, "Opposites Attract" became her fourth #1 from the album in the United States, Canada and Australia; it was #2 in the U.K. and #4 in the Netherlands.

The video for "Opposites Attract" won the Grammy for Best Music Video, and earned Abdul six more MTV Video Music nominations--Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, Best Breakthrough Video, Best Direction, Best Choreography and Best Special Effects. 

In 1989, Abdul was further recognized for her work when she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for The Tracey Ullman Show.  The following year, Paula won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for The 17th Annual American Music Awards.  She also captured the People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer.

In 1991, Abdul released the album Spellbound, which sold three million copies in the U.S. and seven million copies worldwide.  The first single was "Rush, Rush", yet another #1 song for five consecutive weeks.    It was also #1 in Canada, #2 in Australia, and a Top 10 smash worldwide.

Abdul was nominated for another MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video for "Rush Rush".  Paula starred in a popular Diet Coke commercial in which she danced with a digital image of her idol, a young Gene Kelly.  Paula was on fire, and she scored another #1 with "The Promise Of A New Day", #1 in the U.S. and #2 in Canada.

Paula won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer for the second straight year.  In December, Abdul was honored with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an amazing accomplishment for just two albums.  It may sound strange, but her #6 hit "Blowing Kisses In The Wind" was nonetheless underrated.

Abdul uncharacteristically placed her next two singles ("Vibeology" and "Marry Me") outside of the Top 10.  She successfully battled the eating disorder bulimia nervosa, but she released just one album after that--Head Over Heels in 1995, and had no other Top 10 songs.

In 1997, Abdul starred in the ABC television movie Touched by Evil.  She co-wrote "Spinning Around" with the intention of releasing it as the lead single for another album.  But the project never materialized, and the song was given to Kylie Minogue, who enjoyed a #1 hit in several countries around the world.      

Although Abdul wasn't recording, she continued to serve as the choreographer for several movies, including the remake of Reefer Madness in 1998.  

Abdul burst into the limelight again when she appeared as one of three judges for the wildly popular music competition show American Idol.  Paula served in that capacity from 2002-2009, earning $5 million per season, and she drove ratings sky high for the show.  She received two straight nominations at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for Idol in 2002 and 2003.  Abdul also was a judge on the U.K. talent show The X Factor.  

In 2007, Paula premiered her own jewelry in the U.S., which resulted in 15 sellouts of her first jewelry collection involving over 34,000 pieces.  In 2010, Abdul co-founded, a website that allows aspiring talents to connect with casting directors, producers, and managers.

Abdul is tied with Diana Ross for sixth among female solo performers with six #1 songs in her career.  Had she recorded more albums, Abdul would have ranked much higher.  But her string of chart success in a short period is phenomenal, nonetheless.

Paula has sold over 21 million albums worldwide.  Abdul hasn't generated the number of hits that some others in this range have; she makes it here on the quality of those hits, giving us some of the greatest songs of her time.  She racked up 11 hits in eight years, with eight Top 10 songs (73% of her hits) and 6 #1's (54.5% of her hits).

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