|Feb 23rd, 2001
After a hiatus of four years, Paula Abdul has returned with a third album that will make her fans' tongues glisten in appreciation. ""HEAD OVER HEELS"" is a construction of fantastic commercial width, showcasing Ms. Abdul as something like an updated version of Motown's classic sophisto-pop icon, Diana Ross.
""HEAD OVER HEELS"" evokes a range of styles and eras. The arrangements, moods and even studio settings vary enough from song to song that a listener not holding the CD booklet in his or her hand might imagine that they are listening to a career retrospective of some sort. This format proves to be an extremely effective way to highlight the degree to which Ms. Abdul's voice and presence can mold material into her own sultry image. Like Ms. Ross, Abdul is not an overly powerful singer, but her ability to own the tunes she sings is never in doubt here.
The album is a virtual history lesson in the development of the pop/R&B mainstream from the mid-1960s to date. ""Crazy Cool"" has a call and response format, and shuffling style, that's reminiscent of mid-'60s ballads by the Supremes. ""Under The Influence"" is a pure blast of swirling, guitar-reamed psychedelic soul that owes equal debts to the Beatles and Curtis Mayfield. ""I Never Knew It"" is a sweet reprise of early 1970s AM soul-pop readymades, even including a little spoken insert by Paula that typifies the era's song constructions. ""Love Don't Come Easy"" has a campy, Cuban production flavor and Carmen Miranda-like detailing that would have made it a dance hit in the dawn of the pre-disco '70s. The album's first single, ""My Love Is For Real,"" points toward the future with its smoky middle eastern stylings and guest vocals by Ofra Haza.
There are a bunch of other songs, obviously. They all fit in at various points of Ms. Abdul's journey and each, in its way, is a self-contained gem of karmic realization. Indeed, the only possible complaint anyone could have about this album is that those songs on which Ms. Abdul plays a spurned lover have a patina of textual inauthenticity. For if a person of Ms. Abdul's beauty, talent and societal stature cannot be assured of returned affection, what hope do any of us have? I mean, really?
Purchase "Head Over Heels" on Amazon or iTunes
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