|Jul 23rd, 2002
Paula Abdul Is Spellbound
By Regis D'Angiolini
CDNOW Copy Editor
Now, Paula Abdul may only register as a 15-minute blip on the radar of pop music history, but in the late 1980s and early '90s, she was one of the hottest female performers on the planet. Her debut album, "Forever Your Girl", launched the former Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader and choreographer into almost instantaneous superstar status with five top 10 singles -- including four that reached the No. 1 slot on the Billboard pop chart. Abdul did not have the strongest vocal chops, and her music may have been little more than ear candy, but her songs made people dance, and her slickly produced music, elaborate choreography, and first-rate videos made her an MTV sensation.
Abdul followed her chart-topping debut with 1991's Spellbound, an album that wasn't the musical behemoth its predecessor was, but showed she had staying power. Spellbound went triple platinum and produced another string of top 40 hits; this time, however, Abdul's music took a turn, producing soulful ballads and a collection of dance songs that had a harder edge to them -- mostly the result of Abdul's collaboration with funkmeisters the Family Stand.
With production and song writing credits that also included Prince (credited as "Paisley Park") and legendary hitmaker Don Was, Spellbound opens with the anthemic "Promise of a New Day," an irresistible, uptempo tune weighted by thoughtful lyrics and airy, multi-layered backing vocals. "Rock House" picks up the pace as it sails over a barrage of electric-guitar hooks and a jumping bass line, while the ballads "Rush Rush" and the elegant "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" lend Abdul a musical depth that many of her other songs lack. The latter's mood-inducing chord progressions, sleek string section, and intricate keyboard intro make it one of the album's most memorable songs.
Of all of Spellbound's tracks, however, it's the jazzy soul-dance groove "Vibeology" that is the album's centerpiece. The song -- a powerhouse of saxophone, droning bass, and low-octave piano hooks -- displays the Family Stand at its funkiest, employing an assortment of campy background vocals and quirky interspersed voices behind Abdul's chirps and howls. "Vibeology" should have been a much bigger hit -- it's one of Abdul's most original -- but it proved too avant-garde for many listeners as it peaked at only No. 16 when it was released as a single in early 1992.
Ironically, the title of the last song on Spellbound, posed a question -- whether intended or not -- to fans: "Will You Marry Me?" Many rejected this proposal as Abdul's next album, 1995's "Head Over Heels", did poorly compared to its predecessors. Abdul has not released an album of new material since. Still, Spellbound serves as a reminder that, as fleeting as her heyday may have been, Abdul was at one time one of the biggest dance-pop icons in music.
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Filed under: Spellbound