Todays’ POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless fate, is the 1990 remix album Shut Up And Dance – The Dance Remixes by Paula Abdul.
This 12 track album features a number of remixes from Paula’s 1988 hit album Forever Your Girl, and the release of this album saw the beginning of the concept of the remix album format.
The album opens samples of Paula’s vocals before breaking into the beat of Cold Hearted (Quiverin’ 12″). This is a heavily sampled 12″ version of her 5th single from 1989, complete with record scratches, however it manages to retain a recognisable form. This track reminds me musically of something you’d find on the Betty Boo debut Boomania. This is aided by the fact that it includes a somewhat Boo-sounding rap by Paula.
This is followed by Straight Up (Ultimix Mix) – a version of my favourite Paula Abdul song – I remember playing the single version of her third single over and over, as it was on my Now That’s What I Call Music 14 LP. The dramatic beats feel emphasised here – making them sound more like Let’s Go All The Way by Sly Fox. Then, after a few awkward ‘ah yeahs‘ (which firmly dates this remix to 1990), the familiar track arrives with little interruption. This is quite a nice version, although at 2m 58s I am 99.9% sure that there’s a robot that in a brief musical pause shouts ‘BITCH!‘ before Paula returns.
One Or The Other (1990 Mix) follows this, and this is one of her album tracks. This remix opens as a near carbon copy (in my opinion) as Michael Jackson‘s hit Bad. If there’s never been a court case over this, then I’d be surprised, but then Paula’s earlier career as a choreographer, led to her choreographing The Jacksons‘ 1984 Victory tour… so maybe it was okay. After a bundle of vocal samples, the bass-heavy mix is pretty mellow, giving Paula plenty of space to deliver some flawless vocals that help turn this into quite a catchy track.
Next up is Forever Your Girl (Frankie Foncett Mix), with remixer and producer Frankie Foncett on the dials of the previous album’s title track. The minimal sounding start reminds me of one some tracks on a few early Deee-Lite albums, although whilst the song gently meanders, the best part of this track is most definitely Paula’s vocals.
Legendary producer Shep Pettibone gives us Knocked Out (Pettibone 12″) – which begins with the sultry breathy samples from Paula – the kind that you’d find in his later work with Madonna (especially hit Vogue). This version follows the theme of ‘knocked out’, with its dramatic synths, and hard beats. A fantastic version, complete with teasing false ending.
This is followed by The Way That You Love Me (Houseafire Edit), which comes bursting in with what sounds like my old Casio keyboard on drums. This was her second solo single, but it floundered at #74 in the UK back in 1988. This remix feels like it may have come from that year, although the sleeve suggests it was really 1989. Not the most innovative mix or exciting track on this album – the original is far better.
What is probably the best-known Paula Abdul track is up next – Opposites Attract (1990 Mix) – a duet with The Wild Pair. This song starts off with a brooding synth bassline before a familiar sounding synth teases you along. Then, Paula and MC Skat Kat arrive to take over. Thankfully there’s enough of the signature sounds form the brilliant original, backed with some nice house piano, to make it a worthy mix, but as they sing – it really is ‘two steps forward, two steps back‘.
Next up is the one and only single from this album 1990 Medley Mix. This track follows on from what had become a fashion around the 1988-1991 era, of releasing a medley – The Brit Awards did it, Technotronic did it, even 2 Unlimited had a go. This was Paula’s go, but unlike those other three, this was much softer and it failed to chart anywhere other than Australia, where it reached #33. The medley includes segments from Straight Up, Knocked Out, Opposites Attract, Forever Your Girl, State Of Attraction, The Way That You Love Me, and Cold Hearted. Essentially, it’s the trailer for the album with segments speeded up by varying degrees and sewn together.
For the US market, the album stopped there. But this is the ‘Exclusive UK Version’, giving us 4 more mixes.
The first of these is Knocked Out (Power Mix), which starts off quite light with beats and the gentle slightly bell-like sounding synth stabs. Paula begins with a ‘oooooh YEAH!‘ and then her soft vocals arrive to take the verse. Despite the title of this mix mentioning ‘Power’, this mix seems to be running a bit low on energy.
Shep Pettibone takes the helm of Opposites Attract (Shep’s Special Mix), which whilst having a really nice beat to it, it doesn’t really stray far from the single version, aside from a few vocal sample and instrumental sections.
He also has the controls for penultimate track Forever Your Girl (Shep’s Special Mix). There’s a bit of a pounding beat and this mix feels like it’s much more pumping that the previous track. The mix seems to keep clear of Paula’s first verse, allowing her vocals to shine somewhat, and allowing the song to build up to the chorus. However, as the track progresses, it kind of loses its momentum.
The album closes with Cold Hearted (Chad Jackson/12″ Re-Mix), which see’s the aforementioned Chad Jackson (who had had a #3 UK hit in 1990 with Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)) takes the controls. There’s no funky saxophone sounds here, but instead this remix builds up well from it’s somewhat muted beginnings. It’s worth sticking with it as it builds, complete with ‘c’mon‘ vocal sample.
Over all, this remix album sounds like a real mixed bag. This could well be because it’s 25 years since it was released, and dance remixes being so contemporary and stylised don’t tend to age so well. However, amongst the weak, there’s some really good versions of her hits here, and some that are worthy counterparts to them.
Whilst this album stalled here in the UK, despite Chad Jackson being included, it reached #7 in the USA, and this album has the honour of being the 5th biggest selling remix album of all time. Until 1997, it was the second biggest selling album – having been outranked by the biggest selling one – Michael Jackson’s 1997 Blood On The Dancefloor (somehow!). Prior to MJ, Madonna had held the top spot. That’s no mean feat, with the likes of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga ranking beneath Paula.
Paula’s role in bringing dance music to the late 80’s pop/rock charts was important, and this album having sold 1 million copies, for the US at least, would have contributed to that genre shift.
Where is Paula Abdul now?
After this album, Paula returned twice more with albums Spellbound (1991) and Head Over Heels (1995), and a host of accompanying singles.
Having co-written Spinning Around, the song went to Kylie Minogue and gave her a #1 comeback single, whilst Paula concentrated on her television career.
Despite only having had 3 top 10 singles in her UK career, she became a judge on varying talent shows, including American Idol, X Factor, and So You Think You Can Dance, during which she’d occasionally perform and release new material. However, a revival of her musical career success remains elusive.
That aside, Paula has sold an estimated 53 million records worldwide.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1990 UK CHART POSITION: #40
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.53 from an eBay seller.