Paula Abdul Releases First No. 1 Hit Single “Straight Up”
On November 22, 1988, Jewish singer, performer, choreographer, and television personality Paula Abdul released her single “Straight Up” from her debut album, Forever Your Girl. The song became Abdul’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1989.
Abdul was born in San Fernando, California, in 1962. Her father, Harry Abdul, was of Syrian-Jewish descent. He was born in Aleppo, Syria, and raised in Brazil before emigrating to the United States. Her mother, Lorraine Abdul, is of Canadian-Jewish descent. In 2013, Abdul became a Lit. "daughter of the commandment." A girl who has reached legal-religious maturity and is now obligated to fulfill the commandmentsBat Mitzvah at the age of 51 in a ceremony in Safed, Israel.
After success choreographing music videos for artists such as Janet Jackson in the late 1980s, Abdul sought to become a musical artist herself and signed to Virgin Records, where she began working on Forever Your Girl in 1987. Though the first two singles from the album garnered little buzz, “Straight Up” brought the album immense popularity; Forever Your Girl sold over 7 million copies and became a No. 1 album 64 weeks after its initial release. The music video for “Straight Up,” directed by David Fincher and choreographed by Abdul, earned the singer four MTV Music Video Awards in 1989. The music video for another song from Forever Your Girl, “Opposites Attract,” earned Abdul a Grammy Award in 1991.
Following the success of Forever Your Girl, Abdul released the albums Spellbound (1991) and Head Over Heels (1995). She then moved on from releasing music and became a judge on American Idol! in 2001. In her eight years on the show, Abdul was praised for her kind approach to judging, especially compared to notoriously harsh judge Simon Cowell. The show was nominated for Emmy Awards yearly from 2003 to 2007 and Abdul won a Teen Choice Award in 2003 for her role as a judge. Since leaving the show in 2009, she has continued to offer kind-hearted mentorship to young artists as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance? and Dancing With the Stars.
Though critics at times questioned the strength of Abdul’s singing voice, her talent as a dancer and choreographer remained undisputed and helped her stand out as an exciting performer. Through her choreography for other artists, her popular music videos, and the artistic mentorship she continues to give contestants on reality TV competitions, Abdul has left a distinctive mark on dance, choreography, and pop performance.
Dominguez, Alessa. “How ‘Forever Your Girl’ Made Paula Abdul the Original Britney.” BuzzFeed News, June 13, 2018. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/alessadominguez/paula-abdul-forever-your-girl-pop-princess.
Hall, Carla. “Paula Abdul, Soaring Straight Up.” The Washington Post, March 25, 1990. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/style/1990/03/25/paula-abdul-soaring-straight-up/b11d0418-7754-4e56-84fb-000f5a215bff/.
Parker, Lyndsey, and Lyndsey Parker. “Paula Abdul’s Favorite Choreography Moments of Her Career.” Rolling Stone, July 18, 2014. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/paula-abduls-favorite-cho….
“Paula Abdul.” Grammy.com, 2021. https://www.grammy.com/artists/paula-abdul/419.
“Paula Abdul Stuns Crowd with Performance in Memory of Her Jewish Father.” The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2019. https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/paula-abdul-stuns-crowd-with-performance-in-memory-of-her-jewish-father-588509.
“WATCH: Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ Bat Mitzvah.” HuffPost, November 6, 2013. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/paula-abdul-bat-mitzvah-video-israel_n_4226165.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Paula Abdul Releases First No. 1 Hit Single “Straight Up”." (Viewed on September 30, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/nov/22/1988/paula-abdul-releases-first-no-1-hit-single-straight>.