Paula Abdul's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Paula Abdul
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for WE 

Paula Abdul walks on stage during WE Day Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 20, 2016 in St Paul, Minn.

From being a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers to choreographing videos for such iconic artists as The Jacksons, Paula Abdul was already enjoying a successful career at the time of the release of her first single in 1988. However, once the third single from Forever Your Girl was released (“Straight Up”), school was out. Abdul wasn’t going to be in the background any longer.

The next five years would see many career highs for the singer, and though it’s been over two decades since she last released a new album, her hits of the late '80s and early '90s are a reminder of all that was hip, cool and fresh about the music from that period. For fans who know her primarily for her stint as the “Nice Judge” on American Idol, check out these clips to learn how a true entertainer does it.

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10. Paula Abdul - "Ain’t Never Gonna Give You Up"

You might be scratching your head at the inclusion of this 1995 single on this list of the most memorable Paula Abdul songs. After all, the record was the first single release from the singer not to enter the Hot 100, but this isn’t titled Paula Abdul’s Biggest Hits. This track from her Head Over Heels disc had a groove to remember, thanks to her exuberant charm and the luscious harmonies of Color Me Badd, who guested on the song. 

9. Paula Abdul - "The Promise of A New Day"

Despite the sunny title and upbeat outlook that Abdul exuded in this song, this hit became the final of six chart-toppers from Abdul on the Hot 100, where it peaked in September of that year. The uptempo number came from her Spellbound disc. 

8. Paula Abdul - "Alright Tonight"

The best of Abdul’s non-singles, this song also represented one of her biggest stretches musically. The energetic track -- one of the top tracks from 1991’s Spellbound -- was written by critically acclaimed singer-songwriter John Hiatt.

7. Paula Abdul - "Forever Your Girl"

Thanks to the success of “Straight Up,” the songstress was on a roll -- one that continued full steam ahead into 1989. In the song, she pledged her undying love and affection to her guy, regardless of what rumors he might be hearing around town. The memorable video for this song poked a little good-natured fun at Robert Palmer’s videos of the day, with three little girls dressed up as Palmer’s guitarists did in clips for “Addicted To Love” and “Simply Irresistible.”

6. Paula Abdul - "My Love Is For Real"

Abdul had taken a few years off from the spotlight while battling bulimia. Though the public’s musical tastes had changed in the four years since she had released new music, the singer was able to make a minor dent in the Hot 100 one last time with this 1995 single, peaking at No. 28. The video for this Paula Abdul song, the set’s first single, was as innovative from a dance element as any of her earlier clips, and the track -- though not on par with her early commercial successes -- showed a more sensual side of the singer, one that radio missed out on. 

5. Paula Abdul - "Opposites Attract"

The sixth and final off Forever Your Girl was very memorable for its cute video clip, which introduced the world to MC Skat Cat, a cartoon character that was inspired -- of sorts -- by the Gene Kelly film Anchors Aweigh, where the dancer performed with Jerry from the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. Still using her choreographic skills, the singer actually matched the character’s moves to her own -- making for a video popular with fans of all ages!

4. Paula Abdul - "The Way That You Love Me"

By 1989, videos were just as important in the world of pop music as the songs themselves, and the clip for this single from Forever Your Girl featured another side of Abdul’s extensive dance moves, allowing the performer to dazzle with her tap dancing. The track was originally released in August 1988, but failed to make a significant impact, hitting No. 88. However, with the success of three straight No. 1 singles, Virgin decided to roll the dice again on the song, and were it not for Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It On The Rain,” the song would have went the distance.

3. Paula Abdul - "Rush, Rush"

For the first single from Spellbound in the spring of 1991, there was a little bit of a shift in the singer’s musical direction. This dreamy track represented her first pure ballad ever sent to radio, and we would be willing to bet the farm that the song served as the soundtrack for many special moments between couples that summer. All in all, this Paula Abdul song spent five weeks atop the Hot 100, and spawned a video that was inspired by Rebel Without a Cause, with the singer and Keanu Reeves stepping into the roles of Judy and Jim.

2. Paula Abdul - "Straight Up"

After two singles failed to yield a hit at radio, Paula Abdul was still looking for a hit. With this song -- released to radio in February 1989 -- she did just that. The single parked at the pinnacle of the charts, and the tune’s video clip netted her four MTV Video Music Awards that fall.

1. Paula Abdul - "Cold Hearted"

The third Paula Abdul song to top the Hot 100, this rollicking number about a man set to get his eventual comeuppance flowed with a groove that had fans singing along, and the video no doubt stayed in the imaginations of fans throughout the world featuring Abdul in fishnet stockings and her dance troupe performing moves that were directed by David Fincher and were very much inspired by Bob Fosse’s work in All That Jazz.