First Hit #1: February 11, 1989
Straight Up is one of those songs that makes a career. For Paula Abdul, it made a new career. Abdul was probably best known for being a choreographer at this point in her career, something that is reflected in the somewhat self-indulgent tap-dance intro to the video for Straight Up – tap dancing is often self-indulgent. There was nothing wrong with her choreography career up to that point – she did the piano scene in Big, that’s a pinnacle right there – but for whatever reason she decided to become a pop star, and it was fantastic. Abdul made a perfect pop single in Straight up, a demand for clarity in a relationship that is also exciting, fresh and unique, in spite of it not being that far off from any prevailing trends. Abdul made something fun, and she had impeccable instincts – I’m not sure her voice has amazing range, but she knows exactly how to get the most out of it, and she has made a song that plays to her strengths as a singer above else. It’s an earworm, and it manages to feel fresh and exciting without going too far from what people want from their ’80s hits. Whatever she’s done in her career since, this is the song that changed her from Paula Abdul, choreographer, to Paula Abdul, star.