On this day in 1989, Paula Abdul hit #1 in the U.S. with her break through song, “Straight Up”. Before Paula was a singer, she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers and a dancer. Abdul was discovered by The Jacksons, after a few of the band members had watched her while attending a Los Angeles Lakers game. She was signed to do the choreography for the video to their single “Torture“. Then after working with Janet Jackson on videos for “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” she became an in-demand choreographer. She went on to work with ZZ Top (“Velcro Fly“), and Debbie Gibson (“Shake Your Love“), as well as the giant keyboard scene involving Tom Hanks’s character in Big (1988), before starting her own career as a singer.
Although, “Straight Up” was Abdul’s breakthrough hit, it was the third single released from her debut album, Forever Your Girl. Her record company didn’t hear the hit potential in this song, so they released “Knocked Out” as her debut single since it was written and produced by Babyface and L.A. Reid. It peaked out at #41. Next was “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me,” which topped out at #88. When the San Francisco radio station KMEL started playing “Straight Up,” it forced the hand of her record company, which released it as her third single. After this song topped the charts, the next three releases, “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted” and “Opposites Attract” all went to the top, making Forever Your Girl one of the most successful debut albums in history. This would also be the best selling single of 1989.
The video was directed by David Fincher, who also directed Madonna’s “Vogue” and went on to direct the movies Seven, The Game and Fight Club. The music video won MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Dance, Best Choreography and Best Editing.