Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1991 second studio album Spellbound from Paula Abdul. Has Paula conjured up a beautiful album, or is it all just witchcraft? Read on…
Yet, out of this album, aside from the singles Rush Rush and Videology, I’m stuck to recognise anything else on it, so let’s get stuck in…
The album opens with The Promise Of A New Day, the second single, but this feels like a somewhat muted start – the soft synth and low-vocals. However, the track does grow, despite it being quite a gentle start, but that wasn’t enough to give her a strong hit single in the UK – it reached #52.
Up next is Rock House, that starts off sounding like her hit Opposites Attract, but soon throws in a thumping beat and some italia house-styled piano. This feels like a return to form, and certainly gives a nod to her highly successful remix album. There’s also strong echoes vocally and musically of Dannii Minogue‘s hit Success from the previous year.
This is followed by lead single, and the wonderful ballad, Rush Rush. This song became the longest running US Billboard number one since Madonna‘s Like A Virgin hit in the mid-80s, although it didn’t fare as well in the UK – but did reach #6. Having Keanu Reeves in the video probably helped. There’s nothing hurried about this song, and it works wonderfully, including a perfect little violin solo.
The pace picks up again for title track Spellbound, which is a nice little pop song, but it was definitely not worthy of a single release.
Aside from Rush Rush, the only other single that I remember from this album is Vibeology, and it’s up next. This has a strong dance feeling – it has a great beat, plenty of vocal snippets, and funky brass. There’s echoes of Madonna’s slinky Vogue track here, and she’s channeling plenty of Janet Jackson too. ‘I’m in a funky way‘ she sings.. and she’s not lying. Sadly, this song only reached #19 in the UK.
Final single Will You Marry Me? is up next, opening with a cheeky little laugh before piano sweeps in. Paula’s vocals are rich here, and she seems to deliver this mid-tempo song with great ease. This single was released at about the same time that she became engaged to Emilio Estevez. Suddenly a harmonica plays.. and it has an unmistakeable style.. yes, it’s Stevie Wonder! Despite this music royalty cameo, the song stalled in the UK singles chart at #73.
Seventh track U is up next, and there’s a growling guitar hook repeated throughout, that reminds me of Tone-Loc‘s Wild Thing cover, but with Paula singing and speaking some wandering breathy vocals over the top. This song was written by none other than Prince, under the moniker of ‘Composed by Paisley Park‘, but that’s no measure of quality here. Briefly, it seems that Chas and Dave turn up at 2min 43s… but they’ve gone again before you can believe what you’re hearing.
My Foolish Heart follows this, and this track feels much stronger and up-beat. Again, there’s echoes of early Dannii vocally and musically. There’s a few vocal layers here, all of which seem to be Paula, and it grows into a fairly catchy song.
Strings open ballad, and third single, Blowing Kisses In The Wind. Paula’s vocals are really strong here, and sit perfectly against the orchestra. Songwriter Peter Lord gets a backing vocalist credit here, and his vocals add a great contrast to Paula’s. Sadly this song didn’t chart in the UK, although it could probably have found success if it had been from a movie.
Up next is To You, which resumes the early 90s dance style – with plenty of siren, screaming, house piano, and synth stabs.
Penultimate song Alright Tonight which has a Caribbean meets disco feeling to it. This track was produced by legendary producer Don Was. There’s plenty of brass, percussion and a funky bassline. Paula’s vocals sound good here in this slightly different style.
Acoustic guitar opens the closing track Good Night, My Love (Pleasant Dreams), which strums along like a missing Lennon/McCartney number. Paula’s vocals are perfect here, in what almost feels like a 50s-styled song. Again Don Was is at the production helm, and the acoustic guitar. This is a wonderful almost lullaby song, and the perfect ending to an album… it just feels a little bit odd for it to be Paula Abdul’s.
Where is Paula Abdul now?
Paula struggled to maintain music success in the UK, notching up just one more charting single in 1995 with My Love Is For Real which reached #28.
Despite this, she returned to fame through her work as a judge on talent TV shows American Idol, The X Factor, and So You Think You Can Dance.
Having had huge hits with her first album Forever Your Girl, and making history with her successful remix album Shut Up And Dance, this her second studio effort charted just one place lower than her debut one.
This album is a far more mixed one that her debut, and this perhaps reflects a desire to appear as a more mature artist by this point in her career, and maybe also signalled her own influences in the production of it. There’s some great moments (Rush Rush, Vibeology, and the final song), but there’s some mediocre songs too, or ‘two steps forward, two steps back’ as she might put it.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1991 UK CHART POSITION: #4
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a That’s Entertainment store.