1991, Music

Spellbound (1991) by Paula Abdul

I know very little about Paula Abdul. I remember a couple of her songs – and, honestly, remember the video for “Rush Rush” than I do the song – and I remember some vague reason for her being kicked off some talent TV show. That’s it. So I was expecting some kind of early ’90s dance pop. That’s basically what I got.

The material is mostly original, written for or with Abdul, though there are three covers. (Actually, one might be just an original written by people other than her songwriting team.) The original material is a mix of vaguely new jack swing ish or dance pop ish tracks and a couple of ballads. I don’t know the originals of any of the three covers but certainly Paula Abdul covering John Hiatt has got to be one of the weirder musical things that happened in 1991. (It may have been written for her, too. I cannot find an original online.)

Abdul is a pretty good performer, she sells everything she sings. Her voice is fine, hardly exceptional but also perfectly good for what she’s up to. (I’m sure not every dance pop singer of the era could actually sing ballads too.) She’s less effective when she, um, raps, but that is fortunately only like once or twice.

Though the album is drenched in late ’80s/early ’90s production it could be a lot worse (as others have noted). For example, some (much?) of the bass is actually performed on guitar as opposed to some terrible keyboard. There’s a lot of live instrumentation, which really helps. And, of course, there’s that fantastic violin solo on “Rush Rush” which is very likely my favourite thing here. There’s also some quirk, such as those weird pseudo choral voices on “Vibeology.”

The covers are all supposedly mixed using some “3D” sound thing. Even on my headphones, I’m not sure I can hear any difference. It’s notable those songs mostly use the most cliche electronic instrumentation. Otherwise, I think the album sounds pretty good, mix wise, especially given the era.

It’s perfectly passable early ’90s dance pop with some ballads. Absolutely not my thing, but also hardly offensive.


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