Paula Abdul: Spellbound (Virgin America/All formats)

THIS RECORD is plainly a miracle of self-belief and positive thinking, a triumph over adversity. Paula Abdul always knew she could dance, but all those hours with the affirmation tapes chanting ‘I am a wonderful, creative being, I have a lovely singing voice’, have obviously paid off.

This record demonstrates the Creative Process in that wonderful sun-kissed, pseudo-spiritual, I Love Everybody, Californian way. The credits are fabulous: Paula, erm, loves you all, feels good that you are here to share the experience at this special time, and anyone who worked on this project — well, Paula loves you soooo much! She especially loves her vocal coach, who is helping to fulfill Paula’s old fashioned dream of becoming an all-round Hollywood entertainer, a sort of Shirley Temple of House.

Hey, Paula — she’s no Janet or Gloria, but her first album Forever Your Girl shifted ten million, tapping right into that fundamental American dream — the self-made star, the grafter, the unlikely heroine, whupping ’em against all odds. That debut LP had a dreamy innocence and vulnerability, a novelty value. Spellbound is much more worldly and ambitious, putting Paula through her paces with a panoply of pop styles from the Afro-Carib ‘Alright Tonight’ to the big ballad ‘Will You Marry Me?’ (with obligatory Stevie Wonder harmonica solo), the Prince-penned/produced ‘V’, and even a nod to Clintonesque funkadeliciousness in the perky ‘Vibeology’.

Threatened with drowning in the sea of songwriter/producer credits (NY trio The Family Stand, Prince, Don Was, John Hiatt et al) alongside her own name, Paula does a creditable job of keeping her head above water, often diving off the high board with top marks for effort, but fewer for technique. Paula refuses to be best; she is made of The Right Stuff.

As much hard work has gone into this record as an advanced aerobics class; it goes for the burn, but rarely combusts. (5)

© Betty PageNew Musical Express, 27 July 1991

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