Ninety 90’s Songs: Slow Down, Paula

Is it possible for a well-known choreographer to become a pop artist? Sure, as former cheer leader Paula Abdul proved in the 80’s. Is it also possible to leverage a reputation of dance pop into a downtempo ballad that rides the R&B trend of the early 90’s? No problemo, said Paula. The real question, though, is: can Keanu Reeves channel anything besides an idiot burnout with his acting? Whoa…

#80 “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul. Common sense dictates that a wheel bears no reinvention as long as it rolls. The road to stardom is seldom smooth and often steep and sometimes versatility wins the day. Coming off her Grammy award-winning high of dancing with a cartoon kitty, Paula Abdul tempted fate by releasing a ballad as the premier single of her second album, “Spellbound”.  “Rush, Rush” is a stylish, catchy tune that walks a tightrope by focusing on her vocals and acting instead of her career-defining dancing.

Further increasing the tension is throwing Keanu Reeves into the mix and casting him as *gasp* a romantic lead. Pairing him with Paula in a “Rebel Without A Cause”-inspired performance is kitschy enough to deflect criticism, and somehow it all works. The 50’s period setting gives the video an ageless quality and suitably reinforces Paula’s simple but vulnerable delivery of the lyrics.

I can’t help but think that Keanu’s presence in the video indicates Bill and Ted had a spin off adventure. During the segment of the video where they pillow talk and makeout, I’m not really convinced that Paula is head over heels in love with Keanu, and his surfer dude accent doesn’t mesh with his supposed bad-boy worldliness.

Paula Abdul ran out of steam after this album, and even other singles released from “Spellbound” never surpassed the popularity of “Rush, Rush”. While lack of further success doesn’t diminish the quality of this song, it’s disappointing that her return to pop culture relevance is reduced to judging other musicians with the likes of candy/plastic Nicki Minaj. Contrarily, Keanu Reeves’ career and “whoa”-ness blossomed the rest of the decade after this confluence with Paula.

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