It’s hard to believe 30 years have passed since Paula Abdul shot to the top of the pop world with her breakout single “Straight Up.” The decades seemed to have gone by in the blink of an eye for both Abdul and the audience who witnessed her gravity-defying performance at the Billboard Music Awards in May. Earlier in the day, she announced her new residency at the Flamingo, Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl, and by the end of the evening she was lifted in the air by a team of backup dancers during a medley of her hits.

She didn’t miss a step, looked amazing, and the rapturous reception she received was a powerful indication that it was her time for a performing comeback. Abdul remained in the public eye since the height of her chart success through talent competition television series, her own reality show, and the occasional tabloid headline, but her influence as a dancer and choreographer was far more extensive.

Abdul practically revolutionized dance moves in music videos, most notably for Janet Jackson. It was those moves boy bands would later emulate, and that set the bar most dance music artists would have to reach with their future Las Vegas residencies. Without Abdul, Janet Jackson’s current Metamorphosis residency would look very different. There are few recording and performing artists who become iconic for their dancing, but Abdul has a perch on the pantheon along with James Brown, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. And she’s still active.

Abdul’s big break came while she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers. Discovered by the Jackson family, she choreographed the Jacksons’ 1984 tour and later groundbreaking videos from Janet Jackson’s Control album. Recording an album of Abdul’s own was the next step. Forever Your Girl was released in June 1988, taking a record 64 weeks to reach No. 1 while yielding four chart-topping singles.

Although “Knocked Out” and “(It’s Just) The Way that You Love Me” received respectable airplay, third single “Straight Up” became a stratospheric hit. Her dynamic dancing was captured in full cinematic splendor in the video, and she reigned as pop music’s top female singer during a time when “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted” and “Opposites Attract” reached No. 1.

Grunge and gangster rap obscured dance music’s glow for a while, but Abdul re-emerged alongside Simon Cowell as a judge on American Idol. While their relationship was somewhat strained due to Abdul feeling far more empathy for the contestants, acerbically critical Cowell reportedly made an effort to keep her on the series.

Abdul later appeared as a judge on The X Factor, Live to Dance and So You Think You Can Dance, but she really wanted to return to the stage. She opened for New Kids on the Block in 2017, then celebrated the 30th anniversary of Forever Your Girl with a 2018 solo tour. She’s ready to take Las Vegas by storm, and her fans are straight-up ready for her to reign again.

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