Straight Up (Paula Abdul song)

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"Straight Up"
Single by Paula Abdul
from the album Forever Your Girl
B-side"Opposites Attract"
ReleasedNovember 22, 1988
Songwriter(s)Elliot Wolff
Producer(s)Elliot Wolff
Paula Abdul singles chronology
"(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me"
"Straight Up"
"Forever Your Girl"

"Straight Up" is the breakthrough song for American recording artist Paula Abdul from her debut studio album, Forever Your Girl (1988). The song is a mid-tempo dance-pop song with influence from the pop rock and new jack swing genres. Written and produced entirely by Elliot Wolff, the song was released as the album's third single on November 22, 1988, by Virgin Records.

"Straight Up" became Abdul's first top 40 hit in the United States, before going on to be her first chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100. Her first two singles had been modest hits that had sparked only mild interest in her album, but "Straight Up" helped the album reach the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart, before it finally reached number one following a record-setting 64 weeks on the market after spawning three more number-one hits. "Straight Up" brought Abdul widespread public attention, and has remained as her biggest international hit to date, reaching the top 10 in at least 16 countries. The song was also included in her six compilation albums, released between 1998 and 2013.

The song also received positive reviews from music critics, with Daniel J. Levitin's This Is Your Brain on Music praising it as "hold[ing] a certain appeal over many, many listenings." It also earned Abdul several award nominations in the US, most notably including her first Grammy nomination in the category of Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1990, and six other nominations for its music video at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.


According to Paula Abdul, her mother found this song for her. She explains that her mother knew someone whose boyfriend was an aspiring songwriter, and she got "Straight Up" as an 8-track demo. The demo version was "so bad" that Abdul's mother was "crying laughing" at it, and threw it in the trash. But Abdul heard something she liked in it, and retrieved it. At that time she was a full-time choreographer, and on the side, late at night she was recording music. The record label did not think the song was any good but Abdul offered to record two songs they wanted, which she did not like, if they would let her do "Straight Up". The song was recorded at a cost of $3,000. Later a friend of hers told her that somebody with her same name was being played on a northern California radio station. "Literally, within 10 days I [it] sold a million copies." The song was originally recorded in a bathroom, and in the masters of the recording, someone in the next apartment can be heard yelling "Shut up".[1]

"Straight Up" was the third single released from her debut album Forever Your Girl, after "Knocked Out" and "The Way That You Love Me." While the latter found modest success on the R&B charts, to radio station KMEL in San Francisco started playing "Straight Up" from the album. The label switched promotion "The Way That You Love Me" to "Straight Up". The strategy paid off, as "Straight Up" was followed by three more number-one hits. "The Way That You Love Me" was promoted a year later scoring a 5th top 5 hit in the US.

One of the 12" versions was remixed by LA "Powermixers" Chris Modig and Boris Granich, known for their special Power mixes at Power 106 during the 1980s.


"Straight Up" is performed in the key of D minor with a shuffling tempo of 96 beats per minute in common time and a chord progression of Dm–B–Gm–Am. Running a total length of four minutes and eleven seconds in its original version, the song finds Abdul's vocals span from A3 to C5 in the song, while the singer questioning her partner if he was genuinely loving her or "just having fun".[2][3]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Straight Up" attained breakthrough success for Abdul in the States. After debuting at number 79 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart on the week of December 3, 1988, the single quickly rose up the chart. By the week of January 21, 1989, the song reached number 13 on the chart, becoming her first top 40 entry and her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on the week of February 11, 1989, dethroning Sheriff's "When I'm with You" and remaining on the top spot for three consecutive weeks.[4] The song has since spent a total 25 consecutive chart weeks, thus tying with her later re-released second single as her longest charting performance on the Billboard Hot 100, and was eventually ranked as the fourth biggest hit of 1989 on Billboard's year-end chart for that year. The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA with sales of more than one million units, and remained as her best-selling single in the country to date.[5]

The song also attained international success, reaching the top 10 in at least 16 countries. In addition to topping the charts in the United States, the single also reached the top in Norway. It reached number two in Canada, Greece, The Netherlands and Sweden, and number three in Denmark, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and West Germany. It also reached number five in Belgium and Finland, number six in Ireland and New Zealand, and number eight in Austria and Finland. In France, the single fell short of the top 10, reaching number 12. The single fell short of the top 20 in Australia, reaching number 27.

Music video[edit]

The song became so popular that it ascended up the charts before a music video had even been shot for the song. The black and white video, directed by David Fincher and choreographed by Abdul herself in mid-January 1989, won four 1989 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Editing, Best Choreography, and the first Best Dance Video. The video features an appearance by her friend, comedian Arsenio Hall, whose popular talk show had premiered a few weeks prior to the video shoot. Djimon Hounsou also appears. Released later that month, the video at the time went into very heavy rotation on MTV, helping further Abdul's popularity.

Track listings and formats[edit]

  • Australia 12-inch single
  1. "Straight Up" (Ultimix)
  2. "Opposites Attract" (1990 mix)
  3. "Straight Up" (single version)
  • French 12-inch vinyl
  1. "Straight Up" (12-inch remix)
  2. "Straight Up" (Power mix)
  3. "Straight Up" (House mix)
  4. "Straight Up" (Marley Marl mix)
  • US 12-inch single
  1. "Straight Up" (12-inch remix)
  2. "Straight Up" (Power mix)
  3. "Straight Up" (House mix)
  • Japanese mini-CD single
  1. "Straight Up"
  2. "Cold Hearted"

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States November 22, 1988
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl
  • cassette
Virgin [48]
United Kingdom February 20, 1989
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl

See also[edit]


  1. ^ hudsonunionsociety (June 3, 2012). "Paula Abdul on How Straight Up Became A Massive Hit" – via YouTube.[dead YouTube link]
  2. ^ "Straight Up — Paula Abdul — Spot On Track". Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  3. ^ Wolff, Elliot. "Paula Abdul "Straight Up" Sheet Music in D Minor (transposable) - Download & Print". Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "The Hot 100 Chart | Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  5. ^ RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - Straight Up, accessed July 10, 2009
  6. ^ "Paula Abdul – Straight Up". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  7. ^ "Paula Abdul – Straight Up" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  8. ^ "Paula Abdul – Straight Up" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Lwin, Nanda (2000). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. p. 18. ISBN 1-896594-13-1.
  10. ^ "RPM 100 Singles – March 18, 1989" (PDF). RPM. Vol. 49, no. 20. March 18, 1989. p. 6. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  11. ^ "RPM 100 Singles – March 11, 1989" (PDF). RPM. Vol. 49, no. 19. March 11, 1989. p. 14. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
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  13. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 14. April 8, 1989. p. 20. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  14. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
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  16. ^ "Top 3 Singles in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 17. April 29, 1989. p. 34. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  17. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Straight Up". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 13, 1989" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
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  29. ^ "Paula Abdul Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  30. ^ " – Paula Abdul – Straight Up". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  31. ^ "Listy bestsellerów, wyróżnienia :: Związek Producentów Audio-Video". Polish Airplay Top 100. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  32. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1989" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  33. ^ "Top 100 Singles of '89". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  34. ^ "Top 25 Dance Singles of '89". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  35. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 of 1989" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 51. December 23, 1989. p. 6. Retrieved January 17, 2020 – via World Radio History.
  36. ^ "Top 100–Jaaroverzicht van 1989". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  37. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1989" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  38. ^ "End of Year Charts 1989". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  39. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1989" (in German). Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  40. ^ "Year-End Charts '89 – Top 100 Singles". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications. March 3, 1990. p. 16.
  41. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1989". Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  42. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Year-End 1989". Billboard. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  43. ^ "Top 100 Singles–Jahrescharts 1989" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  44. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  45. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Paula Abdul – Straight Up". Music Canada.
  46. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 17, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  47. ^ "British single certifications – Paula Abdul – Straight Up". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  48. ^ a b "American single certifications – Paula Abdul – Straight Up". Recording Industry Association of America.
  49. ^ "New Singles". Music Week. February 18, 1989. p. 31.