Personnel: Paula Abdul (vocals).
Additional personnel: Ofra Haza, Wild Pair.
Audio Remixers: Peter Mokran; Lafayette Carthon.
Photographer: Blake Little.
Arrangers: Iki Levy; Peter Lord; V. Jeffrey Smith; Robb Boldt; Rhett Lawrence; Elliot Wolff; Oliver Leiber; Howard Hersh; Curtis "Fitz" Williams; St. Paul.
It's kind of shocking to realize that it took Virgin and Paula Abdul six full seasons of American Idol to capitalize on her resurgence of fame, but they finally got around to exploiting her back catalog with the release of the 18-track Greatest Hits: Straight Up! in May 2007, just as the sixth season was about to draw to a close. It is what it says it is: a collection of her greatest hits, all 13 of her Billboard charting singles, plus five other album tracks. Of these, not all of them are huge hits and some aren't even that familiar. Abdul peaked early, with all of her biggest and best hits arriving on her 1988 debut, Forever Your Girl, which contained "Forever Your Girl," "Straight Up," "Cold Hearted," "The Way You Love Me," "Knocked Out," and "Opposites Attact," all of which are here, along with "One or the Other," also featured here. That means that Straight Up! has seven of the ten tracks from Forever Your Girl, a pretty high ratio, but it's only right that it dominates this hits compilation, because these are the songs that Abdul's fame was built upon. After that debut, her decline in popularity was pretty swift: her 1991 sophomore set, Spellbound, had four hits in "Rush, Rush," "The Promise of a New Day," "Blowing Kisses in the Wind," and "Vibeology," but none of them were as big or memorable as the singles from the debut, and when Straight Up! works its way toward them, it starts to loose momentum, just as Abdul's career did. She stumbled through 1995's Head Over Heels, as she tried to modernize her eternally chipper dance-pop, before disappearing from the spotlight until American Idol. Straight Up! charts this career arc -- minus the career revival, since she hasn't recorded a comeback album, after all -- with accuracy, generously sampling from all three albums, and if the selections from Forever Your Girl are undeniably still the highlights (and the reason to get this set) there are a couple of surprises along with the way, including how "The Promise of a New Day" and "Vibeology" stand as bright, colorful time capsules of early-'90s dance-pop and how slinky and seductive 1995's "My Love for Real" is. These aren't enough to offer a revisionist take on Abdul's recording career -- this hits set doesn't smash conventional wisdom, it cements it -- but as a summary of her years as a pop star, Greatest Hits: Straight Up! is as good as any hits disc ever could be. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine