’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Opposites Attract”
The third No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Opposites Attract” by Paula Abdul featuring The Wild Pair (credited in the Grammy-winning video as MC Skat Kat). “Opposites Attract” was Abdul’s fourth No. 1 smash — all of which, at that point, were off her debut album, the phenomenal sleeper hit Forever Your Girl. She would go on to have two more No. 1s, both in 1991: “Rush Rush” and “The Promise Of A New Day.”
Abdul originally struggled to find an audience with her debut album, as the first two singles initially flopped. “Straight Up,” the third single, was her big breakthrough, and from that point on, the album sent songs to the heights of success, including successful re-releases of the two originally under-performing singles, “Knocked Out” and “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me.” You know you have a special album when a classic song like “Opposites Attract” is relegated to being the sixth single.
Have a listen:
This song’s playful ping-pong lyrical design was highly effective and a lot of fun, as the verses consisted of Abdul and The Wild Pair comparing and contrasting their preferences and behaviors, to the mutual conclusion that their differences made their union all the more effective. It’s not an original theme for a song — in fact it was echoed two years later in Amy Grant’s No. 8 hit “Good For Me,” for example. The joy of the song, combined with Paula’s ear-to-ear smile in the video and the child-friendly animation, add up to something that’s nearly impossible to dislike, although some cynics may find it a bit over-the-top.
Abdul’s career was red hot by this point, and she was considered a contemporary of megastars like Janet Jackson, Madonna and Whitney Houston. What her voice lacked in power and acrobatic ability it made up for in sweetness of tone, and her talents as a choreographer helped her videos become staples on MTV and VH1. More than any of that, she benefited greatly from superior pop songwriting (of others, mostly). That she managed to fall so quickly off the A List remains one of the most puzzling turns of events in pop music history. We expect she will be remembered kindly by music historians of the future.
Does it hold up? To some extent, yes. The Wild Pair’s rap intro and bridge date this song, but outside of that, it remains accessible. This song, like most if not all of her hits, is a pleasure to hear to this day.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?