’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Rush Rush”
The forty-second No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Rush Rush” by Paula Abdul. After releasing an explosively popular debut album that had six Hot 100 hits, including four No. 1s, Abdul had some pressure on her shoulders for the follow-up. The public was therefore very startled when she chose “Rush Rush” as the lead single, as it’s a ballad, and up to this point all of Abdul’s releases had been uptempo tracks that allowed her to demonstrate her choreography talents in the music videos. But this gamble paid off big time, as “Rush Rush” turned out to be Abdul’s longest-running No. 1 ever, reigning for five weeks. This was especially noteworthy because the turnover of No. 1 songs in 1991 was head-spinning. Prior to “Rush Rush” reaching No. 1 in June, no No. 1 hit in 1991 had stayed at the summit for more than two weeks.
The success of “Rush Rush” kicked off a string of hits from the “Spellbound” album. It was followed by the percussion-happy upbeat “The Promise Of A New Day” (No. 1), the ingeniously arranged “Blowing Kisses In The Wind” (No. 6), the Halloweenishly weird “Vibeology” (No. 16) and the gender-role-reversal ballad “Will You Marry Me?” (No. 19). Quite a diverse string of releases, those five were, and all landed in the Top 20. After these “Spellbound” hits, Abdul would under-perform with the singles released from her third album, charting twice, with the Mideast-inspired misfire “My Love Is For Real” (No. 28) and then “Crazy Cool” (No. 58), one of the best songs of 1995. She then took a 13-year hiatus from the singles charts before returning with two mild hits in the wake of her American Idol fame — 2008’s “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” (No. 62) and 2009’s “I’m Just Here For The Music” (No. 87).
“Rush Rush” is a gentle, synth-fueled pop ballad that allowed Abdul to show off the results of vocal lessons she had been taking. The video was immediately on replay at MTV and VH1, thanks to its big-dollar production budget, lavish sets and Keanu Reeves. It is inspired by the film Rebel Without A Cause.
Let’s enjoy “Rush Rush”:
We mentioned in our last post that “More Than Words” by Extreme was played to death, and our enthusiasm for it remains somewhat stifled because of that. “Rush Rush” was perhaps even more overplayed than “More Than Words,” and yet we still can’t get enough of it. The arrangement on “Rush Rush” is tasteful and clever, particularly the way the bass line creates an unexpected counterpoint to the synth-piano accompaniment. And in keeping with the rest of the “Spellbound” album, which is an undervalued masterwork, the lyrics are thoughtful and well-suited to the music. All around a tremendous effort that exudes warm sincerity, manned by a very gifted artist we wish had stayed in the spotlight longer.
Was it dope? Leading off her second album with this ballad showed confidence in Abdul’s singing prowess and marketability, and the success of this song proved her to be a bona fide A-lister who was bound for a long, fruitful music career along side contemporaries like Madonna, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. That turned out not to happen, but it seemed like a safe bet at the time.
Does it hold up? This song seems most at home these days on SiriusXM’s Love Songs channel, but we certainly continue to treasure it as a fine piece of recorded music.
Dopeness: 5 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?