Plump Up the Volume

This town definitely ain't big enough for me and Paula Abdul.
On the strength of four number-one singles, Forever Your Girl sells ten million copies and change. Spellbound is a smash. Videos keep popping up on MTV like fleas on a hound dog. And now the woman herself is coming to the Arena. It's time to pose the question: Exactly how big is Paula?

Always an advocate of the direct approach, I asked Paula's publicity army to grant an interview with the star. Their response: Fat chance.

Come to think of it, this town might not even be big enough for Paula Abdul.
And I'm not talking metaphorically. This has nothing to do with her fame, her fortune, her media saturation. I mean sizewise. As evidenced by Paula's performance of "Vibeology" at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 5, the ex-Laker Girl has clearly gone from earthy to girthy. In a big way. From the moment she shed that mobster costume to reveal a sausage-casing leotard, there was no concealing the fact that Paula has expanded to epic proportions in more ways than one.

Some people, of course, take exception to the assertion that Abdul's amplitude has amplified. She's not that tubby, they say. She was wearing a battery pack on her bottom. Television adds ten pounds. Yeah, right. We're talking Heavy D. Chunky A. That guy, Rerun, who used to be on What's Happening!.

Of course, you wouldn't know it from the cover of Abdul's album. Take a good look at Spellbound. You see face, not waist. Eyes, not thighs. Lips, not hips. And watch the video of "The Promise of a New Day." Note how the massiveness is masked via compressed cinematography, creating the illusion that more is less. Evidently the imagemongers are betting that the slender Paula, the Diet Coke Paula, is indelibly etched on the retina of the public's eye, and that when people see Abdul live, they'll see what they used to see, what they want to see.

What they won't see is the ugly truth, that the petite dance queen who chirped "Forever Your Girl" was singing an ode to a giant Twinkie. Maybe the new, ampler Abdul hasn't yet been licensed as a dirigible, but she's definitely on the way to being the biggest pop star to roll along since Mama Cass ate her last between-meals snack. The Miami stop on the "Under My Spell" tour had to be delayed several days so Arena staff could widen their entrance doors and build a special loading ramp to roll the Big A onto the stage.

What's that? You say it's a tad mean-spirited to note the bloat? To measure by sheer weight is unfair? Well, maybe. Hypocritical, too, seeing as how a certain music writer could do with a bit less Rolling Rock and a bit more power walk. But if you're a giant star, you've got to learn to carry that weight. After all, what is this thing called Paula? It's image, pure and simple, created by the public-relations people themselves. As a singer, Abdul is a great dancer, and if it weren't for videos and the rest of the hype (but mostly videos), the hefty hoofer would still be a Laker Girl. In Paula's case, image is all, and looks do count. So forgive us the fat jokes, Paula. It would be so big of you.

 
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