Paula Abdul's new album -- The singer proves that everything old is new again

Last month, record stores across the country were shipped 750,000 copies of Paula Abdul’s new album, Shut Up and Dance (The Dance Mixes). Actually, ”new” is a relative term. You may notice something jarringly familiar about Shut Up and Dance, namely its song titles: ”Cold Hearted,” ”Straight Up,” ”The Way That You Love Me,” and more from her debut album, Forever Your Girl. Welcome to the world of dance remixes, where old and new hits are elongated into bass-heavy rhythm tracks suitable for clubs and parties. In the case of Shut Up and Dance, seven of the 10 tracks on Abdul’s unexpectedly huge Forever Your Girl were stretched — through electronic editing, extended instrumental breaks, and other studio wizardry — so that only 19:54 of the album’s 50:02 minutes could be called fresh.

Rip-off? Not necessarily. Madonna, Bobby Brown, and Jody Watley have released dance remix albums. Brown’s current Dance! Ya Know It! has sold 1.5 million copies, validating the idea commercially. That explains why Milli Vanilli have just weighed in with their own offering, The Remix Album, containing dance versions of five top 10 hits as well as several new tracks.

Extending songs into sleek, continuous dance tracks is a specialized art form, involving creative slicing and dicing, either by hand or on high-tech multitrack recording consoles (complete with DAT tape and computers). To create ”The Way That You Love Me (Houseafire Edit),” for instance, Las Vegas DJ and remixer Chris Cox used two reel-to-reel tape decks to cut the track up into tiny bits. Then he physically rearranged the song and taped the bits together for a final edit. ”Dance-club DJs love (a dance mix), because it gives them more variety to work with,” Cox says.

But why isn’t there an all-new Abdul album in the racks? For one thing, the ex-L.A. Laker cheerleader has been too busy the past year — first choreographing the Oscar telecast and now preparing to do the same for Oliver Stone’s film bio of the Doors — to work on music. More important, Forever Your Girl is still going strong. Originally released in June 1988, it was a slow seller until its third single (”Straight Up”) took off six months later. The album already has sold six million copies, making it Virgin’s biggest hit to date, and is nearing seven million even though the company has stopped releasing singles from it. ”There’s no great rush (to do a new album),” says Gemma Corfield, Virgin’s director of artists & repertoire administration and executive producer of Forever Your Girl. The earliest a new work is expected is late 1990.

So until that official follow-up appears, there’s Shut Up and Dance. At first, the idea of stretching one album into two and selling the second record to the same public that bought millions of copies of its predecessor might seem crass, the ultimate in go-for-it product marketing. After all, the Madonna, Brown, and Watley dance-mix releases drew their material from two or three albums; Shut Up and Dance is taken from only one. But that attitude overlooks the broader social context. Shut Up and Dance, all kidding aside (well, maybe not all kidding), is a mirror for our times: