Musician Review: Deborah Gibson

Deborah Gibson started out in the music business in 1987, under the name Debbie Gibson. My first exposure to her music would have been during the summer of 1987, when “Only in My Dreams” was receiving airplay on pop radio; however, at the time, I had no idea who the artist was. When “Shake Your Love” was released as the next single, I heard who did it, and at first, I didn’t like the song. I think this was more due to the fact that my local pop station overplayed it than anything else. When the title track for her album, Out of the Blue, was released as the third single, it grabbed my interest, and I became a fan. A couple of months later, I got the Out of the Blue album on cassette for my thirteenth birthday. Overall, Out of the Blue is a rather solid album, although I could do without “Red Hot.”

During my junior high school years, I listened to a syndicated radio show called “Hitline U.S.A.,” where they would interview artists and play some of their music. I remember hearing Debbie Gibson on this show in January 1989, and it was on this show that she debuted “Lost in Your Eyes,” the lead-off single for her second album, Electric Youth. When I heard the song, I fell in love with it instantly. Two months later, when my fourteenth birthday came around, I took some birthday money that I had and bought a cassette copy of the Electric Youth album. Overall, I think Electric Youth is an even stronger album than Out of the Blue. The weakest song on the album is “Shades of the Past”; while I love this song lyrically, especially its imagery, it just plods along musically.

In 1990, Deborah released her third album, Anything is Possible. My sister bought it for me at Christmas that year. This is Deborah’s longest album to date, spanning sixteen songs and running over an hour in length. Also, the album was sequenced so the first half has all of the uptempo songs, and the second half has all of the ballads. Over the years, I’ve come to the opinion that some of the songs could have been cut, and the uptempos and ballads could have been mixed together. While there are several good songs on the album, I tend to have to listen to this one on random play or picking my own sequence; if I don’t, the album can become a bit of tedious listen.

In 1992, Deborah released her fourth album, Body Mind Soul, and I bought it when it came out. Over the years, this has been my least favorite of her albums. There are some good songs on the album, but this isn’t her strongest work. Now that I know that this was not the album she had originally intended to release, I can hear that Deborah’s heart wasn’t totally into all of the material on the album.

After this album, the last thing I had heard about her was that she was in a London stage production of Grease, and my local top 40 station actually acquired a copy of “You’re the One That I Want,” which she and Craig McLachlan recorded for the cast recording that was released in the UK. However, I only ever heard the track once on the station’s new music show.

In February 1995, I logged into a local computer bulletin board system and was reading posts in the Majornet Music Forum, and a particular post caught my eye. The post said that Deborah was recording her fifth album, and that it was due out later that year. I plugged into some online Deborah Gibson communities, and followed the progress of this album. On July 4, 1995, Deborah released her fifth album, Think With Your Heart. It was described as an “adult contemporary” album, and it featured primarily ballads and accompaniment by an orchestra. There’s a lot of good songs on this album, and it ranks as one of my favorite Deborah Gibson albums; however, it wasn’t a commercial-sounding album, especially for a time period where “alternative rock” was ruling the mainstream.

In 1996, Deborah started her own independent record label and officially changed her recording name from Debbie Gibson to Deborah Gibson. The first album she released as Deborah Gibson was simply titled, Deborah. The first pressing of the album included two songs from Funny Girl, a stage production she was going to be involved with. However, the Funny Girl revival fell apart, and Deborah ended up releasing a second pressing of Deborah; this pressing includes a remix of “Only Words,” one of the songs on the album, and an updated version of her first hit, “Only in My Dreams.” The Deborah album was more what I would consider an “adult contemporary” album, and many of the songs’ lyrics utilized nature imagery. It’s a very solid album, and some of the songs probably could have received some adult contemporary radio airplay if they had been promoted. Between the two pressings of Deborah, I think the original pressing with the Funny Girl songs is stronger.

After the Deborah album, Deborah put more emphasis on her Broadway and stage career, as well as doing some acting in independent films. Deborah’s musical output included a duet with Peabo Bryson called “Light the World,” recording one-off singles such as “You Belong to Me” and “With All My Heart,” participating on the concept recording for Z. The Masked Musical, and contributing the song “Right on Time” to the Divas Simply Singing charity compilation CD.

In the fall of 2000, Deborah released a single for “What You Want,” which was being billed as a lead-off single for a new album. Her sixth album, M.Y.O.B., was released in the spring of 2001. While there are some good songs on M.Y.O.B., the album never really comes together into a cohesive unit. It felt as if Deborah couldn’t quite decide what direction to take her music in, so she recorded songs in several different styles, and chose the songs she wanted to use, regardless of what style they were.

After M.Y.O.B., Deborah contributed a song to a Japanese tribute CD, as well as having a song she co-wrote recorded by a Japanese band called w-inds. In 2003, Deborah released Colored Lights – The Broadway Album through the Fynsworth Alley record label. Deborah recorded songs from Gypsy, Rags, The Wild Party, The Boy From Oz, Les Miserables, The Rink, Funny Girl, Shall We Dance?, Cabaret, Flower Drum Song, and Elegies: A Song Cycle. Deborah even recorded a song from Skirts, a musical that she’s been writing and working on for a number of years. Colored Lights is an interesting album, and it showcases and pays homage to the Broadway and theater portion of Deborah’s career.

Since Colored Lights, Deborah has released two CDs of rarities and demos, a Christmas single titled “Christmas Without You,” a single for a song called “Naked,” which was released to coincide with the Playboy spread that Deborah appeared in, as well as download-only songs “Famous” and “Already Gone.” She has also made guest appearances on recordings by the O’Neill Brothers and Jordan Knight. In 2010, Deborah released an album in Japan titled, Ms. Vocalist; unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to listen to the material from this album.

While I have enjoyed Deborah Gibson’s music over the years, it seems she has been focusing more of her career on theater and Broadway over the past decade, with only an occasional foray into the pop music part of her career. Deborah is a good songwriter and has a good voice, so I hope that at some point, she will release a new album of pop music that’s readily available for her North American fans.

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