Debbie Gibson: 25 Years Of Electric Youth

  • Written by  Pez
  • Published in Features
electricyouthCould it be possible that 25 years ago this week, the album ‘Electric Youth’ hit #1 on the US Billboard chart?

Holding the summit for a solid 5 weeks, it was the sophomore release from 18-year-old, Debbie Gibson. That same week, the lead single ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ was continuing its run at #1 on the Hot 100 – making the fresh-faced pop prodigy the first female in history to simultaneously hold the top slot on both the single & album charts.

A decade before Britney & Christina’s reign, Debbie Gibson & her supposed rival Tiffany were the original teen pop queens. What sets Gibson aside from all the aforementioned is that she wrote, produced & played her own material. She was the sole songwriter on the entire album, & still holds the record as the youngest artist to write, produce & perform a #1 single. Top that, Taylor Swift!
Dressed in vests, denim jeans & wide-brimmed hats, her image was as far removed from today’s teen sensations as you can get. While Miley worked a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards, Debbie was remarkably wholesome yet a total trendsetter. Why else were girls wearing bowler hats & two Swatch watches at once?

Capitalising on this influence, Revlon partnered with her to release the wildly successful ‘Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson’ fragrance. While Cher launched her ‘Uninhibited’ fragrance in 1987, Gibson’s was perhaps the first celebrity scent aimed directly at a teen demographic – a strategy that everyone from Britney to Nicki Minaj & Justin Bieber have followed.
It’s interesting to note that neither her age nor her clean-cut image stopped her from regularly performing at gay nightclubs – something she did right from her debut in 1987. In recent years she has continued to be a fixture at US gay pride events & Atlantis cruises.
Like Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ project (which was released the same year), ‘Electric Youth’ also had a concept of sorts. While Jackson’s album combined social consciousness with dance music, Gibson’s theme was “about treating young people like people & helping to develop their ideas & creativity.” The liner notes (remember those?) read: “In the 60’s, young people were fighting to be heard. They were looking for peace & they wanted to change the world. Today, children are still struggling to voice their opinions.”
In the 25 years since ‘Electric Youth’, Gibson became a musical theatre star. She has played an enviable list of leading ladies on Broadway; Eponine in ‘Les Misérables’, Belle in Disney’s ‘Beauty & The Beast’, Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret’ (opposite Neil Patrick Harris), & Sandy in ‘Grease’ on the West End (opposite Australia’s Craig McLachlan). She continues to tour, including joining forces with Tiffany for a joint US tour just a few years back. Debbie made cameos in Katy Perry’s 80’s themed ‘Last Friday Night’ video & the film ‘Rock Of Ages’, & also relaunched Manhattan’s retro nightclub, ‘Culture Club’. Proving that the spirit of ‘Electric Youth’ is still alive, Gibson regularly runs camps & workshops where she mentors the next generation of singer / songwriters.
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