Picks and Pans Review: Electric Youth
One difference between Debbie Gibson and most young pop stars is that she writes her own songs. Of course, that's like singling out a painter because she mixes her own paints. It's still what shows up on the canvas that counts—except for the fact that in music, when you write your own, you get a much bigger slice of the profit margin. So call Debbie rich and pretty talented. And she's a high school graduate. Anyway, as she proved on her fabulously successful debut album, Out of the Blue, she is capable of writing relatively painless—that's a compliment, sort of—pop songs with catchy hooks. She's done it again here with "Should've Been the One" and "Who Loves Ya Baby?" (If this 18-year-old phenom was making you feel old, take heart. The title of the latter song indicates that Gibson's grasp of history extends back at least as far as Kojak.) She also fares well with torchy ballads such as "Lost in Your Eyes." So maybe she doesn't exactly invest them with a lifetime of emotion, but let's stay real, eh? This is the almost-'90s. Feelings and experience can be faked; you can look it up. Electric Youth is certainly not without its share of compositions that hit the ear without leaving any impression at all. If there were still a Partridge family, Gibson could probably pawn off "Love in Disguise" on them. See, Deb, the Partridges were a superwholesome TV pop group before your time. Back before Kojak even. Gibson's going to have to swallow some of these turkeys though. Nobody's going to pay to cover tunes like "Silence Speaks (a Thousand Words)" or "We Could Be Together." Vocally, Gibson does pretty well for herself, considering she's dealing with so much intrinsically banal music. She sometimes seems to have studied at the Olivia Newton-John perk and purr school of singing, but there's no disputing that, musically and vocally, she has a remarkably mature sound. She certainly hasn't lost her touch since her debut. In other words, her bubble-gum pop hasn't lost its flavor on the bedpost overnight. See, Deb, that's a reference to a silly hit song from just after a little thing we liked to call World War I, which was a...Oh, never mind. (Atlantic)
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