Debbie Gibson

SBK/EMI K2-33374, 1995

[This is the review I wrote for a local BBS, and subsequently posted to the newsgroup. - Chaz]

The mistake I made was to read the lyric sheet first. A scenario immediately presented itself:

Some EMI Suit: So, what sort of material do you have for us?
DG (opening portfolio): Here's the list. There's also a cover, which you already know.
[The EMI Suit begins to read, and as he reads, clouds begin to form just above his increasingly-furrowed brow. Time passes. More time passes. Finally:]
DG: Well?
EMI Suit: Uh, there seem to be an awful lot, of, you know, love songs....

Cover artWhat our wayward executive, not to mention Your Humble Narrator, fails to realize is that the category of "love songs" is amazingly broad, occasional witless remarks from metalheads and other amateur moralists notwithstanding; the most complex of human emotions can produce the greatest variety of themes and interpretations. Not that songwriters necessarily realize any of this, mind you.

But Deborah Gibson, bless her, does. Most of her recordings over the years have been love songs. And on Think With Your Heart, each song has its own story to tell, its own unique spin on the subject. There is very little overlap; each song is self-contained. And no effort has been made to arrange the songs into some sort of chronological sequence to make a "concept" album; love, like life, simply isn't that neatly organized, unless you're very, very lucky, or you're Brian Wilson (cf. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, 1966).

While none of these songs breaks new ground — "Two Young Kids", the serious side of McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four", comes closest — each of them reflects a different aspect of their composer. The weakest is probably "You Don't Have To See", which I suspect is basically just a roman-à-treble clef; it doesn't have much to say beyond Stand By Your Man, a worthwhile sentiment but done better elsewhere, and the faux-gospel underpinnings aren't as persuasive as they were on "Between the Lines", four albums ago.

That said, though, there are genuine gems here. "For Better or Worse", the opener, is a stirring variation on the theme of "Whither thou goest, I will go," and "Didn't Have the Heart" stares frightening vulnerability in the face. "Doncha Want Me Now?" and "Too Fancy", the two upbeat tracks, deal wryly with rejection, normally not a funny subject — at least, not to the person on the receiving end.

The teen-idol image from the Eighties, while it doesn't seem to bother Deb, definitely worries the risk-avoidance types who dominate American radio programming, so you're not likely to hear any of these tracks on your local no-dynamic-or-emotional-range FM outlet — not even the cover of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", which presumably even ahistorical MBAs may have heard of. Of course, most marketing today is based on the premise that adolescence can be prolonged indefinitely, and "maturity" is something best left to, er, old people. The music industry knows how to sell adolescence; when it tries to go beyond, often it simply falls on its s