Debbie Gibson established herself as a songwriting prodigy to be reckoned with at age 17 with her hit ballad “Foolish Beat” — setting a Guinness World Record, which she still holds to this day, for the youngest female artist to write, produce, and perform a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1.
Speaking with editor on a recent “Teen Idols”-themed episode of the Totally ‘80s podcast, Gibson celebrated the 35th anniversary of that chart milestone — but she also took the time to celebrate her fellow teen idol, Tiffany, whom she was often pitted against in the press when they were just starting out.
“I just have to take a moment to say Tiffany’s voice is un-freakin’-believable — it was then, and it is now,” Gibson proclaimed. “I listened to [Tiffany’s own No. 1 single] ‘Could’ve Been’ the other day in my bedroom, like at night like you do when you’re a teenager, and I was like, ‘Get it, gurl!’ Like, oh my God. She is such a naturally gifted vocalist, so powerful. You know how you always want what you can’t have? My voice was always that pristine bell voice. and she had this texture that, like, Bonnie Raitt has. She has this texture that you’re born with. And I was like, ‘How do I get that? That’s so cool!’ Her voice is so rich and thick, and it still is.”Back in 1987, when Gibson and Tiffany both released their massive debut albums, Gibson was a Tiffany fan from the start, and the feeling was mutual. “I used to have the Walkman with the split headphones, and me and my younger sister Denise used to listen to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ every time we were on an airplane taking off; it’s very cinematic. I was a fan, and [Tiffany] says that to me too: Her sister had my poster on her wall. It was all very supportive, and still is.”
But while Tiffany had success with covers of Tommy James’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” and the Beatles’ “I Saw [Him] Standing There,” Gibson charted with self-penned singles like “Out of the Blue,” “Only in My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love,” and the history-making “Foolish Beat.” Tiffany may have been considered the superior vocalist, even by Gibson herself, but Gibson, because she was a songwriter, garnered more critical respect.