“I just have to take a moment to say that Tiffany’s voice is not believable”

Tiffany and Debbie Gibson attend the afterparty for

Tiffany and Debbie Gibson attend the New York concert afterparty for Gibson’s 1989 “Electric Youth” tour. (Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Debbie Gibson established herself as a songwriting prodigy to be reckoned with at 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 to Yahoo Entertainment Managing Editor Lyndsey Parker during a recent “Teen Idols” themed episode of the Totally’ 80s, Gibson celebrated the 35th anniversary of that milestone – but she also took the time to celebrate fellow teen idol, Tiffany, who she often pitted against in the press as they debuted.

“I just have to take a moment to say that Tiffany’s voice is amazing – that was then, and this is now,” Gibson proclaimed. “I listened [Tiffany’s own No. 1 single] ‘This could have been’ the other day in my bedroom, like the night like you do when you’re a teenager, and I was like, ‘Get it, gurl!’ Like, oh my God. She’s such a naturally gifted, powerful singer. You know how you always want what you can’t have? My voice has always been that pristine bell voice. and she had this texture that, like, Bonnie Raitt has. She has that texture you were born with. And I was like, ‘How can I get this? It’s so cool!’ Her voice is so rich and thick, and it still is.

In 1987, when both Gibson and Tiffany released their first massive albums, Gibson had been a Tiffany fan from the start, and the feeling was mutual. “I used to have the Walkman with the headphones split, and me and my younger sister Denise would listen to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ every time we were on a plane taking off; it’s very cinematic. I was a fan, and [Tiffany] told me that too: his sister had my poster on her wall. It was all very encouraging, and still is.

But while Tiffany has had success with covers of Tommy James’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “I Saw [Him] Standing There”, Gibson has distinguished himself with self-penned singles such as “Out of the Blue”, “Only in My Dreams”, “Shake Your Love” and the historic “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. Gibson never quite understood this media-concocted rivalry – the sensationalized tendency of journalists to constantly compare them.

“Why can’t several artists occupy the same space? There’s like a different #1 song every week. There are a hundred songs on the charts every day. There’s plenty of room for everyone,” Gibson said. (It should be noted that in the ’80s there was ample room in the pop market for Gibson and Tiffany: the two sold 17 million albums combined before their respective 20s.)

“I used to defend [Tiffany] when people said, ‘She doesn’t write her own songs.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but neither does Whitney Houston.’ Does anyone ever bring This at the top?’ No, because some people are singers first,” Gibson said. “I’ve always said I’m a songwriter first and then a singer. That’s how the universe made me. So it’s a great marriage when you find the great song and the great singer, and they get together. And who cares? Like, does anybody stop and think when they listen to Elton [John], “Well, he didn’t write the lyrics”? I don’t know. It’s an Elton John song. Yes I know [lyricist] Bernie [Taupin] wrote it too, but now [Elton is] embodying it and giving birth to it. So, I was always like, ‘shut up’ to that.

Prior to her success on MTV, Tiffany, with her mighty powerful voice, caused a television sensation in 1985 on star search, finishing in second place overall. Other teenage singers who later appeared on this show, with varying degrees of success, included Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Alanis Morissette, Destiny’s Child, Usher, LeAnn Rimes and David Archuleta. But interestingly, Gibson was voted out of the show after several attempts.

“I auditioned for star search literally 10 times and I failed,” laughed Gibson. “I auditioned with covers. I remember doing [Connie Francis’s] ‘Where are the boys.’ i remember i did My Songs: I did ‘Only in My Dreams’ before it even came out, and I was told my songs would never be hits. I was told that my voice was too this or that or the other. I didn’t even participate in the show. It’s crazy. But that’s the problem: I’ve always been, I think, a more eccentric artist. I remember Gwen Stefani saying if she was on The voice as a candidate, she did not think she would succeed. There are certain artists who talk about their tone, vibe, and songwriting, but not necessarily the most skilled contest-winning singer.

Gibson and Tiffany finally appeared on television together in an iconic film, Dynasty-catflght style in the instant SyFy cult classic Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (shot by Madonna/Go-Go/Janet Jackson video director Mary Lambert), who poked fun at their supposed (read: non-existent) feud. “Oh my God, this scene goes on and on and on and on. It’s like, ‘OK, some male executive brains have dreamed of seeing me and Tiffany in hot dresses, whipped cream, knocking over tables, slapping each other,’ Gibson laughed. “You would think that at some point our collaboration would have been musical, like, ‘OK, we’re gonna write this amazing song together.’ But we were like, ‘No, this is the opportunity, and it’s too kitsch, funny and cool to pass up. My exact words to my agent were, ‘What? Will this ruin the film career that I don’t have? Yeah, let’s do it!” Tiff and I were laughing so hard the whole time. We had stunt doubles. … We weren’t doing, like, the back-flips, but we were doing a lot of them. … The slap was real.

In 2019, when Gibson and Tiffany embarked on the hugely successful Mixtape Tour with fellow former teenage stars New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature, Tiffany told Yahoo Entertainment that she always had believed that she and Gibson “would make music together, and so far that hasn’t happened – but it might on this tour. We have time and she plays the beautiful piano. Maybe there could be a ballad in there for us. … It might be time to get on Deb’s bus or mine, and see if we can write a ballad together. I would love it ! That collab still hasn’t happened, but Gibson told Totally ’80s she’s in for it, too.

“She and I didn’t collaborate, but I wouldn’t rule that out,” Gibson said. ” I am open to everything. I mean, I think her and I are quite different musically. I almost wonder what it would be like if she wrote me a song, and I wrote her a song – like, “Hey, this is my vision for you”, and she was like, “This is my vision for you. ” I think This would be rather interesting, because actually I have a vision for her, in the country-pop genre [vein]. Still I [think] Bonnie Raitt in my head; I’m going to Wynnona [Judd]. … That could be interesting. We never know.”

Tiffany and Debbie Gibson attend the "Mega Python vs.  Gatoroid"  premiere in New York.  (Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Tiffany and Debbie Gibson attend the ‘Mega Python vs. Gatoroid’ premiere in New York. (Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage)

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