Electric Youth

Debbie Gibson

Atlantic Records, 1989


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There are a whole slew of albums in the Pierce Memorial Archive that I bought for some reason or another that seemed like a good one at the time. Now, as I walk through the aisles, I wonder just why I bought them in the first place.

Take Debbie Gibson. When she was at the pinnacle of her fame, I was in high school, happily banging my head to all things metal. We macho men wouldn't have been caught dead even looking at one of her albums at Sound Warehouse, much less owning one - we were just too cool for that.

So how do I explain having an album like her 1989 sophomore effort Electric Youth in my collection? Better still, how do I explain at the 10-year reunion later this year that there are some songs on it that I enjoy?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Gibson had rocketed to fame with her debut effort Out Of The Blue, containing syrupy-sweet but mostly harmless dance-pop mall rock. With her second release, she starts to inject a little more maturity into the music, but the end result is still the same.

I'll get the major complaint out of the way first: I can understand the use of synthesized drums on such an album, but do you have to rely on them for almost the whole fribbin' album? Only one track uses live drums - and I'm sorry, but I couldn't tell that without reading the liner notes, almost like I was conditioned to hear the electronic spurts.

Gibson does move into the world of ballads well on Electric Youth through the track "Lost In Your Eyes" - but the drum sequencing does ruin the mood. (Not that it was used in this case, but that it just wasn't structured to fit the song.) And while this is a decent enough effort, it wasn't strong enough to really push Gibson into that direction with her music.

But for the most part, Electric Youth is really harmless fun for the teeny-bopper crowd. It's non-threatening enough for the parents to listen to and enjoy, and it's poppy enough to keep Gibson's fans happy. Tracks like "Love In Disguise," "Helplessly In Love" (in which I swear I can hear a mandolin, even though I don't see a credit for one) and the title track all capture the playfulness of Gibson's music and the carefree feeling of youth.

Maybe that's the appeal I find in Gibson's music. Instead of worrying about how you're going to meet all the bills for the month, you hear Gibson singing about someone she's fallen in love with but can't be with, and you can't help but to sympathize with her. You don't have to be female to know the feelings of unrequited love or giddiness of youth - and that's what sucks the older listener in.

Is Electric Youth a masterpiece? No, but it's a decent enough effort to warrant some attention from the listener. Besides, the time between mallrat pop and Marilyn Manson is too short as it is.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.