1980’s popstar Debbie Gibson started writing songs as a kid, and by the time she was 17, she was making history as the youngest ever artist to write, produce and perform chart-topping hits. Her time at the top didn’t last long, but she’s continued to stay in the public eye with her starring roles on Broadway and touring musicals. In 2020, she returned to the charts with Girls Night Out – her first top 5 single in 30 years. Here, we take a look back at her career with our pick of the 10 best Debbie Gibson songs of all time.
10. For Better or Worse
Gibson’s time at the top of the charts was all too brief. By the turn of the 1990s, she was yesterday’s news. But that didn’t mean she stopped making great songs. If For Better or Worse had been released a decade earlier, it would have flown to the top of the charts. As it was, it failed to make even the slightest ripple in the mid-1990s. Considering the raw honesty of the lyrics, the strong vocals, and perfect songcraft, it should have made waves.
9. We Could Be Together
Compared to the singles that had come before it, We Could Be Together, the fourth song to be released from Gibson’s 1989 album Electric Youth, was a bit of a flop, at least in the US, where it stalled at a disappointing No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 100. It fared better overseas, reaching No. 22 in the UK and No. 23 in Ireland. But regardless of chart position, it’s the epitome of a classic teen pop song, with enough joy and playfulness to make it impossible not to sing along to.
8. No More Rhyme
As Billboard says, there was a definite sense of evolution in Gibson’s style on her sophomore album, Electric Youth. Compared to her previous singles, No More Rhyme was a decidedly more mature affair. Fortunately, it was still playful enough to appeal to her teen audience, and the single became a hit, climbing to number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number thirteen on the adult contemporary chart.
7. Shake Your Love
After bursting onto the scene with her debut single Only in My Dreams, Gibson proved she was no one-hit-wonder with her second single, Shake Your Love. With a music video choreographed by Paula Abdul, an irresistible dance groove, and a sensational vocal from Gibson, it couldn’t fail…. and it certainly didn’t do that. Released in September 1987, it soared to No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 in the UK. Over 20 years later, Gibson revisited the song for her 2010 album, Ms. Vocalist.
6. Staying Together
Gibson’s debut album, Out of the Blue, was a smash hit, selling more than 3 million copies in the United States and 5 million copies worldwide. What made it all the more extraordinary was that Gibson – who was still a teenager at the time of its release – wrote all the songs single handily. One of its highlights is Staying Together, an impeccably crafted dance number that charted in the top 40 in Spain and Ireland and peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. Out of the Blue
Gibson’s first two singles from her debut album, Out of the Blue, were both chart successes, but its titular track was bigger than either. Released in January 1988, it climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and entered the top 40 in the UK, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, and Spain. In 2010, Gibson re-recorded the track for the Deluxe Edition of her Japan-only album, Ms. Vocalist.
4. Electric Youth
Described by All Music as “a bouncy, frenetic song that is ridiculously sing-alongable,” Electric Youth captured the inherent playfulness of Gibson’s early output to a t. It’s not a song to be taken too seriously, but if you feel like a bop, this is the perfect song for it. Released as a single from the album of the same name in April 1989, it took Gibson to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart.
3. Lost In Your Eyes
There’s no getting around the fact that Lost In Your Eyes suffers from the same overblown production as almost every other ballad that emerged in the late 1980s. But overlook the overabundance of synths and mechanized drum loops, and you’ll find a gorgeously tender love ballad blessed with a heartbreakingly vulnerable vocal performance from Gibson. It was her biggest ever hit, peaking at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and staying there for the next three weeks.
2. Foolish Beat
As Stereogum.com notes, while Gibson rose to fame as part of a mini wave of teenage dance-pop stars, she always had something that set her apart from most of her peers – the ability to write her own songs, without any outside help. When she released the heartbreaking ballad Foolish Beat in the summer of June 1988, she was still only 17, making her the youngest person in history to write, produce, and perform a chart-topping hit by herself.
1. Only in My Dreams
Usually, artists take time to perfect their sound. But when Debbie Gibson launched herself on the charts in the winter of 1987, she was already a fully formed pop star. Her debut single presented an artist who knew exactly what it took to make a blockbusting record, and that’s exactly what she delivered. Only in My Dreams stormed to No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 11 on the UK Singles Chart. Over 30 years later, it remains one of her best remembered and most popular songs.