fri 31/03/2023

Album: Debbie Gibson - Winterlicious | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Debbie Gibson - Winterlicious

Album: Debbie Gibson - Winterlicious

The Eighties teen pop star and actress writes a bunch of her own for the festive season

Out of the blue, once again

Those old enough will recall Debbie Gibson as a squeaky clean, flash-in-the-pan teen pop star of the late 1980s. She was globe-trottingly huge for a couple of years – a peer of Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now” Darwish – but then her star waned. What’s less well-remembered is that she was a self-made creation; she’s still the youngest person to have written, produced and performed a US No. 1 single.

Her new Christmas album displays a similar confidence. Unlike most such seasonal outings, dominated by the usual old chestnuts, 10 of its 14 songs are originals, written or co-written by herself.

Gibson has had a somewhat random professional path since her heyday (she once sang backing vocals for veteran US punks The Circle Jerks!) but has primarily developed a parallel career in musical theatre. This comes across in her songwriting and singing style on Winterlicious, the best self-written songs sounding as if they might be derived from a minor Broadway hit.

Her songs sometimes have a job standing up to the cosy familiarity of her jazz-tinted covers of Phil Spector/The Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride”, the rock’n’roll-era classic “Jingle Bell Rock” and, of course, “White Christmas”, a duet with her dad. But not always. Closing song “Cheers!” is a minor classic in the making; catchy, sentimental and celebratory, a proper maudlin mulled wine sway-along. Elsewhere her duet with New Kid on the Block Joel MacInyre, “Heartbreak Holiday”, drowns in tinselly schmaltz, but cuts such as “Jingle Those Bells”, “Christmas Dreams”, the epic lighters-in-the-air “The Gift” and, especially, the camp, bouncy new beginning-centred “Christmas Star” cheerfully, cheesily hold their own.

The production is occasionally thin and flat, which lets a few songs down, but, nonetheless, Gibson’s first crack at the seasonal market is solid, holding its own amidst the rising tide of the same old songs re-rendered by a billion different singers.

Below: watch the video for "Christmas Star" by Debbie Gibson


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