MTV At 30: A Look Back At Debbie Gibson And Tiffany

We originally published this on Culture Brats on April 5, 2010 but since we're covering classic MTV this week, we figured this would be a great time to bring it back!

Both artists topped the charts twice during their careers. Both artists sold millions of records before they were old enough to vote. Both artists appeared in
Playboy. But that's where the similarities end. For today's Criss Cross Counter Punch, Chag and Mamatulip debate who was the tastier pop tart: Debbie Gibson or Tiffany.

Chag: I don't even know why we're having this discussion. Debbie, excuse me, DEB-O-RAH Gibson was a musician and songwriter. "Only In My Dreams" is three-and-a-half minutes of pure sugary pop perfection. When "Foolish Beat" topped the charts, Gibson became the youngest person ever to write, perform, and produce a Billboard #1 single. She did this before she graduated high school. Tiffany, on the other hand, rose to fame by covering tunes by The Beatles and Tommy James & the Shondells.

When people stopped buying her albums, Debbie Gibson moved onto Broadway. Tiffany, on the other hand, went onto Celebrity Fit Club and Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling. "Could've Been," indeed!

Debbie Gibson also went on to record a cover of The Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" with The Circle Jerks. Game, set, match for Gibson.

I truly believe that Debbie Gibson would still be around today, creating music that people actually listened to if it weren't for those damn Blossom hats she wore back in the day. It's hard for people to take you seriously when you dress like that.

Mamatulip: Tiffany vs. Debbie? There's no comparison. Back in 1987? While Debbie (she'll never be Deborah to me) Gibson was frolicking around the beach in a miniskirt, frilly lace gloves and an oversized hair bow, Tiffany was hard at work building a strong and loyal fan base by touring shopping malls across the nation, a unique move that helped propel her toward international stardom.

Who cares if Tiffany's first chart-topping hit was a cover? "I Think We're Alone Now" dominated the Billboard charts for 13 weeks, bumping The King of Pop himself out of the first place position. The same goes for "Could've Been" – the ballad spent 14 weeks on the charts and 2 in the number one spot. The album, Tiffany, later went quadruple platinum in the US; her slew of hits made Tiffany the youngest female recording artist to top the Billboard charts with a debut album. Be sure to read between the lines -- youngest female recording artist means Tiffany tucked all of those accomplishments in to the pocket of her jean jacket before graduating high school, too.

And they may have both appeared in Playboy, but Tiffany posed first. No sloppy seconds for this pop tart.

Chag: I can give credit where credit is due: the shopping mall tour was sheer brilliance. She had a captive audience of geriatric mall walkers who were forced to listen to her warbling as they waited for the cafeteria to open. I mean really, you know who tours shopping malls? Car shows and craft fairs. Hell, we should be thankful Tiffany didn't kill rock 'n' roll with that tour.

Mamatulip: Dude, pull up the video for "I Think We're Alone Now." Go ahead, I'll wait. You'll see, I'm sure, that nestled in among the shots of Tiffany tousling her feathery red hair and jumping trains are several clips of her performing during her '87 mall tour. Now, I don't know about you, but I certainly don't see any blue hairs leaning against their walkers just outside the food court. On the contrary -- I see modest-sized crowds of people who don't qualify for the senior's discount (except for, I must admit, that old guy with the bad comb over, who appears midway through the video and seems to do the chicken dance with Tiffany on stage).

And while we're on the topic of mall tours? Following in the footsteps of successful pop tarts like Tiffany before her, Britney Spears launched her Hair Zone Mall Tour in 1999 to support the release of her smash debut album, ...Baby One More Time. Hmmm...I wonder where she got that idea? What was it you saying about car shows and craft fairs?

Oh, and one more thing. By the time her 18th birthday rolled around, Tiffany was wealthy enough to buy a mansion from the legendary Chuck Norris. Beat that, Debbie.

Chag: You really think those kids in that video were there to see Tiffany? Please. They were at the mall to play video games or to catch a big sale at Merry-Go-Round.

And while Britney Spears may have done a mall tour like Tiffany, it had absolutely no effect on her early success. She owes that to the Catholic school girl outfit she wore in the "...Baby One More Time" music video.

Look, dude. It's not even a close race. Debbie was an accomplished songwriter and composer. She performed on Broadway before and after her singing career, appearing in productions of Beauty And The Beast, Les Misérables, and Grease. Was Tiffany ever on Broadway? Oh, that's right. There's no mall on Broadway.

Mamatulip: Look. I could talk about the work Tiffany has done since her days as the reigning Teen Queen -- her second album, Hold An Old Friend's Hand, went double platinum, and she went on to release albums in 2000 and 2005. I could make note of her television appearances on That '80s Show, How I Met Your Mother and yes, as you so thoughtfully mentioned earlier, Celebrity Fit Club and Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling. She's also branched out to the silver screen, lending her voice on 1990's The Jetsons and appearing in the 2008 short film The Isolationist. And even though she and Debbie were both in films that premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Tiffany's movie, Necrosis, had the cooler title (I mean, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus? Got yourself some Oscar material there, Debbie!).

I could go on and on about Tiffany's many accomplishments, but in the grand scheme of things, none of them really matter. Why? Because when it comes right down to it, there's one thing that Tiffany has going for her that Debbie Gibson never, ever will: The New Kids Connection. AW, YEAH. Not only did Tiffany handpick the New Kids on the Block to hit the road with her during her 1988 concert tour, she dated Jonathan Knight. And anyone who was anyone back in the '80s knows that because Tiffany locked lips with a New Kid, she will always be cooler than Debbie "Deborah" Gibson, forever and ever, amen.

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So who's the tastier pop tart? Have your say in the comments!

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