Plugging in to Electric Youth

By Jon Roig

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Yes, I admit it . sometimes, late at night, I turn off all the

lights, take the phone off the hook, and play Debbie Gibson

really freakin' loud. Headphones are irrelevant. I have to be able to feel the music.

My heart beats in time with the rhythm. I'd like to believe that it beats in time with Debbie's. The speakers are twin suns, bathing me in the radiance of Debbie's zest for life. I dip into her arctic blue eyes staring at me from my ceiling. I am cleansed.

Late on one of these nights, I heard my calling. I was wandering through the Yahoo web index, and I stumbled upon the Debbie Gibson home page (at, hidden nicely somewhere between the glut of Dream Theater and Grateful Dead sites. I was home.

Levian de Braal, a faculty member at the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology ("Georgia Tech") runs the site and took the time to engage in an on-line interview with this curious reporter.

Mutato: So, assuming you guys are not some kind of Dada terrorist art organization, I have to ask: why Debbie Gibson, of all people?

Levien de Braal: Debbie Gibson has a powerful, pure voice. She writes her own material. She often, in the case of the last album, completely produces her own stuff. She plays the piano extremely well. She is multi-talented, performing in "Les Miserables" (Eponine) and "Grease," and does some acting on the side when she has the time. Check out "Step By Step" in November!

Furthermore, she has a wonderful warm and caring personality. She's a real family person and spends a lot of her time supporting charity. Her favorite charities are related to children, though she also has done promotion and financial support for the AIDS foundation and the like.

She means many things to just as many members of the fan club. Some "simply" regard her as one of the most talented artists, others will regard her lyrics and attitude to life as a personal support to them, while even some build an entire ideology on her second album, Electric Youth. Very few though.

M: Huh? What are you talking about? Is there somewhere I can dig up more information on this?

LB: Nope. I'm referring to the way some fans are thinking about her. Please note that last remark is a very, very, very small minority. You could only know this if you had been reading the mailing lists for a couple of years.

The ideology is extremely hard to explain to those that are not attentive listeners to her music. It all has to do with personal empowerment, positivity and a belief that "Anything is Possible" to quote her third album if you set your mind to it.

M: So what is it about Debbie Gibson that inspires people to like her?

LB: Overall, Debbie Gibson provides a welcome alternative to the popular Rap, Metal and Grunge screams we hear on the radio over and over nowadays. I'd refer to Debbie Gibson as "alternative" and what is generally known nowadays as alternative, is in fact the most POPular. If you'd listen to her latest album, titled Think With Your Heart, you'd find an honest and open artist at her piano, accompanied with an orchestra (most of the songs) that is a million miles away from that "teen-bubble-gum" artist, as people used to refer to her, and also a million miles apart from what is currently "hot" and popular. She stands her ground when it comes to artistry and makes whatever she wants to, not whatever is "hip." This, by the way, is the very reason why she and her previous record company, Atlantic Records, ended up going their own ways. She's now with SBK, they don't impose unartistic strictures on her. Debbie Gibson is a person that, despite the media frenzy and the pressure to meet the product demand of the music industry, has chosen to opt for her music instead of the masses. She has decided to be true to herself and her music first, regardless of the critics or whatever is "trendy" at a certain time. In short, her honesty, emotionality and openness should be an example to everybody.

M: Do you get a lot abuse from people as fans of a terminally un-hip '80s superstar like Debbie Gibson?

LB: Well, not much really. Once they know I'm really serious, they start asking questions much like the ones you're asking me now. And I answer them. Usually this gets a "Geez, I never knew" answer.

M: Are you affiliated with some kind of larger organization of Debbie Gibson fans? How do you stay in contact with other fans?

LB: I am a member of D.G.I.F., the Debbie Gibson International Fan club. It has a couple of thousand members worldwide nowadays. They send out newsletters and magazines about Debbie Gibson. They also provide quick information through a telephone Hotline, which contains a message with the latest info, or by directly e-mailing to the lists.

I also subscribe to the BtL, AIP, AFDG, Electric and BtL-Express mailing lists. (All of these are about Debbie Gibson.) The "daily" mailing list is AIP. It carries about 10 to 15 messages per day on average.

M: I caught some MTV News brief about her playing with the Circle Jerks, of all people. Have you heard "I Wanna Destroy You?"

LB: Yes, I heard (some of) it. I haven't bothered buying the album though. Debbie can sing very well, though it's just too bad that some punk band has to make such noise that it drowns her lovely voice. The song itself isn't really hard-core punk, it's very pop-ish. I wasn't too happy when I first heard she teamed up with them. I was kinda worried it would be some sort of "career-move." After a while, and hearing Deb talk about it, I realized it was just a bit of harmless fun for her, and that it wasn't intended as serious at all. She, as usual, is moving on with her career now.

M: What kind of people are attracted to the internet resources?

LB: Lots of very normal people. Very different too. Some like hard rock/heavy metal besides Debbie, others will be purely into the pop scene. A bunch of people that are involved in the music biz (DJs, a guy from EMI records) others that are into theater (as Debbie is), others that for one reason or another recognize her talent as something special. Although I'm no musician myself, I have noticed that a lot of people on here tend to be active in some way in music, and most are roughly her age or slightly over.

I am not alone in my struggle against hipness. Debbie, and her fans . they understand. We are legion, for we are many, and we're with you all the way.

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