1987 was an interesting year in pop music. Alongside Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson who were icons in the peaks of their careers, you had a mish-mash of genres all colliding at the top of the charts. U2 had two #1 hits during the year from their legendary Joshua Tree, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi were both representing the hair metal genre, and bands like Huey Lewis and the News, Heart and Starship were also finding their way to the top through it all. At the end of the day, this mish-mash of songs, genres, and styles made 1987 classic in terms of it definitely being indisputably a year in the eighties in every sense, and not necessarily for the songs that came out of it being memorable. But, I’d feel lucky if I was writing about any of the aforementioned artists. There’s a lot to say about each of them, how they carved out niches in the cluttered MTV world to make their mark on a decade that had so many different personalities and styles.
As luck would have it, I’m writing instead about Tiffany, an artist (if you can call her that?) who I would place firmly in the genre of super cheesy teen pop along with her counterpart, Debbie Gibson. Tiffany was only sixteen when she hit it big on the back of her mall tour called “The Beautiful You: Celebrating The Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87,” (not a joke) and her self-titled album, Tiffany. Tiffany’s signature song (if you can call it that?) is “I Think We’re Alone Now,” a cover of the much better Tommy James and the Shondells hit of 1967, and to be blunt, it is just not good. I don’t know the exact logistics of how a mall tour got a #1 hit on the charts, but whoever did it deserves a medal or something. Tiffany, being only 16, and not having her vocals covered by computer aided auto-tune, or even something resembling a great production team behind her would probably be passed over nowadays for an Annie’s hot pretzel by most (also very popular in malls) if they had the choice.
I’m actually not sure which sounds worse, Tiffany’s vocal performance or the actual production of this song. For all I know, Tiffany could have hit play on a tiny cassette boombox and sung over it, and it would sound the same. It’s not that the song is even a difficult one to cover by any stretch – Tommy James conveyed the “runaway lovers” theme of this song through minimal instrumentation (for that time) and some clever production techniques back in the day (bass drum = heart beats). Instead of putting any sort of effort in, Tiffany’s producers and label decided to keep up the pep by getting rid of the dynamics of the song between the verses and the chorus (the best part of the original, if you ask me).
Despite Tiffany herself originally protesting against recording this cover (the original wasn’t modern or hip enough, she thought) Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” hit #1 for two consecutive weeks starting on November 7th, 1987, right after Michael Jackson’s “Bad” (a much better song), and right before Billy Idol’s cover of another Tommy James song, “Mony Mony” hit number one (was a great month for those Shondells) In any case, this wasn’t the only #1 hit that Tiffany would have, which again, okay, 80s, you win again, you got multiple #1 hits from a mall tour. I guess this is the equivalent of having a #1 hit based off of a viral video these days (that’s happened…more than once) but still, someone made millions of dollars from a mall tour AND bad production, so I’d like to announce that I’ll be touring the food courts of America promoting my own one-man cover of the Tommy James psychedelic classic, “Crimson and Clover” and hoping to get that big Annie’s pretzels sponsorship. Wish me luck!