After quite impressing the 15-year-old me by interviewing Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, as the singers promoted the Jan. 29 premiere of their tongue-in-cheek Syfy film "Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid," it dawned that fellow youthful artists enjoyed Billboard chart success alongside the pair.
Pop music has warmly welcomed teen stars since the beginning of the rock era. From Little Peggy March and Stevie Wonder to Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, the genre has long produced acts with whom young audiences can so easily relate.
The late '80s, when Gibson and Tiffany reigned with two Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s apiece, the former with "Foolish Beat" (1988) and "Lost in Your Eyes" (1989), the latter with "I Think We're Alone Now" (1987) and "Could've Been" (1988), was especially abundant in such artists.
While New Kids on the Block scored the greatest Hot 100 accolades among late '80s teen acts, racking nine top 10s, including three No. 1s, through 1990, a host of young solo female singers accompanied Gibson and Tiffany to the upper reaches of Billboard surveys.
Here's a look back at five other female singers whose afterschool jobs two decades ago included scaling Billboard charts.
The California-born Martika Marrero first made her showbiz mark in 1984 when she joined "Kids, Incorporated" at 15. Also in the cast? A fellow future single-named star: nine-year-old Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson. ("We were rockin'!," Martika remembers). Two days after her 20th birthday, Martika's second single, "Toy Soldiers," entered the Hot 100. The haunting ballad, with its decidedly adult theme of overcoming addiction, ruled for two weeks in July 1989. Eminem's rap reinvention of the track, as "Like Toy Soldiers," reached No. 34 in 2005.
While in her teens, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native, born Alisha Itkin, collected four top 10s on Billboard's Dance/Club Play Songs chart, including the No. 1 "Baby Talk." At 22, she added the No. 10 "Bounce Back." In 1999, Alisha provided the theme song for a movie about a much-less poised (and fictional) teen: Mary Katherine Gallagher. "You Wanna Be a Star" added to the antics of Molly Shannon's "Superstar."
After Vision Records executives discovered her singing Madonna songs in a karaoke booth at a county fair, the then-17-year-old sent her eventual freestyle classic "I Want You" to No. 40 on the Hot 100 in 1990. She segued to country music and, as Shana Petrone, charted three titles on Country Songs in 1998-99. "("I Want You") had a life of its own and I was just along for the ride," she recalls. "I was so ignorant of the music business. I just assumed that anyone who recorded a song could have it played on the radio. I had no idea how lucky I was."
After a winning performance on "Star Search" in 1986, Spencer hit the Hot 100 running at age 12 when "Symptoms of True Love" reached No. 38 in 1988. "This House" (No. 3, 1991) remains her biggest Hot 100 hit, while on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Spencer collected five top 10s in the '90s, including the No. 1 "Tender Kisses" in 1991. Most recently, Spencer has followed another of her passions: pursuing her bachelor's degree in psychology.
As a teen, Ana (Rodriguez) placed two songs on the Hot 100, "Shy Boys" (No. 94, 1987) and "Got to Tell Me Something" (No. 66, 1990), the latter written and produced by New Kids on the Block creator Maurice Starr. A second 1990 single fell short of the chart but its credits reveal another tie-in to the era's teen royalty: the melodic "Everytime We Say Goodbye" was written and produced by Debbie Gibson.