A new pop album is no longer only in Debbie Gibson’s dreams.
On Aug. 20, the pop star turned stage and screen actress will release The Body Remembers via her own Stargirl Records, her first set of original pop songs since M.Y.O.B. in 2000. It’s preceded by a new version of her chart-topping “Lost in Your Eyes” as a duet with New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, with whom Gibson will be co-headlining Las Vegas shows during August and September.
“This album very much feels like Electric Youth 2021 in a lot of ways,” Gibson tells Billboard, referencing her double-platinum sophomore album from 1989, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and launched three top 20 Hot 100 hits, including “Lost In Your Eyes.” “The variety of styles, the way it encapsulates my life right now — I really wanted to let it hang out on this album. The goal was to make an undeniably special, authentic, well-crafted and yet still raw album. I feel great about the fact we found that. I feel like I’ve made an undeniable album.”
But Gibson is quick to assure that, at 50, she’s not trying to revert to her teenage self either. “What does make it feel like it’s been a long time is the richness of things I have to write about now,” she explains. “I’ve lived a lot of life up to this album, and it’s all reflected here. There are chapters and chapters of other songs I’ve written, especially in the last 10 years. I knew that the next time I put something out I wanted it to be a drop-the-mic ‘wow’ moment. I feel like this is that album.”
The new “Lost in Your Eyes” does hail from Gibson’s past, but with more recent context. Gibson and McIntyre performed the song together during NKOTB’s Mixtape Tour in 2019 at his suggestion. As Gibson was putting material together for The Body Remembers, she decided, “it’s time for us to record ‘Lost’ together.”
“Literally one of the questions I get asked the most on social media is ‘When is the ‘Lost in Your Eyes’ duet gonna get released?'” Gibson says. “It’s so special to me. I grew up with New Kids. I had their posters on my wall, and they were my friends. So to team up with them at that point in our lives was amazing. Fans kept saying, ‘I was watching my idol and my crush together.’ That’s powerful.”
The collaboration also provided the juice for the duo’s shows at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas — with Sept. 16-19 added after the initial Aug. 26-29 dates sold out. “Joey was like, ‘Y’know what? If we record it, how about if we also do some shows together?'” Gibson recalls. “It snowballed into this engagement that’s gonna be so much fun.”
For the rest of The Body Remembers, recorded under pandemic conditions, Gibson co-produced primarily with Sean Thomas but also collaborated with Tracy Young, Lars Nelson, Fred Coury and others. The songs boast a contemporary pop sheen and classic melodic sensibilities, from dance tracks such as “Love Don’t Care” (which has been around the better part of a decade) and “One Step Closer” to the halting, R&B-flavored gait of “Legendary,” which started life as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. A throbbing techno underpinning drives “Runway,” while “Me Not Loving You” and “Strings” dip into lush ballad territory.
“I really wanted to tell the truth about who I am, my life, and the truth about my voice, which sometimes is super slick and sometimes has rough edges,” Gibson says. “I had a chapter of my life and my career where I did a lot of Broadway and I wanted to prove to myself and other people I could use the legitimate part of my voice and sound super slick and have all this control. But I’m a rocker at heart in the sense that I have a rawness when I sing. I felt like it was time to really embrace that side of my personality.”
The Body Remembers comes at a time when Gibson’s visibility is on the upswing. During the Mixtape Tour she hit No. 4 on the Dance Club chart with the single “Girls Night Out.” More recently she appeared on the “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” of Netflix’s Lucifer, while Kelly Clarkson covered “Lost in Your Eyes” for her Kellyoke series. Gibson is also getting ready to film The Class, “a very cool, kind of modern-day version of The Breakfast Club with Anthony Michael Hall and Charlie Gillespie,” in Chicago. There are also, she says, “a couple other movie projects I can’t talk about yet.” She’s also finishing up a Christmas album.
“I feel like I’m sitting at the beginning of this new chapter — at 50, but I really do feel like a wide-eyed teenager about this music,” Gibson says. “I always had dreams of being in show business forever, making music forever. I always idolized Tina Turner and Cher for turning age on its ear in an ageist business. I got enough reality checks along the way that made me realize that is not an easy task; doing something once is a lot easier than sustaining it. So I still have work to do, but I’m being conscious about enjoying all the moments, all the excitement leading up to things instead of just being intense about my work.”