More than 30 years after introducing herself to fans, Tiffany may now be revealing her most authentic side as an artist.
Then just 16, Tiffany summited the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987 and 1988 with her first two entries, her dance-ready remake of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” and ballad “Could’ve Been.” Her eponymous debut album likewise topped the Billboard 200, making Tiffany the first teen female artist ever to hit No. 1 on the tally, and the first teen overall since Stevie Wonder 25 years earlier.
Tiffany subsequently scored two more Hot 100 top 10s, notched four top 40 hits on the Dance Club Songs chart, released the acclaimed LP The Color of Silence in 2000 and even explored country on 2011’s Rose Tattoo.
Still, perhaps not well known even to those familiar with her catalog, Tiffany grew up a rock fan (idolizing another Stevie that she’d eventually join on the charts: Stevie Nicks) and, for the first time on an album, her new LP Pieces of Me, her 10th studio set, she embraces the genre in full.
After 2016’s adult-leaning A Million Miles, Tiffany (no stranger to covering Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in concert) delves into a sound that she envisioned well before her earliest hits. Mark Alberici and Steven Leiweke co-produced Pieces of Me, while musicians on it include Mark Brzezicki of longtime alt favorites Big Country.
Not that she’s distancing herself from her past. Tiffany will fondly revisit her pop classics as a special guest, along with (good friend) Debbie Gibson (they were never rivals, despite ’80s mythology), Naughty by Nature and Salt-N-Pepa on headliners New Kids on the Block‘s 53-city, three-month The Mixtape Tour, beginning in May 2019. Ahead of the trek, the acts released the catchy, and endearingly kitschy, single “80s Baby.”
Tiffany spoke with Billboard about the album and tour and her optimism about following her rock muse at last.
From the beginning of opener “Worlds Away,” Pieces of Me serves up a crunchier sound that even longtime fans might not have expected. How did it originate?
I’ve had producers attempt this, but they always kind of watered it down. For this album, we wrote “Worlds Away” first and it was like, “I think we’re onto something here …”
It’s really been organic. I’ve known that I’ve wanted to do this at some point, and I’ve been waiting for the right people.
It’s quite different from your last album, 2016’s A Million Miles, which showcased the softer side of your sound.
I think this album is going to take me in a whole different direction. With A Million Miles, I still was proving myself as a writer, and as a vocalist. It gave me the platform to tour again. People came up to me afterward and said, “I didn’t know you could sing like that. I know ‘Could’ve Been’ is an amazing song, and I knew you had the chops, but I didn’t know you had these chops.”
For the kid in me that had a rockier edge and wanted to be Stevie Nicks, it’s been fulfilling that I’ve met Dave Navarro and Dave Grohl, these amazing artists that have given encouragement … Stevie Nicks, too. It means so much to me.
I’m not happy being old-school Tiffany. No offense, I love that … that was my start, I’m grateful … but that’s not me today. I will always do the hits in my shows, because they’re great songs, but from that, I’ve learned to write songs. It really made me raise the bar.
I had a great start and I’m hoping to do what I love now, as an extension.
Maybe that’s partly why this album came about now. You get to a point where you want to do things for you.
Life is short. You’ve got to live your dreams.
In the intro to “Heartbeat Away,” the synths, you can hear a direct line to Big Country, and, say, The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
There was no, “let’s not try it.” We tried a lot of things. We didn’t have to make them work; they just worked. The juices just started flowing. Everybody found their places. It was magical to be a part of something like that.
What does the title, Pieces of Me, mean to you?
I think this album is the most vulnerable I’ve been on. I’m about to embrace the world as a newly-separated person [from her second husband]. It’s a new journey for me. I don’t know what around the corner holds.
I’m starting over, I’m readjusting, without people that I thought would be here in my life. So, I wrote a lot about this.
Hopefully that’s helpful, on a personal level. Maybe to listeners, too.
Yeah, music is really that. Everyone puts their heart and soul into music. Straight-up pop musicians, who don’t even write … I don’t think they just go in and record a song and tour behind it and not have a connection.
I feel like good things come from that. You’re willing to expose a little bit more. No one’s going to think you’re strange or weird. It’ll be, “I get what you’re writing about.”
It seems like with A Million Miles and now Pieces of Me, we’re hearing more, in the past two years, of who you are on a deeper level than ever before.
It’s been a lot of … I can’t say hard work, because it’s been a lot of fun. Now we’re going to take this music around the world. I have this buzz in my being. I’m opening doors and knocking down walls that I’ve been wanting to be for a while.
I’m all smiles nowadays; I wake up like a kid. I’ve celebrated 30 years, but I feel like it’s my first album. I feel like I’m showing everybody how I stand out. I think any artist feels fulfilled when they get that opportunity.
Speaking of new music, and playing it live, what are your thoughts on New Kids on the Block’s newly-released single “80s Baby,” with you, Debbie Gibson, Naughty by Nature and Salt-N-Pepa, and the upcoming tour?
“80s Baby” sticks in your head, it’s got a really fun retro vibe. I love it.
I’m very excited about this tour. It’s the first time that New Kids on the Block and I will be touring together in 30 years … crazy! I have so much love and respect for these guys. It’s going to be awesome being back on the road together. It’s going to be an absolute blast for us and the fans.