Debbie Gibson – Anything is Possible (Remix Edit)
What, I ask you, would the late eighties have been like without the benign feud between Debbie Gibson and Tiffany? Considering the fact that they were launched within a few months of each other and were targeted at precisely the same audience, it’s a tad disappointing how little mud-slinging went on (though now I think about it, I’d give anything to go back to the days when celebrities could co-exist peacefully and without taping phone calls).
Deborah Gibson and Tiffany Darwish were, it seemed, just nice pop stars doing what they were told. Of the two, it was Tiffany who gave the appearance of being slightly edgier – I Think We’re Alone Now, and especially her rough and ever so slightly raunchy delivery of the words “behave” and “night”, suggested she might be up for a little under the sweater action. Debbie was another thing altogether – she appeared to be someone who might consider the act of holding hands a little too risqué, lest it lead to impure thoughts. Both approaches seemed to work though, with each securing two Billboard Hot 100 no.1 hits, and Debbie visiting the top 10 a total of five times to Tiff’s four. They both did fairly well in the UK too, although generally speaking we went slightly more mad for Tiffany. I, however, was a Debbie boy, and it was her gigantic, free-inside-Smash Hits poster adorning my bedroom wall (alongside Madonna and Kylie, obviously) which helped convince my parents of my robust heterosexuality.
Credibility-wise, Debbie was always taken more seriously as she actually wrote most of her own songs (not that this has any bearing on your worth as a pop star, mind you), and when Foolish Beat hit the top in 1988 she became the youngest person to score a no.1 with a self penned and produced song. The smart money was therefore on Debbie to be the one with a long lasting career, yet by the time 1990 swung around, neither one – despite only being three albums in – could manage a proper hit.
Yes, it’s that turn of the decade thing again. Pop’s tectonic plates were shifting, and into the cracks fell anyone with a penchant for wide brimmed hats or angora sweaters, and up rose grunge and people who promised they were gonna make us sweat. Tiffany was swallowed up almost immediately, while Debbie clung on a bit longer, returning in 1993 as the world’s worst dominatrix with the fairly terrible Shock Your Mama. But just before the cataclysm she managed one more US top 30 hit with today’s tune – presented here in its infinitely better UK remix version – Anything is Possible.
Yes, we are looking at a “Remix and additional production by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow for PWL” number here, but because it’s 1991 it sounds a little bit like a Brothers in Rhythm record, thanks to those lovely swirling synths and rippling piano bits. This is obviously a very good thing, though it does obviously date it somewhat.
My favourite production touch on Anything is Possible is one best experienced on headphones, because during the first verse Debbie’s vocals do a word-by-word jump from left to right and it is really odd but super exciting (the original version does it too but it’s more effective here). It’s like you’re playing hide and seek with her and she keeps popping out from unexpected corners! Amazing.
Round about now you might be thinking, ‘well, remixes and fancy touches are all well and good but is the song any cop?’ – yes, yes it is. Anything is Possible is a rare co-write for Debbie, and her partner here is none other than Lamont Dozier, of Motown and Alison Moyet’s Invisible fame, and it is perhaps he we can thank for bringing us the first Debbie single that isn’t overpoweringly sweet, has a definite groove and is perhaps, just maybe, a little bit sexy. It certainly hints at a person who might stay out after curfew, and I suspect this might have contributed to the song underperforming in America (becoming her last top 30 hit at no.26). I mentioned earlier to our US correspondent Dan that I was writing about it, and he said “Oh! The song that killed her career!” It appears that sometimes we just won’t let our pop stars grow up.
Despite the title, I can’t exactly call Anything is Possible an empowerment anthem because the words are essentially about believing in yourself purely for the purposes of bagging the boy of your dreams (“Thought he was out of my league / Wouldn’t give me time of day / Thought he was like all the rest / Love her, leave her, no remorse / But I guess that I misjudged / And this thing just ran its course / He taught me / Anything is possible”), which hasn’t exactly moved matters on much from We Could Be Together’s “If you said jump I’d say how high?” – but it is progress of a kind because it does at least acknowledge that boys are just as insecure as girls. And are we really any better off now with P!nk and Kelly Clarkson constantly shouting at us to go it alone? I’m not certain we are.
My best friend Sam and I were absolutely, but quite wrongly, convinced that this was going to be a huge, career defining hit – and he, while working for the summer in the music department in Harrods, somehow convinced the buyer to order 100 copies of the album, most of which I imagine are still there somewhere. So if you’re in the mood to party like it’s 1991, I suggest you get yourself down to Knightsbridge pronto.
Entered chart: 09/03/91
Chart peak: 51
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Surely “Anything is Possible: the Debbie Gibson Story” is a TV movie starring Emma Roberts waiting to happen?