Maturity is something you can’t just declare--you have to earn it the hard way. With her third album, Debbie Gibson tries to establish herself as more than just a teen-popster, but her callowness shows.
The theme running through this redundant, overproduced, 72-minute sprawl is that life isn’t all that easy, so to make it you’ve got to be a focused, independent, self-sufficient go-getter. Gibson’s exhortations turn into grating, cliche-ridden harping that remains abstract and never engages the thorny issues of actual living. It doesn’t help that her vocal phrasing is given to exaggerated, breathy heaving, apparently to convey sweaty effort on the dance numbers that make up the album’s first half, and to signal a diva’s ardor on the love ballads that dominate the second.
Gibson does display a good knack with a melodic hook and a credible mastery of contemporary pop craft. When she combines those qualities with some sass and spunk on the deliciously catty, unabashedly adolescent “It Must’ve Been My Boy,” the results are vibrant. Too often, though, Gibson uses her craftsmanship to dress up thin lyrics in overly elaborate garb.