Debbie Gibson is making a mental checklist for her return to NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum with New Kids on the Block’s “The Mixtape Tour” on Sunday.
The Merrick native is thrilled to see her Long Island fans, as well as friends and family, again. She is eager to see what has changed at the arena where she rehearsed for her 1989 “Electric Youth” world tour, following its $165 million renovation and reopening in 2017. And she is wondering if she can order enough pizza from Galleria Ristorante & Pizzeria of Merrick to feed the entire road crew.
“The Coliseum is obviously so full of memories for me — seeing Billy Joel there and doing my shows there,” says Gibson, calling from a tour stop in Buffalo. “We even have the happy problem that we start playing Ticketmaster for all my friends and family wanting to come to that show.
“So, in that regard, nothing has changed in 30 years,” she adds, laughing. “It's just always nice to reconnect with Long Island.”
Of course, plenty has changed for the Long Island Music Hall of Famer, who remains the youngest female artist ever to write, produce and perform a No. 1 hit — a feat she managed when “Foolish Beat” topped the charts in 1988 when she was only 17. Seeing her share the stage with New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty by Nature and her friend Tiffany on the current arena tour makes that clear, as does one listen to her new single “Girls Night Out.”
“I don't really listen to the '80s stations – I think people assume I live in that place,” Gibson says. “I lived that once and I enjoy it every now and again. But I love to hear what people are doing now.”
She is a fan of The Weeknd and Demi Lovato, as well as Halsey and Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and other young artists.
“I think Five Seconds of Summer is brilliant,” she says. “I think 'Youngblood' is one of the most brilliantly written songs of the last decade. I just really respect a lot of the young talent out there and it would be superfun to collaborate.”
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Gibson says that once the “Mixtape Tour” is done, she will resume work on a new album, probably for release early next year. “I'm just so eager to get back in the studio,” she says. “I feel so connected to my audience, but also to the current landscape sonically. I'm at a point where I don't want to just play new music. I'm out to compete again. I'm out to have my next chapter be my Cher chapter.”
After all, despite a career of hits including “Out of the Blue” and “Lost in Your Eyes,” Gibson, 48, is still four years younger than Cher was when she hit No. 1 with “Believe.” “Right now, I feel like I'm sitting on music that can carry me for the rest of my career,” she says. “I just feel very connected right now. I feel connected to people and connected to modern life and writing about it. So that's my No. 1 priority.”
Gibson plans to take her “Mixtape Tour” experiences with her, as well. “The show is really like a mixtape,” she says. “New Kids comes out for a half hour. Then Tiffany comes out there and I come out and then New Kids come back. Salt-N-Pepa comes out, then Naughty By Nature… It's like wall to wall hits for two-and-a-half-hours. It's pretty epic.”
Gibson says her favorite moment is when she takes the stage after Naughty by Nature does its hit “Hip Hop Hooray.” “It’s so trippy,” she says. “People are just like losing their minds — the whole arena is just a sea of arms waving back and forth. And then I come in with the opening notes of ‘Foolish Beat’ on the piano. That's the beauty of the show.”
It’s a feeling that has really stuck with Gibson, who wraps up the tour in July. “It's wild to be sitting up there now, all these years later, playing that song and see people still resonating with it,” she says. “It's crazy, right? Last night, I was singing the hook to ‘Only in My Dreams’ and I really felt connected to that little girl from Long Island with a dream. And when I'm singing that line and my arms are open and I'm taking in 15,000 people singing it with me, it really is mind-boggling. Who gets to live this life? Very few people. It's a magical moment.”
“I will never be a ‘back in the day’ person,” Gibson adds. “I think, ‘This is the day.’ That was a great time. But I love life right now.”
WHAT New Kids on The Block: The Mixtape Tour
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30, NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale
INFO $64.45-$244.45; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Debbie Gibson says she always had a strategy for her mixtape, one that continues to this day as she creates the playlists for her SiriusXM show “Debbie Gibson’s Mixtape,” which airs bi-weekly on Fridays on The Blend channel.
“I always was kind of into the ins and outs of each song to see how they fit together,” Gibson says. “It might be that they're in the same key and that connects them. It might be that the tempo gradually built over five songs or it maybe some kind of theme in terms of finding love, losing love, finding love again or whatever it may be.”
Gibson says she always enjoyed the compilations her pal actor Brian Bloom, also from Merrick, used to make. “He used to make the most awesome mixtapes and he was very into R&B at the time so I kind of got introduced to urban music at that time by him,” she says, adding that he introduced her to Al B. Sure’s “Night and Day.” “That's a very fun mixtape memory.”
The New Kids on the Block designed “The Mixtape Tour” to play like a compilation of the biggest hits of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, with the original artists performing them. Here’s a look at the must-hears:
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
BIGGEST HIT “Step by Step” (No. 1, 3 weeks, 1990) Maybe the ultimate in classic boy-band creations, where each member gets his own moment in the spotlight and the group choreography is almost as important as the song.
BIGGEST HIT “I Think We’re Alone Now” (No. 1, 2 weeks, 1987) The peppy cover used the then-15-year-old Tiffany’s youth to her advantage by touring malls instead of clubs and getting legions of teens behind the dance-pop hit.
BIGGEST HIT “Whatta Man” (No. 3, 1994) A tribute to the “mighty mighty good men” in Salt-N-Pepa’s lives, the rappers list the good qualities, including being faithful and having “a body like Arnold with a Denzel face.”
NAUGHTY BY NATURE
BIGGEST HIT “O.P.P.” (No. 6, 1991) Even if you weren’t down with the concept of “O.P.P.” (yeah, you know me), the way they trotted out the scenarios made it amusing enough to think about. – GLENN GAMBOA