Debbie Gibson embraces Christmas with album, tour

She graces Center Stage in Atlanta on Dec. 11.

It’s a bit shocking that pop songstress Debbie Gibson waited more than 35 years into her career to release her first holiday album, “Winterlicious.”

But now that she’s committed, she’s going all in with a holiday tour hitting several cities including Atlanta at Center Stage on Sunday, Dec. 11. Tickets are $40-$60 at Ticketmaster.

“I always wanted to make a holiday album,” said Gibson, 52, in a recent Zoom interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m just a big fan of timing. The universe deemed this the moment for the second act for me.”

In a sense, Gibson has had far more than two acts. Besides teen pop superstar, she’s been a Broadway star, a TV show judge and an actress. But her fan base loves her for her hit songs from the late 1980s including “Only In My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love,” “Out of the Blue” and two No. 1 ballads “Foolish Beat” and “Lost in Your Eyes.”

The Christmas show will be “cozy like those Andy Williams specials,” Gibson said. “We might wear jammies doing easy, breezy versions of some of my hits and songs from the holiday album. Break out the s’mores! It’s holiday time. There will also be a feeling that is super festive and, dare I say, almost theme park. Good old-fashioned musical numbers mixed in with a ‘what the holiday means to everyone’ vibe. These venues are smaller so we can really commune with the audience.”

She was last in Atlanta as part of the New Kids on the Block Mix-Tape tour with Tiffany, Salt-n-Pepa and Naughty by Nature in 2019 at State Farm Arena. The holiday album, a mix of originals and covers, comes on the heels of her 2021 comeback album “The Body Remembers,” which landed a dance hit “Girls Night Out.”

The new record includes a frothy original single “Christmas Star” she released a year ago, a lovely duet with her dad Joe on “White Christmas,” an original Hanukkah tune (”Illuminate”) and a sweet cover of Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candy Man,” a song she first performed in 2020 remotely on “The Talk” for a Halloween episode during the pandemic.

“Winterlicious” also includes a remastered version of “Sleigh Ride,” which was on the 1992 “A Very Special Christmas 2″ CD benefiting the Special Olympics and still garners airplay on holiday stations to this day.

And she reunited with her buddy Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block, who sang a fresh duet version of “Lost in Your Eyes” on the Mix-Tape tour. They co-wrote and recorded “Heartbreak Holiday,” which she imagines could be turned into a holiday movie.

The most resonant tune is “Cheers!” The final cut on the record, it’s a touching piano-heavy ballad homage to her late mom and manager Diane, who died earlier this year at age 76. Diane helped shepherd Gibson through the minefield of a brutal record business resistant to a teen songwriter and performer. She long preceded the likes of Lorde, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“My mom kicked that door down with brute force,” Gibson said. “She did it for me and all those young girls doing it now and music fans who got to enjoy that young talent.”

Much to Gibson’s amazement, she remains the youngest female artist to hit the top of the Billboard hot 100 for a song she sang, wrote and produced with “Foolish Beat” in 1988. (Both Eilish and Lorde were younger when their breakthrough songs they wrote landed No. 1 but they didn’t produce their songs and Rodrigo was a month older when “Drivers License” peaked at the top of the chart in early 2021.)

Gibson has never spoken to either Eilish or Rodrigo though she was at Madison Square Garden to see Billy Joel this fall when Rodrigo duetted with Joel on “Uptown Girl” and performed her song “déja vu,” which references “Uptown Girl.”

“She was sitting right behind me,” Gibson said. “But I’m so conscious of the moment she’s in. Let her enjoy the concert. I’m not going up to her here and now. I’ll cross paths with her at the right moment.”

Rodrigo, she added, “knows I love what she’s doing and appreciate her talent. She seems to be a nice human being. Billie Eilish gives off a real and authentic energy too.”

“Cheers!” is also “really about all of life’s special but simple and profound moments and to all the baristas, artista and each stage-door Johnny,” she noted, quoting her own song. “My career and my life is about moments. It’s great to have charting singles and awards but at the end of the day, it’s about the connections we make with people.”

Music, she said, brings people together. “My diehard Debheads have been brought together through my music and inevitably by each other. They formed their own relationships outside of me. It’s raising a glass to those moments and people.”


IF YOU GO

Debbie Gibson “Winterlicious” tour

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. $40-$60. Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta. centerstage-atlanta.com.