Ah, two great 80s phenomena coming together is always a glorious thing. In this case it was a mash-up of the mall and the girl-next-door popstar, both in their heyday in the 80s. It was bottled lightning that left us with a song still played daily on radio and TV around the world, as well as having over 21 million views on Youtube. Others had come before but this sort of one-hit-wonder was slightly different. The song wasn't life-changing, Tiffany wasn't a particularly good singer or performer. However, the novel idea of taking a song on the road - not to stadiums, halls or auditoriums, but to the middle-American mall, grinding and capturing grass-roots support, skyrocketed Tiffany and the song into the stratosphere.
Born Tiffany Darwish in California in 1971; Even though she hailed from the Golden State, her roots were very much country, and she loved performing at hoedowns at a very early age and going to see Country performances. It was serendipitous when Tiffany decided to take to the studio to record 'I think we're alone now'- producer George Tobin, who had previously worked with the likes of Smokey Robinson and Kim Carnes, heard the song and pretty much instantly sensed something in it and in Tiffany. Once the album (called, no surprises here, Tiffany) was recorded, Tobin had the great idea for the mall tour and the grind began. Tiffany performed the album as a one-girl show in many malls across 14 American cities. She slowly grew her following and then, once radio stations began to catch wind of an impending hit, Tiffany began to garner ever more air time. It is important to bear in mind that, in the 80s, once you began playing on the radio, your success was more-or-less guaranteed. This was certainly the case for Tiffany as her single began to take on a life of its own.
Tiffany's big hit, I think we're alone now
Such was the impact of the song, it dethroned Michael Jackson's 'bad' from the top of the Billboard charts, which had been enjoying the top spot for two consecutive weeks; not bad (!) for a girl who, just a few weeks earlier, was some random person singing to bemused teens in shopping malls. The tour was given the catchy title 'beautiful you: celebrating the good life shopping mall tour ’87' (ugh) and the first performance was on 23rd June 1987 at the Paramus Park Mall. The music video was filmed in Ogden City Mall, which sadly closed its doors in 2002 and was demolished soon after. It is incredibly sad that a piece of pop-culture history can meet such an end. With every show, the crowds grew larger and more enthusiastic.
Tiffany's inaugural show was performed at Paramus Park Mall. The mall is still there, go visit!
Tiffany in her denim-tastic outfit, so typical of the era
Many teen popstars have since tried to use this mall tour formula. Brintey did it back in 1998, Avril Lavigne did it in 2006. It now seems an obvious strategy to take your burgeoning hit directly to where the people are, but at the time it was novel because the common perception was that only very small entertainment acts would perform at such a 'lowly' venue and that, if anything, these kind of appearances would hurt someone just starting out. Tiffany proved that theory to be very, very wrong. She took it all in her stride, at times seeming like someone running for president, all receiving flowers from adoring fans and kissing toddlers. By the end of the tour she knew how to rock the crowd and was rewarded with great success.
The girl-next-door look had teen boys swooning and teen girls thinking 'this could be me!'
However famous she became at the time, she never changed from the naive, pleasingly amateurish everygirl into a honed singing, performing machine. She kept her image and style and fans loved it. There are many young popstars still around today but it is a different time now. It seems the girl-next-door has been replaced by the polished prince or princess, acts which appear to have been performing on exit from the womb. We no longer see artists slowly developing over time, let alone let loose on a shopping mall so early on in a career.
Great scene from movie Ted 2 (Ninja Turtles dancing to Tiffany, anyone?), the song is still well-threaded through popular culture
The original version of the song, by Tommy James and the Shondells. Unlike Tiffany's cover, and even though it reached a decent number in the charts, it is almost completely forgotten
Unfortunately, Tiffany never repeated the success of 'I think we're alone now'. Soon after her peak in 1987 things turned sour with George Tobin. In 1988 she split with Tobin and signed on with another management company, but it seems that Tobin x Tiffany was the magic combination. Having said that, she released her second album under new management and did manage to crack the top ten with single 'all this time', but things faded from that point. In an attempt to present a more mature direction, things began to get a little confused. She attempted rock, rap and even threw in some country. Fans seemed to share this confusion and began to back away. She also tried to voice characters in animated films and did some reality tv, from cooking to wrestling! She also posed in Playboy magazine. In the early 2000s she shared a stage with Debbie Gibson, her popstar nemesis, the Christina to her Britney, back in the 80s.
Tiffany has never topped those magical two years at the end of the 80s, but she has always kept busy and we will never forget the greatness of that song, of those malls, of that auburn beauty, and we have been left a great little chunk of eighties-tastic popular culture and nostalgia that will always be there to be enjoyed and discovered by following generations of people.