First, a couple of book/movie notes. I read “Of Mice And Men” and “Cannery Row,” both by Steinbeck, and the man’s a genius for having written such disparate but great stories. “Mice” is even more bleak and full of dispair than “The Grapes of Wrath,” and the way Steinbeck builds the story, you just know it’s not gonna end up well, but you’re still devastated when it all hits the fan. Then you have “Cannery,” where the characters aren’t a whole lot off better, but the story’s full of the joy of life, where even their shortcomings and bad decisions are celebrated as what makes them and their town magical. I enjoyed reading both stories immensely (if I had to pick one, I’d go with “Mice”; it’s almost right up there with “The Great Gatsby” in being perfectly constructed like a puzzle).
I’ve also seen a couple of movies: “Precious” and “New Moon.” Let’s start with “Precious,” the story of a teenaged girl living in the ghetto with Mommy and Daddy From Hell. It’s not a lighthearted comedy, I assure you, with one crushing blow after another delivered to the title character. When it all ended, I felt almost hollow, and I wasn’t sure if I liked the movie. But really, it’s not a movie to be liked. It’s not meant to entertain or inspire or uplift or anything like that. It’s supposed to show you a part of reality that people don’t like to think about and force you into thinking about it. And in that, it works brilliantly; the movie is painfully real, and it stays with you.
Then you have “New Moon,” which has a different kind of motive altogether, namely to sell you tickets and hook you into seeing the next Twilight sequel. Fail, absolute fail. I was actually a big fan of the first movie despite finding vampire films rather silly–you want scary vampires, stay away from the movie versions and read “Dracula” the novel–as the whole “I love you, but I can’t let myself have you” aspect worked very effectively. But this time, there’s hardly anything in this film that feels even a little bit real. And really, nothing happens. Kristen Stewart mopes, Robert Pattinson goes away and pretty much stays away (and he seems rather bored when he does show up), and Taylor Lautner as Jacob is left carrying much of the load this time around, which is both a blessing (cough–hot bod–cough) and a curse (his acting’s not so hot). Once again, FAIL.
Anyhow, let’s now return to our Top 101 Countdown, which I’ve been neglecting for a few weeks now. This time we flash back to the 80’s when a teen redhead took to the malls and became a star. That mall rat was of course Tiffany, and her teen crush anthem “I Think We’re Alone Now” is #70 on our list.
When people remember Tiffany now, many would be reminded of her “rivalry” with fellow teen queen Debbie Gibson. Personally, I think they’ve both had some great pop songs, but nothing in Debbie’s canon can hold a candle to “I Think We’re Alone Now.” I think the big difference is–cue the backhanded compliment–that well, Debbie always struck me as a lot more cerebral, i.e. smarter. Even when she was singing about crushes of her own, I sometimes got the feeling she was thinking about something else entirely, like calculating the budget for her video shoot or conjugating Latin verbs or what have you. “Only In My Dreams” is a good example; it’s a very good song about a girl dreaming about the boy of her dreams, but it never quite takes flight and convinces you.
Tiffany had no such problems. She wasn’t afraid to sound silly and hopelessly naive, which made “I Think We’re Alone Now” work so well. Because let’s face it: Love doesn’t make you any smarter, it breaks down your brain cells and lets your heart take over until you’re giggly and high and cooing nonsense. Tiffany understood this perfectly, which is why she’s on our countdown, and Debbie–sorry, Deborah–isn’t.