Yes, she was. In 1987, Tiffany Darwish unleashed her self-titled debut album upon a world of dazed and confused teenagers swathed in stone-washed jeans, Day-Glo colors, and teased hair. Searching for unique publicity, she promoted her album by singing at shopping malls across America. Thousands of new fans fell in love with Tiffany at the food court.

Her first single, a peppy remake of Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now,” became a surprise number one hit. Tiffany was soon launched into stardom along with fellow teen titans like Debbie Gibson and Tracie Spencer.

A second single quickly followed: the earnest but cheese-tastic ballad “Could’ve Been.” Then another cover appeared, this time a gender-flipped take on the Beatles with “I Saw Him Standing There.” It was Tiffany’s perceived blasphemy toward the Fab Four that earned her blistering scorn from so-called “true” rock fans. She was never given proper credit for having a good voice or for working a denim jacket like nobody’s business.

Just when it seemed that the hits would keep coming, Tiffany’s career took a wrong turn. Her second album, 1988’s Hold an Old Friend’s Hand, produced only one real hit, “All This Time.” During a subsequent concert tour her popularity quickly began to fade. She was informed that her opening act, New Kids on the Block, would be replacing her as the headliner and that she would be opening for them instead. Ouch! It seemed to be the beginning of the end of a brief career.

In 1990 Tiffany attempted to recover, and released the ill-advised “New Jill Swing” album New Inside. The general consensus of critics and even devoted fans was that it was contrived and robotic. New Inside bombed quickly and loudly. It was all but over for a singer who’d never truly been taken seriously; having her young fan base grow older and abandon her didn’t help. Tiffany’s radio romance had officially ended.

After having her popularity in the U.S. fade faster than her blue jeans, Tiffany took her act to the rest of the world with 1993’s Dreams Never Die. But despite getting some attention in Japan and other countries, there was no official release of the album in America. During this time, Tiffany had made the dubious decision to again join forces with former manager and rumored Svengali George Tobin. The reunion didn’t last, however, and seemed to reach its low point when Tobin insulted Tiffany to her face on a national talk show. Dreams Never Die did very little to resurrect her career, but the album remains a much-sought-after favorite among fans.

Payback is a bitch. After being left for dead on the side of the music business highway, Tiffany took a sharp turn and blindsided naysayers with 2000’s The Color of Silence. Having survived family turmoil, deaths, drugs, and the derailing of her career, Tiffany focused all of her experience, loss, anger, and frustration into a career-defining and image-shattering album.

Clearly no longer trapped by her ’80s incarnation, the album is brimming over with songs of musical self-expression, confessional lyrics, uninhibited rock, and passion-laden pop. Most of the songs are cowritten by Tiffany herself, making this very much her own artistic statement. The lyrics prove that through her music she’s matured and evolved into an emerging singer-songwriter. She manages to balance the interconnecting themes of hope, bitterness, and strength without succumbing to the cliches so often present in modern pop and rock, but the true centerpiece of the album is the intensity and raw emotion in Tiffany’s voice.

Thanks to her talent, Silence is loud and clear.

“Piss U Off”
Yet another song about a doomed romance? Hardly. Tiffany is tired of her trifling boyfriend, but instead of bolting for the door she decides the best revenge is served ice cold and in person. The relationship quickly careens from spiteful lovers to hateful roommates as she unleashes an arsenal of annoying attacks upon the former object of her affection.

Among the delightfully mean-spirited ideas she employs are adopting a dog (or two) even though the boyfriend is allergic, and blasting her favorite tune Á¢€” complete with bagpipes! “Piss U Off” has a mellow melody and is a catchy, clever blend of pop and rock. The moral of the story: don’t tread on Tiffany.

“If Only” (download)
The album’s most somber and intimate song is a tribute to a lost friend Á¢€” Tiffany’s close friend and bodyguard Frank D’Amato. After helping her through years of personal problems, he died of cancer in 1999. That tragic loss is expressed in this simple, beautiful ballad; Tiffany’s vocals are restrained yet passionate. The search for answers to her questions and escape from her grief ends with a small amount of comfort and peace, if only for a moment.

“Good Enough” (download)
Filled with synthesizers and echoing effects, this glistening track stands out from the rest of the album’s main themes. There’s no resentment, disappointment, or anger to be found here. Instead it grooves on a wave of contentment and acceptance of how life can be great if you just let it. Tiffany’s relaxed vocals celebrate how much she’s overcome, the happier times she’s achieved, and the bright future she has to look forward to.

The Color of Silence was followed up in 2005 with Dust Off & Dance. It was recorded as a tribute to Tiffany’s gay and European fans, who had always supported her even when the rest of the public had long since moved on, and it includes a fresh update of “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Her latest album, Just Me, was released in 2007. It’s almost impossible for former teen idols to maintain a successful career, much less make a comeback after they’ve been soundly dismissed by mainstream music fans. But despite that, Tiffany has regrouped and reinvented herself to make a surprising and most welcome return. It took over a decade, as well as several aborted comeback attempts, but she finally got her chance and did something great with it. Who’s a mall chick now?

The Color of Silence can be purchased at Amazon.

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