Alisha: The Original ’80s Teen Queen

Alisha

When it comes to female teen-pop singers in the 1980s, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany are the names most people know.

 

But in 1984 — two years before either those two teen queens even released a song —  a 15-year-old New York-based singer named Alisha was burning up the dance charts with a tune called “All Night Passion.”

 

The problem was that the dance charts were pretty much all Alisha burned up. “All Night Passion,” which boasted a sultry medium tempo and fervent vocal, hit Number Three on Billboard’s dance chart, but it only got as high as Number 103 on the Hot 100 (which means it just hit Billboard’s “Bubbling Under” chart).

 

Maybe the tune was arranged in too much of a “freestyle” dance style for mass consumption. Or maybe the arbiters of pop taste felt the chorus of “All night passion gets me through the day” was too risqué for a 15-year-old to be singing. Whatever the case, it unfortunately set the tone of the career of Alisha Itkin, who would have lots of dance chart success, but would never have a pop single rise higher than Number 54.

 

Of course, the teen music scene that exploded in the late 1990s didn’t exist in the early 1980s. Even in the mid-1980s the music of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany was regularly derided in the mainstream press (OK, so their music wasn’t “Pet Sounds,” but it wasn’t half bad either). In the 1980s, music coverage was still all about what the Baby Boomers were listening to, and teen music wasn’t given serious press attention until the Baby Boomers’ kids started listening to it a generation later.

 

These facts at least partially explain why Alisha’s best single, the brilliant Madonna knock-off “Baby Talk,” only rose to Number 68 in late 1985. Why listen to fun teen sounds when you have, like, Huey Lewis and Phil Collins?

And make no mistake, Alisha’s first album was designed for total teen appeal.

 

The cover featured the singer in a very “teenage girl” pose – perched on her bed with telephone in band. More an extended EP than an LP, it showcases the production techniques of Mark Berry, which then sounded futuristic, but now probably sound retro to anyone under 40.

 

Alisha released a second LP and got a song on the soundtrack of the romantic comedy “Mannequin,” which featured Kim Cattrall in her pre-“Sex and the City” days. As the decade turned, her cover of Fire on Blonde’s “Bounce Back” became her biggest hit of all, rising to Number 54 on the pop charts. It also earned her a place on countless dance compilations (and endless spins on the USA Network’s “Dance Party U.S.A.” teen dance show).

 

You can find out more about Alisha at her MySpace page. Her first LP is available at Amazon and her “Baby Talk” video can be seen at complete with its solly mock-dramatic spoken introduction at YouTube.com.