Body Mind Soul signalled the end of Debbie Gibson's chart life, but it's not the music's fault. This record was one of the casualties of the paradigm shift that had turned New Kids on the Block fans into Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and even Pantera fans -- a generation had started to grow up, and Gibson's music was left behind.
But this is one fine record. Even when I was a teenager back in 1993, this record sat in comfortably in my CD walkman along with Pearl Jam's Vs., R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People, and other songs by far more "respectable" artists. And this is the record on which Gibson didn't sound like a talented teenager, but a fully formed artist with depth and complexity. She'd just done an overhaul in her music, choosing new collaborators (Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, of Rythm Syndicate, which had one big hit in "P.A.S.S.I.O.N.") and a new, more grown-up image. Rythm Syndicate wasn't exactly the most respected band around, but Rogers and Sturken proved highly catalytic to Gibson as co-writers and co-producers.
Lead single "Losin' Myself" was possibly the sexiest single of that year. Maybe it wasn't a great idea for Gibson to play a stripper in the video, but the single is still a marvel, an engaging mix of dance song and ballad, a track that just keeps building up higher and higher rhythmically, with great backing vocals, a killer bassline, a bridge that Prince might've cooked up, and a varied, sensual lead vocal by Gibson. "Free Me" melds a heavy club beat to a great pop song and effectively caps off Gibson's artistic intent; "Do You Have It in Your Heart?" signals Gibson's new approach towards ballads. She now sounds fully mature and this song easily makes us forget the overt sentimentality of "Lost in Your Eyes"; and "How Can This Be?" harkens back to her older songs, but with more maturity and better lyrics. The only dud is "Shock Your Mama", which does nothing of the sort, pretty flat and uninteresting even as a joke.
This album fell into bargain bins about a year after it came out. But it's easily the strongest album in the Gibson catalogue, better than Gibson's plethora of semi-independent albums throughout the '90s, and a record that would be good by anybody's standards.