Listening to it now, what strikes me most about “I Think We’re Alone Now” is how discofied it is. Its clipped drums and chunky bass synths mean it starts like a low-rent “Always On My Mind”, and it looks set to head down a similar hi-NRG path. Only a couple of the very mildest rock touches – that tiny organ flourish leading into the chorus, a very diffident bit of electric guitar over the coda – and its rather sluggish pace divert it.
Oh, and the way Tiffany Dawlish herself never lives up to the gusto of that opening – “Children behaaaaave”. You hear that and you think she’s going to belt the song out, grab onto of its urgency, ride its hormonal high stakes. Original singer Tommy James knew why being alone was a good idea: so most certainly did his band the Shondells, who play “I Think” with a hopping, blue-balled desperation. But that single-mindedness is missing from Tiffany’s version and so her “alone” seems a little more academic. You don’t really believe anything terribly naughty is going to happen, and actually the comforting swell of strings towards the end just seems to underline that Tiff’s parents don’t have a great deal to worry about: that trademark denim jacket is staying firmly on.
Teenpop stars are often accused of pushing a wholesome image to mask a less squeaky-clean reality, but actually remarkably few do: the people buying them want some level of glamour from even the most reputable star. This era is the larval stage of modern teenpop, but compared to 00s and 10s pop acts Tiffany seems quaint, hokey almost, and even at the time there was a sense of the amateur about her which served her quite well. Her record sleeves seemed defiantly basic, and all that homespun mythmaking about her touring malls was more endearing from her than similar gimmicks would be from anyone else after. Nothing wrong with the song either: it’s very strong and always fakes me into thinking I enjoy the record more than I do. But for me song and singer don’t really fit, and the arrangement drains the potential from both.