Friday, August 4, 2023

#71 Martika (+ Sinéad O'Connor bonus)

Here's Martika at the 71st slot in the 1991 MusiCards checklist. It's her only card in the standard set, but she also has a pair of cards in the UK edition, one of which looks the same as above but with the logo moved down to the opposite corner. The other UK card features a fun shot with her sax player.

I had watched Martika star on Kids Incorporated as a young-un (which I remember as kinda like Saved By The Bell but with singing), so it was a trip for me when she became a pop star with "Toy Soldiers" not long after aging-out of child acting. Seemed like she was on her way to a successful career at the time, but the longevity wasn't there and she pretty much only had that one hit. I remember watching a "Where Are They Now?" segment on her years later and she seemed happy and content with her life away from the spotlight.

I liked "Toy Soldiers" fine back when it was all over radio and MTV for those few weeks and don't mind hearing it once in a blue moon today. I'm not familiar with any of her other songs off the top of my head, but I'll take a listen here in a moment. Skimming her Wikipedia entry, I was surprised to learn she reached the Top 40 four times, working with Prince on one of those singles (which is available in 3 flavors: Martika version, Prince version, and Prince Mix of Martika version), so it might not be fair to label her a one-hit wonder. She saw a bump in visibility after Eminem sampled "Toy Soldiers" for a song in 2004. Around that time, she formed a Latin pop band with her husband called Oppera and put out a couple albums. Since then she's mostly kept a low profile living in Dayton, Ohio, occasionally performing at throwback music festivals.

Ok, after listening to a greatest hits album from Martika, she's got some decent pop tunes that call to mind the likes of Paula Abdul or early Madonna. But nothing that really sticks like "Toy Soldiers", a song written in response to a friend's cocaine addiction, in contrast to the rest of her songs that are generally upbeat. That aforelinked Prince Mix is probably the only thing besides "Toy Soldiers" I'd have much desire to give further listens to going forward, but had I owned the album as a kid back then, I bet I would have loved it. (see Forever Your Girl being a sentimental favorite of mine today.)


Speaking of singers with ties to Prince, we go from Martika to "Mandinka". Sinéad O'Connor passed away last month at 56, a sad ending to a life that had been troubled for a while. I thought maybe there was a MusiCard for her-- after all, this set was put together when she was riding high at her peak, "Nothing Compares 2 U" was released as a single in January 1990, helping her score one of the biggest albums of the year, and it wasn't until October '92 when things "derailed" for her. But no, she didn't get a card in the set, so I whipped up a custom:

Gotta admit "Nothing Compares 2 U" is one of those popular songs I just never liked. Back in the day, I'd always roll my eyes and change the station whenever it came on. Not that 12-year old boys are the prime demographic for that song. I still don't really care for it today (nor the original Prince version), but I do enjoy other Sinéad O'Connor songs. "Mandinka" is a great one. "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" caught my attention the few times I heard it on the radio back in the day. And she's got several other good ones, but my favorite song of hers is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Back in '90, my mom bought the cassette of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, one of the few/last times I remember her purchasing an album that was actually on the pop charts at the time (These days she mostly listens to classical and bluegrass). I loved "The Emperor's New Clothes" despite the rest of the tape not doing anything for me.

I'm loath to even bring it up, but yeah, Sinéad tore up a photo of the Pope after a performance on Saturday Night Live in '92 to protest the catholic church allegedly diddling kids. Like kneeling for the anthem, it got a lot of attention and pissed off a lot of people, but her heart was in the right place fighting injustice. Years later it was revealed that, yep, the clergy was diddling a lot of kids and having it covered up. So she got some vindication there, I suppose, but sure had a rough go of it in recent years, with the loss of her son to suicide being particularly devastating. She converted to Islam in 2018, changing her name to Shuhada' Sadaqat, but still dabbled in music.

That'll do it for this post. By the way, Prince has a couple UK MusiCards which we'll hopefully get to on the blog eventually, but he was left out of the US set, likely due to licensing reasons. 

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share any thoughts you may have regarding Martika and/or Sinead in the comments.


  1. "Toy Soldiers" was one of those songs I heard a lot as a kid but far less as an adult - until Silversun Pickups covered it :)

    Sinead was right, and it sucks that she got crucified for being so bold. Could she have done it a different way? Sure, probably, I dunno. But as you said - he heart was in the right place. R.I.P.

    Also, I may have mentioned this before, but I think you'd like The Ringer's podcast 60 Songs That Explain the '90s" hosted by Rob Harvilla. It's literally the only podcast I listen to, and it's awesome.

  2. I like that custom Sinead card. Big fan of Sinead when I was in college, a college classmate was into her and I took her lead and bought The Lion and the Cobra, it was a favorite of '87. I love Nothing Compares 2 U, song of the year for 1990 for me. Album is good, too, though not as good as her first.

    Toy Soldiers was such a big hit that no one remembers the song Martika got on the charts before Toy Soldiers (I can't even remember its name right now). TS is catchy but I wasn't crazy about it.

  3. I liked the other single from the album Martika did with Prince, "Martika's Kitchen". Lots of fun and I think any Prince fan will enjoy it. (The song Night Owl refers to is "More Than You Know", and, yeah, I don't remember it either.)

    I went to a college-radio conference once and Sinéad was there promoting that first album. My big memory of that is that she was very small. I don't think I spoke with her at all. I was at the Bob Dylan tribute concert a couple weeks after the SNL incident when she got booed and ended up not doing her song, which was a shame. In the encore, however, the whole crew was backing Bob on "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and I hear the "hey, hey, hey, yeah" bit from the Guns N Roses version. At first, I thought Axl was there, but it was actually Sinéad doing a very clever impression of him. It was nice to see that playful side of her. Unfortunately on the album and video it's way, way down in the mix to the point where you can't really hear her, but in MSG it was clear.

  4. Oh man... so much to comment on.

    1st: I remember watching Kids Incorporated. Can still sing the chorus in the theme song. But had no idea Martika was in it. Just watched her sing a Olivia Newton John song on YT while on KI though... and could totally recognize her. Just never put the puzzle pieces together before today.

    2nd: Toy Solders was okay. Can't say I loved the song, but I tuned into her video whenever it was on MTV, because I thought she was cute.

    3rd: I really liked Eminem's lines in Like Toy Soldiers, but wished he didn't pair it up with Martika's song. I feel like it would have been much more popular had he went another direction with that song, because they lyrics and message was very powerful.

    4th: When I heard about Sinead O'Connor's passing, I immediately thought of Nothing Compares 2 U. I thought the song was okay when it came out, but never bought the album. I appreciate that you pointed out that her heart was in the right place about the "photo" incident.

    5th: I couldn't think of any other songs by O'Connor... so I turned to Google to see a list of her best songs. I really like her song "Heroine". Thanks to this post... I have a favorite O'Connor song.

  5. I wasn't listening to a lot of pop radio when it came out, so I never heard Nothing Compares 2 U nearly as much as most folks probably did. I can't remember what I thought of it back then, but I don't mind it now -- still don't hear it very often though. And I'm probably a bit biased but I like Chris Cornell's version of the song the best.

  6. I had no idea Martika was from this continent. I thought she was European. I like Toy Soldiers. I may be conflating her with the woman who did 99 luftballons. Don't recognize the names of her other music but it's possible I have heard them and just don't know the names, that happens a lot.

    I couldn't stand Sinead O'Connor's music and I was glad when the local stations stopped playing her. I change the channel on Sirius when she comes on, although I've been listening to country solely for all of 2023 so it hasn't been an issue.