Review Summary: An archetypical pop product of its time.
Martika´s self-titled debut from 1988 oozes with that wonderful 80s cheese and is a prototype of boppy pop music from this era. Three years later she released a second album (Martika´s kitchen) with funk elements, supported by Prince. All in all, both albums sold more than 4 million copies. Nevertheless, she decided to quit her career. As she stated in an interview, the fame became a burden and overwhelmed her.
A review of this album in 2021 requires a preliminary remark. As for someone who grew up with 80s electro pop, a strong feeling of sentimentality is an inherent addition during listening sessions. On the other hand, I can see several reasons why this album could make you taking flight in an instant, dear reader.
As for the reviewer, this album checks almost all boxes for an entertaining album. Groovy basslines, simplistic guitars that sound as thin as the eucharistic bread and occasional skeleton keyboard melodies that accompany the powerful rhythm section. Alibis even features a saxophone solo so typical for this era, though it fails to make a lasting impression.
The rhythm section adds to the enjoyment of the album. The producer Michael Jay had a steady hand while implementing a wide variety of drum sounds, adding to the vibe of each song. Furthermore, many small percussive details have been added that help putting more groove into the songs. “See if I care” may serve as an example.
Martika´s voice feels at home in the high-range and stays there most of the time. In parts, her voice lacks volume as is apparent in “Alibis”. On the other hand, she spices up the opener “If you´re Tarzan, I´m Jane” with some (mildly) raunchy bits. All in all, she does as good job injecting energy into the songs. Without catchy tunes, the album would not work, but fortunately songs like the beforementioned opener, “You got me into this”, the extremely successful “Toy soldiers”, “More than you know”, “Water” or “Cross my heart” will stay with you for quite some time.
The lyrics are mostly as corny as you would expect (love, relationship). “Toy soldiers” though adds a serious topic about drug abuse and is a moody and wonderful masterpiece. Though here, the comical sounding tom-toms work against the mood of the song. At least from today´s point of view.
Not all songs are memorable, though not once did my finger search its way to the skip button. The dynamic and clear production adds to the enjoyment of the album, even though it is not up there with the work of, say, Michael Cretu. Overall, Martika´s debut is a worthy and entertaining ambassador of this genre and era.