Martika: Martika’s Kitchen (Reheated Edition) (Cherry Pop)

In 1991, Martika looked poised to be one of the hottest commodities in the music industry. It was understandable; the young actress who had made her name on Kids Incorporated had released a superb debut album, which spawned the hit single,”Toy Soldiers.” That success was well deserved, and showed her to be an apt and talented singer and songwriter. For her follow-up, she enlisted the help of one of music’s most enigmatic talents, Prince Rogers Nelson.  Their collaboration was a unique one; Prince asked her to give him her diaries to read, and he would use what she wrote as inspiration for their songs. He would return with four tracks, three of which were inspired from her diary, while the fourth, which would give the album its title, Martika’s Kitchen, was one Prince wrote about her after meeting her.

”Love…Thy Will Be Done,” one of the Martika inspired Prince numbers, would be the lead single and would become a hit record. With this slinky, sexy, seductive groove,  it’s understandable why it was successful. Considered by many to be one of Prince’s finest collaborations, it’s otherworldly groove remains hauntingly seductive 25 years later.  But the prince collaborations were only part of the story, and the rest of the album radiates between  hip hop flavored pop (“Coloured Kisses,” “Temptation”), Latin groove (“Take Me to Forever,” “Broken Heart”), and brightly arranged adult contemporary (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Safe in the Arms of Love”). The albums closing track, “Mi Tierra,” was a tropical jazz delight that featured legendary vocalist Celia Cruz.  Even the contemporary remixes––often the bane of reissues and Deluxe Editions—are delightful, surprisingly fresh listens, recasting Martika’s music in many delectable and groovy varieties.

So what happened? Why was Martika’s Kitchen  a farewell and not merely a step forward in a promising career? Several theories abound: label disappointment, management issues, artistic burnout and frustration, an evolving musical scene. Surprisingly, critics thought little of the album; reviews were harsh or just dismissive. Whatever the case, there’s probably plenty of truth to be found in each explanation. Martika, however, did not completely disappear; she returns in the aughties one half of a musical duo with her husband. Hey released two records, and once again Martika disappeared from the scene, only to return again as a live act, touring occasionally with 1980s and 1990s package tours. Though occasionally hinted at in rumors, Martika’s follow up to Martika’s Kitchenhas yet to materialize. If it does, it will be a welcome return from a talented woman whose voice has surely been missed. If it does not, then she ended her solo career on an extremely high note, with one of the better pop albums of the decade.

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