“Step by step, heart to heart
Left right left, we all fall down
Like toy soldiers”
Written by Martika/Michael Jay
Produced by Michael Jay
Taken from the album Martika
Also released on Twelve Inch Mixes, More Than You Know: The Best Of Martika, Toy Soldiers: The Best Of Martika
US #1, UK #5, AUS #5
In 2004 I was watching Video Hits and a song called ‘Toy Soldiers’ by a woman I’d never heard of was playing. It was very obviously an eighties video, and it seemed like such a “totally random” video to play on a show that is usually all about current music. The song, especially the chorus melody, was absolutely captivating and the song stayed with me for a few weeks. I kept wondering why they were playing it, until it was answered for me soon enough – Eminem, at that point the biggest star in the world, had sampled it for his hit ‘Like Toy Soldiers’, which featured earlier on this list.
A few years later I would get More Than You Know: The Best Of Martika, and then just a few months ago I finally picked up Martika’s self-titled debut for one dollar. A dollar well spent, because it’s a pretty good pop album, especially for someone who is commonly referred to as a few-hits wonder, a Madonna ripoff. But ‘Toy Soldiers’ is amazing enough to refute any claims of Martika being vapid or untalented. The melody is magic, and the cry of the chorus is one of pop’s all-time greatest power ballad moments.
The song is about drug addiction but I probably never would have picked that up had I not been told. Now that I know that the song makes a bit more sense, but I see the anthemic chorus as just a commentary on human nature. Sooner or later we all fall down, in one way or another, and it’s nice to have this slick, well-produced pop song to illustrate the scene for us. It rightfully beat Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ to number one in 1989, and was Martika’s highest charting single in the US and the UK.