The death of renowned singer and songwriter Andrea Martin sent shock waves throughout the music industry. During the late ’90s and 2000s, Martin’s songwriting prowess helped to usher in a new era of contemporary R&B. Her songs dealt with love, heartbreak, the complexity of relationships, sexuality, and celebration as interpreted through the experiences of a Black woman.
In an industry that is male-dominated, Martin — who was only 49 at the time of her death — carved out a unique space of her own, often behind the scenes, where her penchant for crafting extremely well-written songs garnered her critical acclaim and commercial success. Throughout her decades long career, not only was Martin’s songs known in the States but she penned several hits that went to no. 1 hits in the U.K Without question, Martin was a songwriter’s songwriter.
At an ASCAP Expo in 2011, Martin spoke about the art of songwriting and that the most important aspect of making music is being brave enough to speak from the heart.
“Sing from the heart. I don’t care if it’s rock, country or whatever, those are the best records that come from the heart,” she said. “It’s OK to go in the booth and just to freestyle.”
To honor the late great R&B great, here are 12 iconic songs that Andrea Martin wrote.
Monica — “Before You Walk Out of My Life” (1995)
As the third single from Monica’s multi-platinum debut, Miss Thang, “Before You Walk Out of My Life” was originally intended for Toni Braxton. During the recording sessions of Braxon’s Secrets album, it failed to make the final cut. Written by Andrea Martin along with Carsten Schack and Kenneth Karlin from Soulshock and Karlin, the track would go on to be one of Monica’s signature songs after she recorded it. Listed as Martin’s first writing credit, the song spent two weeks at no. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Silk — “Hooked On You” (1995)
“Hook On You” showed another side of R&B group Silk who were primarily known for the ballads. “Hooked On You,” the second single from their self-titled sophomore project, features infectious lyrics over a catchy, mid-tempo track.
SWV — “You’re the One” (1996)
The lead single from the SWV’s sophomore album New Beginning, SWV reintroduced themselves to the masses with their smash “You’re the One.” On the song, Martin writes a song that describes a woman who is having an affair with a man that she knows is already in a relationship. Sung to perfection over a smoking hot groove, SWV bought Martin’s composition to life.
The Braxtons — “Only You” (1997)
Before they became reality TV stars, The Braxton’s, featuring Tamar, Trina, and Towanda released an LP as an R&B trio in the ’90s. On their sophomore project, So Many Ways, “Only You” was the second single written by Andrea Martin. The track describes all the strength that it takes to move on from a relationship that’s run its course. “Only You” is another underrated jam.
Toni Braxton — “I Love Me Some Him” (1997)
Although she initially turned down “Before You Walk Out of My Life,” Braxton chose another Andrea Martin song “I Love Me Some Him” for her sophomore album Secrets. Even without a video, the track is one of most enduring songs in her immense discography; she included it on her 2003 singles collection Ultimate Toni Braxton.
En Vogue — “Don’t Let Go (Love)” (1997)
Arguably, the greatest vocal girl-group of their era, “Don’t Let Go (Love)” was the swan song of the original members on En Vogue, Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Joneswritten by Andrea Martin, along with Ivan Matias and Marqueze Etheridge and produced by Organized Noize for the Set It Off soundtrack, it became one of the definitieve songs of En Vogue’s catalogue. The song became their biggest international hit, peaking in the top ten in many countries. “Don’t Let Go (Love),” captures En Vogue in all their glory with Andrea Martin displaying her gift as a highly-regarded songwriter.
Angie Stone — “Wish I Didn’t Miss You” (2002)
Sampling the O’Jays 1972 classic “Back Stabbers,” Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You” is one of the quintessential neo-soul tracks of the era. Written by Martin and Ivan Mattias, the song explores a woman who’s vexed that she still wants a man who she’s had enough of. Stone embodied Martin’s lyric as she gave a powerful performance that spoke to women everywhere who were experiencing similar feelings.
Blue Cantrell Feat. Sean Paul — “Breathe” (2002)
An overlooked gem of the early 2000s, Blu Cantrell teamed up with Sean Paul on the Andrea Martin laced “Breathe.” Sampling Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference”, the song speaks to catching one’s breath after being in the throes of a suffocating relationship.
Leonna Lewis — “Better In Time” (2008)
Written by Martin and J. R. Rotem, “Better In Time” became an international hit for British singer Leonna Lewis. “Better In Time” speaks to the patience that it takes to learn how to thrive after suffering from a broken heart. With poetic lyricism, “Better In Time” solidified Lewis as a global star.
Melanie Fiona — “Give It To Me Right” (2009)
Over a bubbling bassline, Martin’s pen game helped to introduce the world to the Canadian soul of Melanie Fiona. Conveying power and boldness, “Give It To Me Right” announced Fiona’s arrival on the scene and Andrea Martin added to her legendary canon of songs.
Melanie Fiona — “It Kills Me” (2009)
Continuing their organic chemistry, Martin composed the album’s second single, “It Kills Me,” and it became Melanie Fiona’s biggest hit to date. The song accurately depicts a woman who can’t stand how much she loves her man. With the combination of Martin’s adroit penmanship and Fiona’s passionate vocals, “It Kills Me” stayed at no. 1 on the R&B chart for nine straight weeks.
Fantasia — “Lose To Win” (2012)
With a sample of The Commodores’ “Night Shift,” Martin’s “Lose To Win” sounds tailor-made for the powerhouse vocals of Fantasia. Released as the lead single from her fourth studio album, Side Effects of You, “Lose to Win” deals with a woman who is picking up the pieces of life after the ending of a relationship. An anthem of woman empowerment, “Lose to Win” captures the essence of Andrea Martin’s genius.
Rashad Grove is a writer from NJ whose work has appeared on BET, Billboard, MTV News, Okayplayer, High Snobiety, Medium, Revolt TV, The Source Magazine, and others. You can follow him at @thegroveness for all of his greatness.
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