Single Review: Martika “Toy Soldiers”

Toy Soldiers
Album: Martika
Year: 1989

Up until Enimen’s recent “Toy Soldiers” sample on his single, “Like Toy Soldiers,” Martika hadn’t hit in the United States since 1990.

In the somber ballad “Toy Soldiers,” Martika fights an addiction to drugs.

In the first verse, she is apologizing to her family and friends for putting on a clean, proper facade. She didn’t intend for her cocaine use to take over her personality and life. (“It wasn’t my intention to mislead you/It never should have been this way/What can I say”).

She only intended her use of the drugs to be casual. But it slowly became a habit. Then, she was consumed by it as getting high became necessary. In turn, her self-confidence and compassion escaped from her. (“It’s true I did extend the invitation/I never knew how long you’d stay/When you hear temptation call/It’s your heart that takes, takes a fall”).

Next, a few children ask innocently if she can join them. In the single, the children could possibly represent her former unsullied self who is eager to surface again and enjoy life. (“won’t you come out and play with me?”).

In the chorus, Martika is taking life one day at a time and suffering relapses. She’s frail but continues to grapple over her addiction. It’s an endless struggle. (“Step by step/Heart to heart/Left right left/We all fall down like toy soldiers/Bit by bit/Torn apart/We never win/But the battle wages on for toy soldiers”).

According to wikipedia.com (the best online encyclopedia ever, I might add), toy soldiers are “all-green plastic.” Wikipedia notes that “the playing of games with toy figures, popularized by H.G. Wells, eventually created the modern hobby of miniature wargaming.” With this mind, Martika is referencing wargaming in the chorus. The soldiers are cheap plastic, essentially and fall down without much effort. It’s a well-thought out metaphor which matches the description of the to the tee.

In the second verse, she finds that she really doesn’t the initative to face life anymore. She’s in a perpetual haze in which her brain is fuzzy. She can’t concentrate on anything. She wonders how did she ignore herself hitting rock bottom. If she keeps living her life the way she is now, she’s going to die from an overdose. She’s void of any emotion which is a relief. Previously, she could only feel anguish. (“It’s getting hard to wake up in the morning/My head is spinning constantly/How can it be/How could I be so blind to this addiction/If I don’t stop the next one’s gonna be me/Only emptiness remains/It replaces all, all the pain”).

The children once again ask her to join them in their play. (“won’t you come out and play with me?”

The chorus ends the single.

“Toy Soldiers” is tightly written and built around a concrete metaphor. A definite classic.

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