With a solid string of smash hit songwriting credits under her belt over the last three years, the value of Andrea Martin's musical opinion has gone way up. Thanks to three of her hottest compositions, the RIAA Platinum "Before You Walk Out Of My Life" (recorded by Monica) and "Don't Let Go (Love)" (En Vogue), and the RIAA Gold "You're The One" (SWV) - each of them a #1 R&B/Top 10 pop chart single from a multi-Platinum album - the world has carved a path to Andrea's front door.
Toni Braxton cut Andrea's composition "I Love Me Some Him" on her RIAA multi-Platinum second album. And the Money Talks movie soundtrack wasn't complete until Andrea put the finishing touch on the title track with Lil' Kim and Junior M.A.F.I.A.
THE BEST OF ME is comprised mostly of original new songs which range from the gospel-influenced "Dear Lord" to torch-lit ballads such as "How Could U Forget" and the reggae-twisted "Breakin' Of My Heart." The motives and excuses of the male species are forgiven (but not forgotten) in "Share The Love" and the title track "The Best Of You." A remix of "The Best Of You" by Lauryn Hill (of the Fugees) provides the album's closing track and bonus cut.
"Let Me Return The Favor" is addressed to Andrea's partner and songwriting collaborator Ivan Matias, with whom she wrote the Platinum hits described above. Andrea gives a special treatment to the heart-wrenching baby-mother apology of Tracy Chapman's "Baby Can I Hold You" and four new titles by Andrea are also included: "Steppin'," "Do You Really," "Set It Off," and "Hung Up."
In keeping with her wish "[not] to do what everybody else was doing," Andrea avoided the "flavor of the week" writer-producer names and went with a different crowd, "new producers - we wanted a new kind of sound. I wanted to take a chance on some new people with great new sounds who need the opportunity to be heard. That's what my album is about, taking a chance."
This woman who takes chances and freely voices her opinion on state of the art of production, songwriting and record-making has spent her entire life working hard to achieve her musical goals. Andrea Martin and her twin sister Audrey were born in the East New York section of Brooklyn, to working-class Guyanese parents of West Indian descent.
At age 7, Andrea and her sister talked their mom into letting them buy their first 45 rpm singles-Junior's "Mama Used To Say" and New Edition's precious double-A sided keeper, "Popcorn Love" b/w "Jealous Girl." For Andrea, the path was clear: "I never had a high voice," she says, "so I studied more of the male singers, Prince and Michael Jackson and later Terence Trent D'Arby with his raspiness."
Andrea attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (aka 'the Fame school') in Manhattan, where she first met Matias in the school's award-winning gospel choir. In 1988, while still in school, Andrea cut a one-off deal with Next Plateau Records (Salt-N-Pepa, Sybil) where she wrote "Dirty Love," a modest club hit. Over the next couple of years, she continued writing songs, meeting producers, recording demo material and even won a series of consecutive third prizes at Apollo Amateur Night.
Later on, Andrea signed with a major music publishing firm as a songwriter and ran into Matias, who was organizing his first album for Arista UK. He was looking for material, so the two began collaborating. Andrea also met Ivan's attorney Lauren Davis, who believed in her and began presenting Andrea to record labels. One such showcase in 1993 attracted Arista's Clive Davis. He subsequently invited Andrea to talk about her career, her songs and her future.
"It was a good meeting," Andrea recalls. "He was like, 'thanks, you'll be somebody someday, and have a nice day.' And I was like, 'OK.' But I went home and cried because he'd gone through some of my songs and went, 'too long!' or 'hook just repeated' or 'change the words right here' - but he was right!"
"I'd been saying to myself, 'why aren't these songs getting cut?' And the things he pulled out and said about them, he was totally right. I went home and started writing material that didn't repeat itself in the hook, it just made more sense. See, I'd been writing songs that I would understand but nobody else would. When I started thinking more on the songs in general, the structure, that's when things really started getting cut."
By the time Andrea signed to Arista in 1996, the hits were rolling, starting with Monica ("Before You Walk Out Of My Life") in late-'95. SWV's "You're The One" arrived in the Spring of '96, along with three more tracks ("On & On," "Whatcha Need," "It's All About U") on their Platinum New Beginning album. These were followed by Toni Braxton's second album that summer, Secrets (with "I Love Me Some Him").
The end of 1996 brought an all-important 'comeback' hit for En Vogue (after three years), "Don't Let Go (Love)," the keynote track of the Jada Pinkett/Queen Latifah flick, Set It Off, whose soundtrack also included "Damn I Wanna Be" and "Right Direction."
In 1997, Andrea slowed down the pace for other artists and began concentrating on getting her debut album together. While she was completing THE BEST OF ME, Andrea also worked on new material for TLC (on LaFace/Arista); the debut of Room Service (Elektra); and coming full circle, Matias' U.S. debut (also Elektra), for which they'll have collaborated on at least three tracks. Andrea and Ivan also nailed the end-title assignment (with Changing Faces featuring Ivan Matias, on Atlantic) for the Eddie Murphy remake of Doctor Dolittle.
Meanwhile, as the stage is set for the arrival of THE BEST OF ME, the curtain is prepared to rise on one of the most highly regarded new songwriters and tenacious characters the music scene has come across in a long, long time.