At this point it’s a familiar ritual: A star releases a new single that borrows from an oldie, generating a fresh hit but also thrusting the throwback into the limelight. Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” is just the latest example — the song’s pinging keyboard riff nods to the Stonebridge remix of Robin S.’s “Show Me Love,” a full-throated house track that hit the top 10 on the Hot 100 in June 1993.
As that oldie returned to the popular consciousness, so did a rumor that’s been circulating on the internet for years: That the voice on “Show Me Love” actually belongs to Andrea Martin, a songwriter with a formidable resume of ’90s R&B cuts, who died last year at age 49.
“People have been asking me this question [whose voice is on “Show Me Love”] for five or six years,” says Ivan Matias, a singer-songwriter-arranger-producer who worked closely with Martin during a run that included penning classics like SWV’s “You’re the One” and Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You.”
“I get this question. All. The. Time,” Matias adds.
The rumor, which appears to have stemmed from a 2011 ASCAP panel featuring Martin, is false, according to Robin S., Matias, and others. But it’s notable how many people involved with “Show Me Love” feel like their contributions to the track were not reflected in their compensation — and how pop’s current sample- and interpolation-happy climate ensures that decades-old disagreements about authorship reverberate in the present.
Robin S. is aware of the gossip on the internet.
“I’ve been called Milli Vanilli and crazy things by other artists,” she says. “It doesn’t bother me. I know what I’ve done. It’s all me singing the song.”
Others who were close to Martin, or were involved with “Show Me Love” in other capacities, share Robin S.’s view. “Andrea didn’t sing on the actual record,” Matias says. “She sang the demo.”
At that ASCAP panel, Martin spoke about working on the song and sang a few licks with remarkable ease, claiming that the final recording closely tracked a demo she had worked on. “She does sound so much like Robin S.’s finished record and people assumed she was saying that was her on the record,” Matias continues. “That wasn’t what she was saying. She [just] sang the first line [in that interview]. People are like, ‘Oh my god, that’s her!’ It was misinterpreted. One person says one thing, and everyone runs with it.”
Champion Records boss Mel Medalie first released “Show Me Love” — both the uptempo, guitar-and-saxophone-slathered funk version released in 1990 and the remix that later became a hit — through his U.K.-based independent label; he says “Robin is the vocalist on this recording.” “She was engaged by [producers] Allen George and Fred McFarlane as a session vocalist in the production of this record,” he adds.
Joey Carvello subsequently licensed the remix of “Show Me Love” for Atlantic Records, and he gives the internet scuttlebutt short shrift as well. When asked if it’s Martin’s voice on the record, he scoffs: “Who the f–k said that? Robin Jackson Maynard sang that song.”
While the 2011 ASCAP panel prompted the rumor about the vocals on “Show Me Love,” Martin’s actual claim was that she had a hand in writing the single’s melody, and that she took a one-time $300 fee for her contribution, rather than asking for writing credit, which would have entitled her to publishing income. Robin S. happens to share the same frustration, telling Billboard that she added to “Show Me Love” when she was recording it, asked for credit, and never received any. “I did contribute to the song, to the words and the vocals,” Robin S. says.
Martin found out “Show Me Love” was blanketing the radio when she got a call from her sister, according to what she shared on that ASCAP panel. The producer and DJ Stonebridge — who claims he completely reworked the original “Show Me Love” to create the hit version, with its buzzsaw intro and cascading synths — says he was also left in the dark. He only found out his remix of “Show Me Love” was a hit months after its release during a visit to London when he turned on the weekly TV show Top of the Pops.
“You wake up, it’s a hit… you wrote a little bit of it, [and] you don’t have anybody that came in that’s a witness [from the session],” Martin said ruefully on that 2011 ASCAP panel. “You learn from your mistakes.”
Martin said a similar thing to Matias and to Rich Christina — a young Atlantic employee when the label first licensed “Show Me Love” who is now svp of A&R and venture partners at Warner Chappell Music. Martin “would do session singing,” Matias explains. “They’d give her lyrics, say, ‘sing this and we’ll give you some cash.’ She’s in her teens, she does it for a few hundred bucks. She didn’t get writer’s credit because she did that early in her career.” Later, he continues, she “felt a bit salty about that — ‘I didn’t get credit for writing the melody and I basically did vocal arrangement on top of that.'”
Martin “was a very, very popular demo singer,” Christina adds. “My understanding was she came in, helped the producers flesh out the melody. At the time, she was paid for the service, but it was work for hire,” meaning she had no subsequent participation in the track’s success.
Stonebridge says this was also his fate. “I basically composed a new track, but that’s the world of remixes — it’s work for hire,” he says. Though the song’s success still proved to be a lift for his career: “The good thing about doing a hit mix is everyone wants the guy who did that sound, so I got work, tons of work,” Stonebridge continues. “That sort of forgives the fact that I never got credited as a writer on the track.”
Robin S. says she never heard any demo with Martin’s vocals on it; in fact, she remembers hearing a version of “Show Me Love” that featured a man singing in falsetto. She recalls being reluctant to tackle the track due to its fast tempo; her background was singing in an R&B and pop band that used to wrestle with the more stately grooves of Anita Baker and Phyllis Hyman.
The singer eventually agreed to give “Show Me Love” a try. She says she “put in the ad-libs, ‘show me show me baby [which appears right before the three-minute mark]’ All of that is stuff I put in there – and I never got any publishing for it.”
“Change a word, get a third” is a common saying in the music business, but in truth, songwriters’ ability to get publishing often depends on their negotiating power and their knowledge of the industry. “When you’re a vocalist and all you do is sing, unfortunately you do have to learn about this business of music,” Robin S. says. Martin offered similar advice on the 2011 panel: “You gotta be careful… you gotta know what percentage you’re worth when you go in and write for people.”
McFarlane died in 2016, but Robin S. says she “prays” that George will “have a soft spot in his heart for me” at some point and give her some publishing on “Show Me Love.” “Don’t you think it’s fair, it’s right, it’s decent?” she asks. (Billboard made several attempts to reach George by phone and LinkedIn, but was unsuccessful.) “I’m not the major writer on the song. All I ask for is a portion.”
Robin S. does not believe her experience with “Show Me Love” was unique. “Everybody was getting messed over like that back in the day,” she says. Christina notes that today, the practice of producers paying up-front fees to songwriters in lieu of giving them publishing is “less prevalent” than it used to be.
That said, samples and interpolations of old hits appear to be at an all-time high, meaning the business decisions that were made decades ago continue to impact the modern pop landscape. Some artists choose to include clear and obvious interpolations of past hits as a way to hook listeners. Some might not be so explicit or direct with their lifts, but still elect to credit the writers of a previous track to avoid any legal consequences in a post “Blurred Lines” world. Either way, these homages can re-open old wounds and stir up fresh drama.
Still, Robin S. says she does not regret singing the track. It’s her lone top 40 hit, and she’s at least been able to generate money through her live performances of the track. “I learned a lot of lessons, things I couldn’t go to college to learn,” she says. “I paid a high price for those lessons.”