Max Martin: Pop Music’s Unsung Hero

Näringsdepartementet via Flickr; modified

Music & Arts

Max Martin: Pop Music’s Unsung Hero

You may not realize it, but you’ve probably danced or sung along to Max Martin’s words on more than one occasion. You wouldn’t be alone. Even superstar Adele wasn’t quite certain who Martin was before working with him.

Max Martin
Max Martin

Martin is the Swedish songwriting genius and music producer whose impressive catalog has earned him the No. 3 spot on the all-time bestselling singles chart. With 21 (and counting) No. 1 singles, he’s behind only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). As a producer, he trails only George Martin (23) of Beatles fame.

Yet, the New Yorker called him the Cyrano de Bergerac of today’s pop music and references the term Jantelagen, or Scandinavians disdain for individual celebrity.

Born Karl Martin Sandberg in Stockholm, Martin first saw chart success on the U.S. charts in 1996 when he collaborated with singer and fellow Swede, Robyn, to produce her hit “Show Me Love.” Since then his songs for the likes of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Pink and Kelly Clarkson have hit No. 1 21 times since 1999, 15 coming since 2010 alone. Many of them he co-wrote with frequent collaborator and countryman, Shellback. Here’s a look at some of our favorites:

1. .…Baby One More Time, Britney Spears, 1999

Martin and Spears both saw breakout mega success when this, now iconic, song dropped. Easily one of the best-selling singles of all time, “…Baby One More Time” reached No. 1 in every county where it charted. The song has stood the test of time as well. Nearly 20 years after its release, it’s still in heavy radio rotation and a dance-club staple.

2. It’s Gonna Be Me, ‘N Sync, 2000

If it weren’t for Martin, Justin Timberlake may have given up music altogether. “It’s Gonna Be Me” was the only 1 hit for Timberlake’s 90s boy band, and it was due in part to Martin’s brilliant musical stylings and catchy hook. Martin also wrote numerous hits for the Backstreet Boys, perhaps using his own – albeit short-lived – early 90’s glam metal/boy band, It’s Alive, as inspiration.

3. Raise Your Glass, Pink, 2010

Martin and Shellback are behind many of Pink’s hits, but Raise Your Glass was their first No. 1 together. The strong pop melody and powerful chorus is a perfect example of Martin’s producing style, as well as signature Pink.

 4. Teenage Dream, Katy Perry, 2010

Of the many No. 1s that Martin has co-written and produced for Perry, Teenage Dreamstands out because of Martin’s brilliant use of emotion and suspense as a songwriting hook. Perry regularly admits that Martin is one of her favorite producers to work with.

5. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Taylor Swift, 2012

Swift certainly is no stranger to heartbreak, or to chart-topping singles thanks to Martin. While it’s hard to believe that some of Swift’s scorned, emotional lyrics were written by a 41-year-old Swedish man, it is indeed true. This catchy bubblegum pop song was the first of many No. 1 hits for Swift.

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