Max Martin, the magic man behind the hits



Elliot Williams


“It’s Gonna Be Me,” “… Baby One More Time,” “Shake It Off” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” What do all of these songs have in common, besides meeting the criteria for a senior prom 2016 playlist? The answer is that they were all number one songs produced or written by 44 year-old Swedish super-producer, Max Martin. The musical genius has made his mark on every pop hit of the last two decades. 

Okay, that’s a stretch. But every self-proclaimed music loving college student should be familiar with the man responsible for 54 Top Ten songs — 20 more than the Beatles — and nearly every radio hit that has been stuck in your head since the 90s. So, who is this hit-maker that has rising pop sensations (Tinashe and Selena Gomez, to name a few) itching for any opportunity to work with him?

Martin Karl Sandberg, born in the suburbs of Stockholm in 1971, entered the music industry as a teenage lead vocalist for the metal band “It’s Alive” in 1985. However, he found much better success as a songwriter and producer at Cheiron Studios in Sweden, where he changed his stage name to Max Martin. At Cheiron, he co-wrote his first chart-worthy record for The Backstreet Boys, “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).” The song reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 list, and Martin’s hit making career was officially launched. Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” came two years later, and was the first No. 1 record Martin produced. The song was originally written for the all-female R&B group TLC, but they rejected it because it didn’t match their sound, according to an interview the group did with MTV. The song was then sent to pop singer Robyn, who also rejected the song. Finally, a demo of the song landed in the studios of Jive Records, after Martin worked with Spears in New York. Spears then recorded her sultry, danceable version of the song and the rest is history.

Martin may not be the King of Pop, but he is certainly one of its creators. He forged his own funk-laden sound that gave hip-hop artists some of their only chart competition throughout the 90s and 00s. For those who know Martin’s work, one question looms over his extensive collection of hits — why has Martin been awarded just one Grammy? For fans around the globe, his 2015 Grammy win for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical was more anticipated than Leonardo DiCaprio’s long awaited, well deserved impending Oscar (we’ll see about that in a month). 

Perhaps he is too “pop”, or too commercial, as many Facebook commenters-all seasoned music critics, no doubt-suggest on articles about Martin. The problem with this theory is that unlike producers of similar caliber, like Pharrell, Dr. Dre or Rick Rubin (who has won eight Grammy Awards of his own), Martin is somewhat of a hermit and often avoids publicity. He is a ghostwriter, and what ghost wants to be caught? He writes his songs for young pop artists to sing because, let’s be honest, no one wants a 44 year old man with a thick beard and hair to his shoulders singing “Blank Space” (which he co-wrote with T-Swift, of course). Martin has played a hand in the success of Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Demi Lovato, Adam Lambert, Robin Thicke and Katy Perry (with whom he has written 10 Top Ten records, his most with any one performer). The list goes on and on, and will probably continue as long as pop radio stations remain relevant. 

Martin is third on the list of songwriters with the most number one hits, and judging by last year’s Billboard charts, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In 2015, he produced four Top Ten singles: Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” “Style” and “Bad Blood” by Swift, and “Can’t Feel My Face” by R&B crooner The Weeknd. If all goes accordingly, his next chart-topper will most likely be “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele, the London comeback artist who is breaking every music record known to man. In short, listen to a Max Martin song and it will be stuck in your head all day.