What do Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, P!nk, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande all have in common, other than their chart topping hits? The man who created the chart topping hits.
Does Max Martin ring any bells? ... No? Don't worry, Adele didn't know either — she had to Google him before working with him on her latest album!
Max Martin is, in fact, the anonymous face who produced, wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the biggest hits by all these artists. Topped by only Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Martin is the songwriter with the third-most number one singles in the chart ever, whilst not even being in the band!
Whilst being led only George Martin, on the ranking for most number ones for a producer. And, despite keeping a pretty low profile, he has amassed an impressive 250 million dollars, although that's not too much considering how much the singers he wrote them for got paid to sing them.
So where did this genius, this diamond, of the POP world come from? Well, Martin Sandberg — that's his real name — was born in a suburb of Stockholm, making his first mark on pop music at an early age, by learning the French Horn.
In his teenage years, Martin formed a glam rock band that he named It's Alive, and he was so confident in its success he dropped out of school, Unfortunately, they only ever achieved moderate success.
After the band split up in 1995, this was to be a blessing in disguise, as Cheiron Studios, where the band had recorded, kept him around as a writer and a trainee producer, after the studios producer 'pOp' had noticed Martin's predilection for a killer pop hook, and how that could be used to his advantage. It was here that his talent was nurtured, and the rest, as they say, was history.
From there, Martin built up his empire of pop songs, not only enthralling the masses, but also the professionals. Heavyweight (though arguably more well-known) producers, Dr. Luke -— who was brought into the limelight after the 'Kesha' Scandal -—and Shellback ( Tove Lo, Usher, Lily Allen, Maroon 5) have been hailed as Martin's disciples: even one publication describing that, "If Luke is the Skywalker of pop songcraft, Max is the Obi-Wan: the reclusive master. ..."
Martin mentored and collaborated with both men, teaching Dr. Luke "how to make music for five million people, not five thousand." Collaborating was especially convenient due to all three living in their native Sweden. The three of them writing songs from Stockholm for the American market to lap up.
For Martin, the language barrier of Swedish/English rarely proved an issue in clinching top hits, except for one rather notable exception. "Hit Me Baby One More Time," was given said name after Martin had mistaken "hit" for American slang that supposedly meant "ring" or "call," in references to telephones. No wonder Britney Spears later described Martin as "scary."
Despite having written and co-written 22 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits (most of which he has also produced or co-produced), and winning three Grammy awards from 17 nominations, Martin has remained humble and down to earth throughout.
One such example was declining an offer from the actual Michael Jackson to fly to Los Angeles so as to work on a tiny bit of a song by his nephews’ group '3T' for their album, Brotherhood.
Though he did later realise what a mistake this was and fly out to meet the icon in his LA Studio, his laid back, unwavering nature is something that almost certainly opened doors: contributing to his success.
You may well dismiss pop as mainstream trash, but what Martin has done is nothing short of amazing. Martin is a testament that with all the success in the world, with your feet on the ground, you can remain humble, good natured, whilst still climbing the ladder of success.
He's happily married, with a daughter named Doris, instead of 'Apple' or 'North'. As far as the world can see, he's pretty set, and he can write a pretty good hook. In the words of Max Martin himself, '“I’ve begun to feel that, well, I kind of know how to write a song now”.
Have a listen to what he's created: https://open.spotify.com/user/switchedonpop/playlist/3z9yLWhGXLrH4QQ8tcsrVA
Support these articles by buying a MIXTAPE T-shirt: https://teespring.com/mixtape-tee