A Brief History is a recurring feature that offers a crash course on some sliver of music or film history. Today, Wren Graves traces how producer and ghostwriter Max Martin conquered pop music in seven songs.
In August, Swedish producer and ghostwriter Martin Karl Sandberg, who goes by the name Max Martin, scored his 21st #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing The Beatles’ mark of 20 and bringing about The End of the World – or at least, that’s what I thought when I glanced over my Facebook and Twitter feeds and saw the kind of apoplectic rage usually reserved for animal torture from all the #RealFans who care about #RealMusic.
Aside from this vocal minority, there seem to be two other broad reactions to Max Martin and the rest of our Scandinavian overlords – Dr. Luke, Shellback, Stargate, etc. There’s a sort of, “Hmm, isn’t that interesting?” typified by articles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and then there’s the other 99% of the world’s population who couldn’t care less. Personally, I can’t help but appreciate someone who’s so obviously good at their job, and I’d like to believe that if Max Martin were the world’s greatest plumber, I’d be writing about the first time he held a plunger or his unique approach to the problems of a U-Bend.
Sandberg began his music career in a glam metal group called It’s Alive in 1985, which signed with Denniz PoP’s legendary label Cheiron Records. PoP hired Sandberg away from his floundering rock band to be an in-house writer and producer, and together they produced most of Ace of Bass’ second record, The Bridge.
Denniz PoP gave Sandberg two great gifts: his songwriting process (collaborative, perfectionist, and featuring more than one hook) and his new nom de pop, Max Martin.
Let us now drop in with Martin for his first big hit. The year is 1997. Grab a tub of hair gel and still your beating heart; we’re heading for the golden age of boy bands. Read on to see how Max Martin conquered pop in seven songs.