Top 10: Max Martin

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Swedish songwriter and producer Max Martin is probably our single favourite person to be involved in music of all time. His incredible talent for not only being able to write a great melody, but also match one to an amazing music production, has resulted in him making multiple pop songs that will forever be heralded as classics. His music is hardly niche either, because when he produces a monster hit – it usually translates into a worldwide smash for the artist. He has worked on dozens upon dozens of songs that will be well known to any casual music fan from Europe to Australia, and America to Asia. Because he’s worked with so many artists, dabbled in so many genres, and created so many phenomenal songs, we thought it would be interesting to study his repertoire and come up with a definitive top ten list of our favourites! We’re nerdy like that.

We were already familiar with the vast majority of his masterpieces, so it didn’t take too long to whittle it down. We did however, decide that it was best to limit the list to one song per artist – because otherwise our top ten would probably have been made up of ten songs from the one artist! Even then though, there were still some great acts with brilliant tracks that we had to leave out. Notorious global hits like ‘Hot & Cold’ by Katy Perry, and ‘I Want You Back’/’It’s Gotta Be You’/’I’ll Never Stop’/’Tearin Up My Heart’ by *NSync were left out, as were Scandinavian hits that we love, like ‘Here I Am’ by Marion Raven, ‘Stay My Baby’ by Amy Diamond, ‘How Will I Know Who You Are’ by Jessica Folcker, and ‘Do You Know What It Takes’ by Robyn. Max also had a hand in creating some of our favourite songs of British acts like Shayne Ward and 5ive, but such is the quality of what else is in the top ten, these didn’t make the cut either.

So what did?……

10. Kelly Clarkson: ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’

Hmmm, the obvious choice here would have been ‘Since U Been Gone’, which was the much bigger hit and probably the better song. But we’re so sick of it that we haven’t been able to listen to it in well over a year. It really was over played for far too long. For now, we much prefer ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’. It’s INSANELY catchy – not just the chorus, but the verses too. It’s fair to say that Max followed the same formula he did when writing ‘Since U Been Gone’; the frantic but faint guitar intro, the withdrawn and threatening first verse, and the explosive and shouty chorus. This song also holds a special place in our hearts because it was a silent victory for pop music over deluded musical snobbery. Kelly Clarkson was given the biggest hits of her career with ‘Since U Been Gone’ and ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’ (both Max Martin’s handiwork), but when a misguided desire to be taken more seriously and credible resulted in Kelly dropping pop music to make an album of rock and murder ballads, the majority of the fans she’d built up abandoned her, and her sales dropped considerably. So Max Martin was once again called upon, he gave her ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’, she launched it as the new album’s lead single, and returned to number one all around the world. Result!!! Why must artists equate credibility with awful music that nobody wants to listen to?!

09. The Veronicas: ‘4Ever’

This song is such an undeniable classic that it’s being released in the UK later this year, despite being four years old. The Veronicas have recently enjoyed a hit in the UK with ‘Untouched’, the first song from their second album. But rather than follow it up with a second single from the album (it’s already spawned three singles in Australia), the UK label are going all the way back to the debut single from their first album to score an obvious hit. ‘4Ever’ was first released in late 2005 and launched The Veronicas as a massive selling new pop act in Australia, maintaining large success to this day. It’s an attitude packed pop/rock anthem which grabs you within the first few seconds and honestly doesn’t let you go until the song ends. Our favourite part is the middle eight where a psychotic chant is followed by a lone guitar riff which leads into the final killer chorus.

08. E-Type: ‘True Believer’

Max had a hand in a lot of E-Type’s earlier music, but it’s this more recent gem that is our favourite of his. It’s like most E-Type songs in that it has a male vocodered rap in the verse, and then a powerhouse female vocalled anthem of a chorus. But the ‘True Believer’ chorus and production really are something else. The force of the delivery is stunning, particularly the final chorus. And the music is uplifting and impossible to resist moving along to. Max also produced ‘Paradise’, E-Type’s quite brilliant 2004 Melodifestivalen entry.

07. P!nk: ‘So What’

Along with his contributions to the careers of Kelly Clarkson and The Veronicas, ‘So What’ is another example of Max having fun with the rockier side of pop music. Its main charm is the nursery rhyme-esque guitar riff, which lends itself to the verse’s melody. But the chanting chorus is just as special, particularly when it rises a key halfway through said chorus. It’s probably the most anthemic track he’s ever worked on. Max gets extra points for ‘So What’ as he’s made us actually like a song by P!nk – one of our least favourite acts of all time. She’s shouty, annoying, and her attitude is dire. Forever insisting that she’s more credible an artist than her pop contemporaries, her hypocrisy peaked when she sang the lyric; ‘’tired of being compared, to damn Britney Spears’’, only to sell her soul to Pepsi a year later and appear in an advert with – Britney Spears. Taking the big bucks from Pepsi is absolutely fine, we’d all do it if we were offered it. But whining that you’re better than manufactured pop acts is irritating – particularly when you’re being given songs from the same writers and producers that they are. And don’t even get us started on the horrendously misjudged ‘Stupid Girls’ video. Slating celebrities in an effort to sell your music? And for the lead single from your album too? It must be a terrific album if that’s all you can offer up. Oh dear, we’re ranting. Anyway, ‘So What’ is genius and thoroughly enjoyable. Although watching the video is quite a task given P!nk’s tiresome insistence to appear a bit mental and quirky – how many times do you have to open your mouth really wide? Not just in videos but on your album covers too!!! Awful, just awful.

06. Solid HarmoniE: ‘I’ll Be There For You’

Our first delve into Max’s golden era – the late nineties! ‘I’ll Be There For You’ was the first single from this girlband. Why they weren’t massive around the world we’ll never understand. They had the same record label as Backstreet Boys and *NSync, were given songs from the same songwriters and producers, and they offered something different in that they were a girlband. But they never took off, aside from a few hits in Asia and Germany, and minor hits in the UK. ‘I’ll Be There For You’ had the same unmistakable Max Martin sound that was about to become a phenomenon. It was pop mixed with r&b, and very dance friendly. Their singles were like blueprints for the early Britney Spears hits that were to follow a year later. But this was the absolute best track that Max gave them. It had all the elements of a great Max Martin tune; captivating intro, and a hook that arrives in the verse, not wanting you to have to wait until the chorus to fall in love with the song.

05. Ace of Base: ‘Beautiful Life’

Max produced all of the best songs from Ace of Base’s second album, ‘The Bridge’ – ‘Lucky Love’, ‘Blooming 18’, ‘Never Gonna Say I’m Sorry’ and this, ‘Beautiful Life’. It’s ‘Beautiful Life’ which has remained one of the most loved Ace of Base tracks. We always get requests for it at the scandipop club nights and it never fails to get a good reaction. Again, a cracking pop song, from intro to outro. Fast paced the whole way through, it’s the perfect merging of piano and euro house. And we’re even treated to an excellently placed gospel choir for the final chorus.

04. Cyndi Lauper: ‘Into The Nightlife’

Cyndi Lauper returned to music recently with the incredibly amazing ‘Bring Ya To The Brink’ album. It was an album that she made by coming to Europe and teaming up with the best pop writers and dance producers, from Scandinavia and the UK. The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly the lead single, ‘Into The Nightlife’ – written by Max Martin. He’d forayed into dance music before with E-Type, but ‘Into The Nightlife’ was something very special. The chorus is mind-blowingly good – it’s a full on blast of dance music at its very best, made all the more stunning because it follows on from a sparse, minimally electronic verse. It’s a sound that stays with you and we’ve yet to tire of it at all.

03. Celine Dion: ‘That’s The Way It Is’

It was 1999 and Celine Dion was about to release her very first Greatest Hits album. She needed a song to launch it with and so went to the hottest writer and producer in the world at that time – Max Martin. He wrote and produced ‘That’s The Way It Is’, a track that sounded identical to what Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and *NSync were releasing that year. It was a step away from the music that she’d been making up to that point, and unfortunately Celine got a lot of unfair ridicule thrown at her for what people accused her of as bandwagon jumping. It wasn’t – it was simply an artist wanting to sing a current song to bring her Greatest Hits concept (one hit from each of the ten years she’d been releasing music for) up to date. But unapologetically uncool Celine was always an easy target for the music media. Thankfully, Max gave her a song brilliant enough to silence at least the level headed critics. ‘That’s The Way It Is’ was very special in that it was a typical Max Martin song, but sung by somebody with a vocal ability never heard on one of his songs before. As a result, the key changes and ad libs that he placed in the track sounded all the more epic. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that this song has one of the greatest key changes of all time!!!

02. Backstreet Boys: ‘Larger Than Life’

Max was responsible for so many great Backstreet Boys tracks, but ‘Larger Than Life’ is by far and away the absolute best. With Backstreet Boys and *NSync, Max made many tracks with a very similar sound. But ‘Larger Than Life’ seemed to take the best parts of these songs, put them together, and magnify them ten times over. It doesn’t drop in excitement for its entire duration. It’s stadium rock, tailored for pop. And the cocky, yet assuring lyrics are totally suited to the ambitious melody and music. As a whole, it’s got punch, it’s got funk, and it’s got electricity. This and the song at number one are easily the two signature tunes of this kind of pop music’s golden era – the four years between 1998 and 2001.

01. Britney Spears: ‘Baby One More Time’

Written and produced by Max Martin, it’s not only his greatest triumph – it’s also pop music’s greatest triumph. FACT! Max hasn’t just established himself as one of the world’s best songwriters and producers, he’s also responsible for the career of one of the most popular and successful artists of all time; Britney. He contributed towards many other great tracks for Britney that would have also made it into our top ten list, had it not been limited to one song per artist; ‘Stronger’, ‘Oops I Did It Again’, ‘Lucky’, ‘You Drive Me Crazy’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Overprotected’, ‘If U Seek Amy’ etc etc etc! For a long time, Max’s music with Britney epitomised the sound of pop music around the world. But it’s ‘Baby One More Time’, her debut single, that has remained the most famous and well loved. Max has penned countless hits, but again, it’s ‘Baby One More Time’ that demonstrates his genius best. See for yourself;

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