Max Martin has provided the soundtrack of middle school dances for nearly 20 years now. His run of pop success is remarkable in both its quantity and quality; he’s one of those music industry figures that you couldn’t pick out of a police lineup, but you know AT LEAST a dozen of his songs. They’re unavoidable, larger than life, and oh yeah, he wrote “Larger Than Life” for Backstreet Boys, as well as basically every other hit BSB had.
Recently, Martin, who knows more about teenagers than any 42-year-old Swedish man should (but not in a creepy way), has helped transform gospel-pop singer Katy Hudson into sex idol KATY PERRY, whose new album, Prism, came out earlier this week. Martin co-wrote and co-produced nine of the album’s twelve tracks, including hit single “Roar,” often working with fellow pop genius, Dr. Luke. Like any heavily-manufactured album, Prism is both very good (the singles) and very bad (the filler), but it effectively combines both of Martin’s “sounds”: his mid-1990s Europop/R&B and his 2000s pop-rock. Let’s listen to some of his most shamelessly enjoyable work.
1. “Show Me Love” by Robyn
Two out of every three anecdotes about Max Martin songs begin with, “The first time I heard this song was on the bus to school…” The first time I heard “Show Me Love” was on the bus to school. I told a friend about it when I arrived, and he called me “lame” for liking it. True story.
2. “Tearin’ Up My Heart” by *NSYNC
Martin also co-wrote “I Want You Back” and “It’s Gonna Be Me,” which is just rubbing it in.
3. “That’s the Way It Is” by Celine Dion
Portrait of Josh as a 12-year-old boy: I used to get, how to put this delicately, “turned on” by this music video because Celine showed that slight amount of belly with her too-small shirt. Look, I’m not proud of myself, but without HBO, the Internet, or magazines, a horny teen’s gotta do what a horny teen’s gotta do.
4. “Shape of My Heart” by Backstreet Boys
Confession time. “Shape of My Heart” is my favorite BSB song, because I’m a monster.