If you’ve listened to any pop music since, say 1998, chances are you’ve heard and loved several songs that were written by Max Martin. The Swedish mastermind has had a stranglehold on pop radio for nearly two decades now, penning smash hit after smash hit. Now, you may not want to admit it, but we’ve all jammed to many of these songs more times than we can count. With that in mind, let’s look at the 10 best songs that Max Martin had at least a hand in writing. A few rules; first off, anything with Martin’s name in the writing credits is eligible, and secondly, we’re only going with one song for each artist. Why? Because otherwise, half of this list would be Britney songs.
Apologies to Robyn, Kesha, Usher, Ariana Grande, Pink, and pretty much every other chart topper that Max Martin has worked with.
10. Bon Jovi – “It’s My Life”
Like many rock bands before them (Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Heart…) Bon Jovi decided to enlist the help of professional songwriters for their comeback in 2000. You can call this a “sellout” move, but it’s hard to deny how memorable this song is. “It’s My Life” brought Bon Jovi back to the forefront in pop music, allowing them to avoid the obscurity that so many of their hair-metal brethren are mired in.
9. Avril Lavigne – “What The Hell”
For the most part, Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby was a fairly dreary listen. The album was mostly the product of her divorce from Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley, and the tone reflected that. We did get one brief moment of light with this fun number, which is essentially about being on the rebound, and wanting to do whatever — and whoever — you want.
8. Jessie J – “Domino”
This was the song that finally broke Jessie J in the U.S. (although “Price Tag” was a decent hit, too), mostly for having one of the catchiest choruses in recent memory. That said, we shouldn’t sleep on the brilliance of an opening line like “I’m feelin sexy and free/like glitter’s rainin’ on me” either. If that doesn’t get you in the mood to party, I don’t what will.
7. NSYNC – “It’s Gonna Be Me”
After the smash success of “Bye, Bye, Bye,” this was the second single from No Strings Attached and it quickly became the theme song for the summer of 2000. It also became NSYNC’s first and only number one hit, although Justin Timberlake was far more successful in that category as a solo artist. Basically, every single line of this song was a hook, and it was a natural choice to dominate radio airplay, which it did for quite some time.
6. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
The moment when Taylor Swift officially became completely divorced from country music, this song made it clear that Taylor Swift was a 100 percent bona fide pop star. “Shake It Off” is ridiculously catchy, and often self-deprecating. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the most fun song Swift has ever recorded.
5. Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way”
Yes, Martin has written smash hits for both NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, which is sorta like playing for the Yankees and the Red Sox. But hey, when the hits keep coming in, who’s complaining? This probably the first song people think of when they remember the Backstreet Boys, and long after their haircuts went out of style, this song still rings true. A boyband classic if there ever was one.
4. Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”
Martin was a co-writer on several of Katy Perry’s biggest hits (“California Gurls,” I Kissed A Girl,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) to name a few), but this tale of young love stands out the most. It’s basically the platonic ideal of a pop song — ironic considering how un-platonic the topic is — featuring a theme that any young-and-in-love person can relate to, along with an epic chorus that is still in most of our heads to this day.
3. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
Yes, Max Martin had a hand in writing the catchiest song of 2015. This was a successful collaboration because it combined The Weeknd’s confessional style with Martin’s knack for memorable hooks. The result? The poppiest song based on a cocaine-as-sex metaphor the world has ever seen.
2. Britney Spears – “…..Baby One More Time”
While Martin had penned a few songs before this one, this was the smash that made him one of the most successful pop songwriters around. It launched the career of Britney Spears, and the world was singing along to it for pretty much the entirety of 1999. Martin would write many more hits for Britney (“Oops…I Did It Again,” “If You Seek Amy”), but this was the one that stated it all, and likely the one we’ll remember the most fondly.
1. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone”
The rare pop song to actually transcend pop music. In 2004, everyone was singing along to this one. It didn’t matter if you were a hipster or a metalhead, or any type of person that would never touch a Kelly Clarkson song in any other circumstance. You’re probably singing the chorus in your right now, aren’t you? Yeah, me too.