At Decades, we celebrate a ton of amazing pop songs from the past 30 years. If you were told that there was a producer who’d written and produced songs for everyone from the Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion to Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. Overall this same creative force produced 22 #1 Billboard songs for 13 different artists. Well, that producer’s name is Max Martin, and if you come to Decades, you’re more than likely to hear any of those 22 #1 hits, or his 43 Top #10 jams with 22 different artists as well. However, of those 65 top songs, there are five that were easily not just Martin’s five best sellers, but moreover five of the most memorable songs of the eras that Decades spans.
Prior to his breakthrough 2015 hit, the man born Abel Tesfaye would easily rank somewhere near the bottom of the list of artists you’d want to hear sing an early 80’s-era Michael Jackson-style disco ballad. However, it’s in the brilliance of Max Martin to discover the amazing range of The Weeknd’s falsetto, and the result was a “eee heee, wooo” away from basically being “Billie Jean.” The throwback vocal style of “I Can’t Feel My Face” being accented by a slow-mo bassline and delightful melody? It’s a total winner.
The last tandem that anyone would ever expect to see together is one-time gospel singer Perry and cannabis king Snoop D-O-double gizzle. However, on 2010’s “California Girls,” the Long Beach County native’s bars somehow slide comfortably into place next to racing synths and a pounding electro bassline. One of Martin’s greatest gifts is knowing how to create tracks that have “just enough” funky swing and power pop influences to sound similar to, yet different than everything on the radio.
There’s great reason to believe that Taylor Swift could put out anything and make every #1 chart hit #1 on every pop chart in the world. That’s not exactly true, but in figuring out how to wrap a song around Swift’s unique vocal tics, Max Martin produced a #1 hit here. On “Shake It Off,” Swift’s voice is actually less of a human thing and more of an actual instrument. Turning a voice into a hook machine is totally a trick from Eurodance and EDM that the Swedish-born producer knows all-too well, and he mixes it with straight-ahead classic US 80s to great effect.
So…yeah. You’re Columbia Records. You have an ex-Christian pop star on the label, and you’d ideally like to see her cross over as a pop star. So, you call on Max Martin and get him to craft “I Kissed A Girl,” a song that not only COMPLETELY re-brands her as possibly the furthest thing from having any religious affiliation whatsoever. 80s rock meets electro pop here, and the final product is a total winner. Sometimes kissing a girl means more than you think it does, and this, in a business sense, is one of those cases, lol.
In 1997, Britney Spears was a can’t-miss star supernova in the body of a 16 year old ex-Mickey Mouse Club member who needed the *right* song to stake her claim on the top of the charts.
Enter Max Martin…
“Baby One More Time” does everything that a debut single for a new artist needs to do. Foremost, It showcased the full range of Spears’ vocal ability. Also again, as do so many Martin hits, has “just enough” funk, jazzy swing, and dance influence to excite any potential listener. Throw in a video with the not-quite 18-year old Britney dancing in a schoolgirl uniform. 23 countries later, it’s a level of hit song that’s completely unforgettable in every way.