Who is Max Martin? The greatest pop songwriter/producer since The Beatles, his hits are stacked year-by-year, highlighting which ones went to number 1, and who performed each. I will let John Seabrook from a recent New Yorker article fill in some more details for you about this mysterious Swede:
Among the stranger aspects of recent pop music history is how so many of the biggest hits of the past twenty years—by the Backstreet Boys, ’NSync, and Britney Spears to Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and the Weeknd—have been co-written by a forty-four-year-old Swede. His real name is Karl Martin Sandberg, but you would know him as Max Martin, if you know of him at all, which, if he can help it, you won’t. He is music’s magic melody man, the master hooksmith responsible for twenty-one No. 1 Billboard hits—five fewer than John Lennon, and eleven behind Paul McCartney, on the all-time list. But, while Lennon and McCartney are universally acknowledged as geniuses, few outside the music business have heard of Max Martin.Presumably this is because Martin writes all of his songs for other people to sing. …In a sense, Spears, Perry, and Swift are all singing covers of Max Martin recordings. -John Seabrook
And Max Martin isn’t the only Swede making commanding the music industry, John Seabrook again:
According to Marie Ledin, the managing director of the Polar Music Prize, Sweden’s musical Nobel, Swedish songwriters and producers were partly responsible for a quarter of all Billboard Top Ten hits in 2014, an astonishing accomplishment for a country of fewer than ten million people.
If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Martin, I recommend:
- Switched on Pop, a fascinating podcast by songwriter Charlie Harding and musicologist Nate Sloan, which recently analyzed the reasons for Max Martin’s success. Listen to it here.
- John Seabrook’s new book about the modern hit factory titled THE SONG MACHINE.
Data & Design
The list of Max Martin hits came from this Wikipedia discography, which I then checked against ♪SONG://DATABASE. For a while I tried to make the plot look like a music staff, plotting peak dates for each song. It worked well until Katy Perry and Taylor Swift hit the scene, then the whole thing became a jumbled mess. Here’s a sketch of the idea:
The colors are inspired by one of my other favorite Nordic artists, Siggi Odds. Here’s one of his gorgeous posters that I abstracted into a treemap color palette for this infosketch:
RJ Andrews founded Info We Trust to explore how to better humanize information. To learn more please visit the about page.