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Meet the People behind American Pop Music


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The Atlantic


The biggest pop star in America today is a man named Karl Martin Sandberg. The lead singer of an obscure ’80s glam-metal band, Sandberg grew up in a remote suburb of Stockholm and is now 44. Sandberg is the George Lucas, the LeBron James, the Serena Williams of American pop. He is responsible for more hits than Phil Spector, Michael Jackson, or the Beatles.


After Sandberg come the bald Norwegians, Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen, 43 and 44; Lukasz Gottwald, 42, a Sandberg protégé and collaborator who spent a decade languishing in Saturday Night Live’s house band; and another Sandberg collaborator named Esther Dean, 33, a former nurse’s aide from Oklahoma who was discovered in the audience of a Gap Band concert, singing along to “Oops Upside Your Head.” They use pseudonyms professionally, but most Americans wouldn’t recognize those, either: Max Martin, Stargate, Dr. Luke, and Ester Dean.


Most Americans will recognize their songs, however. As I write this, at the height of summer, the No. 1 position on the Billboard pop chart is occupied by a Max Martin creation, “Bad Blood” (performed by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar). No. 3, “Hey Mama” (David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj), is an Ester Dean production; No. 5, “Worth It” (Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink), was written by Stargate; No. 7, “Can’t Feel My Face” (The Weeknd), is Martin again; No. 16, “The Night Is Still Young” (Minaj), is Dr. Luke and Ester Dean. And so on. If you flip on the radio, odds are that you will hear one of their songs. If you are reading this in an airport, a mall, a doctor’s office, or a hotel lobby, you are likely listening to one of their songs right now. This is not an aberration. The same would have been true at any time in the past decade. Before writing most of Taylor Swift’s newest album, Max Martin wrote No. 1 hits for Britney Spears, ’NSync, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry.


Max Martin alone -


Max's #1s:

1999 – "...Baby One More Time" (Britney Spears)

2000 – "It's Gonna Be Me" ('N Sync)

2008 – "I Kissed a Girl" (Katy Perry)

2008 – "So What" (P!nk)

2009 – "My Life Would Suck Without You" (Kelly Clarkson)

2009 – "3" (Britney Spears)

2010 – "California Gurls" (Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg)

2010 – "Teenage Dream" (Katy Perry)

2010 – "Raise Your Glass" (P!nk)

2011 – "Hold It Against Me" (Britney Spears)

2011 – "E.T." (Katy Perry featuring Kanye West)

2011 – "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" (Katy Perry)

2012 – "Part of Me" (Katy Perry)

2012 – "One More Night" (Maroon 5)

2012 – "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (Taylor Swift)

2013 – "Roar" (Katy Perry)

2014 – "Dark Horse" (Katy Perry featuring Juicy J)

2014 – "Shake it Off" (Taylor Swift)

2014 – "Blank Space" (Taylor Swift)

2015 – "Bad Blood" (Taylor Swift)

2015 – "Can't Feel My Face" (The Weeknd)


some are saying Taylor in particular does write most of her stuff, but there's co-credits/inspiration etc and that songwriting credits can be somewhat fluid in the genre.




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