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Max Martin Is Pop’s Ultimate Mystery Man. He Wants It That Way

The newest episode of our 500 Greatest Songs podcast looks into the Swedish songwriter’s unique career — with special emphasis on hits by Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson

Max Martin

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You probably don’t know his face or his voice. But you definitely know his music. Max Martin, the Swedish genius behind so many hits from the past 25 years, has always been an elusive figure, remaining behind the scenes. He refuses to become any kind of celebrity. Yet he has helped create so many classics, including some on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list: Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” (which comes in at 357) and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” (240). He’s written or co-written 26 Number One hits, producing nearly all of them, for the biggest names in pop. He started out in the Nineties — but he just racked up another chart-topper, Ariana Grande’s “Yes, And?”

For last week’s premiere episode of our new podcast, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, our hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield looked at the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams.” Now, they shed light on the big enigma of Max Martin: How does he do it? What’s his secret recipe? How can one mastermind keep creating so many hits, over so many years, without losing his magic touch? How does he have so many famous songs, while remaining out of the spotlight?

This week, Brittany and Rob are joined by a Rolling Stone legend, senior rriter Brian Hiatt. (You’ve heard the three of them argue it out on the podcast Rolling Stone Music Now, hosted by Brian himself.) The trio go deep on two classic Max Martin songs: Britney Spears‘ debut single, “… Baby One More Time,” and Kelly Clarkson’s timeless breakup anthem “Since U Been Gone.” But they also explore the long and unique career of pop’s ultimate mystery man.

In 2004, Rolling Stone launched its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Tabulated from a massive vote that had artists, industry figures, and critics weighing in, the list has been a source of conversation, inspiration, and controversy for two decades. It’s one of the most popular, influential, and argued-over features the magazine has ever done.

So we set out to make it even bigger, better, and fresher. In 2021, we completely overhauled our 500 Songs list, with a whole new batch of voters from all over the music map. Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs takes a closer look at the entries on our list. Made in partnership with iHeart, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs finds Brittany and Rob discussing a new song each week, delving into its history and impact with the help of a special guest — including fellow RS colleagues, producers, and the artists themselves. It’s our celebration of the greatest songs ever made — and a breakdown of what makes them so great.

Check out the latest episode above, on iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts, and look for new episodes every Wednesday.

From Rolling Stone US