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The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of

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In the arena of pop music, one songwriter stands above the rest, with 54 songs in the top 10. It isn't Madonna, it isn't Elvis. It isn't even the Beatles, combining the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It is Max Martin. That's not a stage name for someone you've heard of.

Max Martin has the audacity to hail from Sweden, and while you may not know the man, you know his music whether you like it or not.

If you've heard the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson or even Bon Jovi, you've heard Max Martin's work. 

Martin's pop wizardry obviously stands alone in the music world simply by the scale of his successes, but what is truly remarkable is his notable lack of failures. Rather than the shotgun approach of writing hundreds of songs and seeing what sticks, Martin might only step in for four songs on an album, and three of those songs end up being the hits. Martin writes the hits, other people write the duds. 

It is no lucky accident, apparently, that Martin seems to have had an uninterrupted stranglehold on the world of pop music. Max Martin writes a half dozen songs for one artist, who then experiences wild success until Martin stops writing for them. At that point, they appear fall off the map until he writes another song for them.

Discovered by the fabulously named Denniz Pop (likely not his birth name), the classically trained Max Martin continues to write #1 hit after impossibly catchy #1 hit, each successive artist as clay in his masterful hands.

I had assumed, wrongly, that all of the pop music coming over the top 40 stations over the past 20 years had been the product of many minds all following a sound-alike trend. However, it appears that the reason everything sounds the same is that it the top 40 is actually the brainchild of a single man astride the pop music world in a way that has never before been achieved.

And, remarkably, while he may be a household name in the production studios the world over, he has remained relatively unknown, and has never ventured into the songwriter-performer role.

Perhaps it would be too easy for him.

Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.