Max Martin is one of the most successful producer/songwriters on the planet, penning and producing hits for the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Arianna Grande, Katy Perry, Pink, Jesse J, Usher and Maroon 5, among many others. He’s also one of the highest paid producers ever, reportedly getting a $100,000 advance per song plus a piece of the back end royalties.
Does he have a formula? Maybe. According to this video Max uses a technique dubbed “melodic math.” Apparently it’s something that Martin keeps close to the vest, but there are aspects to it that you can find in the video.
First of all, he writes the melody first before anything else, which is opposite of the way most songwriters do it these days. Second, the lyrics are only there to serve the melody, and don’t need to make sense. But here where it gets interesting. According to quotes from his collaborators, a line has to have a certain number of syllables, and the next line has to be its mirror image.
Next comes the fact that the song has to hit the chorus in the first 50 seconds. There’s only 3 to 4 melodic parts per song, and only one at time, then the parts are recycled over and over throughout the song. Next is contrasting melodies in verse and chorus.
The video is based on quotes from Max Martin and his artists about his songwriting. I think there’s probably more to it and in a future post I’ll dig into analyzing his methods more thoroughly.
In the meantime, enjoy Max Martin’s work and remember that it’s difficult to have a hit. It’s capturing lightning in a bottle and doesn’t happen often. Even if you don’t like a song or an artist, you can still learn a great deal from it. Max Martin just happens to be the best around at the moment.