Pop Culture | Music | 90s

Meet The Musical Genius Behind All Your Favorite 90s Songs

Pop music is almost always a pretty driving force in the music industry, and sometimes it's so widespread that we remember the words to songs we haven't heard in years (and maybe don't even like).

Seriously, if I never hear this song again it'll be too soon.

The 90s in particular gave the music world some of its biggest acts, with the boy band craze of groups like Backstreet Boys and *Nsync existing comfortably alongside pop starlets like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The hooks were catchy and the productions were huge, and that's well before we get to the music videos.

The thing is, we sometimes forget that for a solid chunk of the decade, the 90s' biggest hits weren't pop music at all. The early 90s saw massive success for two drastically different genres of music; grunge, a new form of rock music popularized by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, and gangsta rap, a leaner, more aggressive form of hip-hop popularized by artists like N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan and 2pac.

Pop music was going to need an overhaul if it was going to start topping the charts again. We all know that it got one, but did you know that it was largely thanks to one guy?

That's right, the catchiest and most iconic pop music of the 90s came about thanks to a Swedish songwriter named Karl Martin Sandberg, better known as Max Martin.

You may not immediately recognize Martin's name, but trust me, you've heard his work at some point in your life. He has over 21 #1 hits to his name, with the only people topping this being two of the biggest names in music history; John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. That's right, he's second only to the freaking Beatles in terms of #1 hits.


Martin was an avid music lover from a young age, studying music composition in his native Sweden and playing in heavy metal bands, before ultimately finding his biggest success as a producer. In a very short span of time, he not only produced the Backstreet Boys's debut album, but one of the biggest pop hits not just of the 90s, but literally ever: "Baby One More Time."

He hasn't showed any sign of slowing down either; over the years he's produced other massive hits like Celine Dion's "That's The Way It Goes," Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," Katy Perry's "California Gurls," and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

So what's the secret to his incredible success? Martin says he starts with the melody first, making music guaranteed to stick in your brain forever.

"A great pop song should be felt when you hear it," he said.