Entertainment & Arts

Max Martin wins prestigious Polar Music Prize

Max Martin Image copyright AP

Swedish songwriter Max Martin has been honoured with the prestigious Polar Music Prize.

The Stockholm ceremony was attended by Sweden's King Carl XVI, as well as Howie, Kevin and Brian from the Backstreet Boys.

Martin has written a string of hits for artists such as Britney Spears, Pink, N*Sync, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

The musician, who is famous for keeping a low public profile, joked in his acceptance speech, "You blew my cover!"

"I've managed to hide between two speakers in a basement for over 20 years, but you got me!" he added.

In filmed messages, Spears called him "a genius" and Justin Timberlake "a master", while Simon Cowell said: "I don't think that Max Martin is human, I think he was made in Sweden to make hit records, because nobody human can have done what he's done."

The writer has scored 22 number ones on the US chart, more than any other writers besides John Lennon (with 26) and Paul McCartney (32).

Among his hits are Spears' ...Baby One More Time, Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl, Taylor Swift's Shake It Off and The Weeknd's Can't Feel My Face.

In his acceptance speech, the musician - who started his career in a heavy metal band - revealed the two secrets of his success.

The first was "steal from the best," he said. "I confess, over the years I've ripped off giants like ABBA, Kiss and the late, amazing Prince.

"The second most important secret is love."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Cecilia Bartoli was also honoured with the award, which is sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize for music,"

Italian mezzo-soprano opera singer Cecilia Bartoli was also presented with a Polar Prize, recognising both her "unique ability" and efforts to re-popularise "long-lost music from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries".

Accepting her award, the singer said: "I'm deeply honoured and I am very proud.

"For me, music is emotion, passion and humanity. I strongly believe in the power of music and I'm here to share my belief."


Martin, who rarely speaks to the press, also gave a masterclass on the eve of the ceremony.

He told the audience a tune should be "recognisable in the first couple of seconds" and that he frequently used Prince's technique of "using the same melody in the verses as the chorus, to shortcut familiarity of songs".

He also spoke of collaborating with Adele on her new single Send My Love (To Your New Lover), saying the star took a "big risk" by working "outside her comfort zone".

He recalled how conversations in the recording studio could lead to hit songs, recalling his first meeting with Swift, in which she told him about an ex-boyfriend with whom she would "never, ever get back together".

To coincide with his award, a website chronicling Martin's 64 US top 10 hits was launched.

Maxopedia, compiled by British journalist Michael Cragg, goes behind the scenes of songs like Taylor Swift's Wildest Dreams and the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way.

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