Could Max Martin's musical be the best pop show of all time?

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Britney Spears and Taylor Swift
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Songs by Britney Spears and Taylor Swift could appear in the new musical

Move over Mamma Mia! Max Martin is putting together a new musical.

OK, the Swedish producer's name might not be instantly recognisable, but his songs are.

In total, he's written 22 US number one singles - from Britney Spears' ...Baby One More Time and Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl to Taylor Swift's Shake It Off.

A casting notice for the new musical says those songs are the "inspiration" for the show, which is set to premiere in the UK next year.

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The briefing notes explain the musical is in the "final stages of development" and is being created by Max Martin, with orchestration and arrangements by Bill Sherman, who previously worked on Lin-Manuel Miranda's pre-Hamilton show In The Heights.

The story will be written by David West Read, who is known for the TV series Schitt's Creek, and the Broadway show The Performers, a comedy set at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas.

Among the hits that could feature in the production are...

  • Backstreet Boys - Everybody (Backstreet's Back), As Long As You Love Me, I Want It That Way
  • Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time, Ooops! I Did It Again, Til The World Ends
  • Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone, My Life Would Suck Without You
  • Justin Timberlake - Can't Stop The Feeling
  • The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face
  • Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl, Roar, Dark Horse, Teenage Dream
  • Ellie Goulding - Love Me Like You Do
  • Adele - Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
  • Taylor Swift - We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together, Shake It Off, Blank Space, Delicate
  • Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman, Into You, Side To Side, No Tears Left To Cry

Best of all, however, we could finally see a musical featuring Five's Slam Dunk (Da Funk).

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The casting notice calls for "exceptional pop singers" in their 20s and 30s who can "act and dance to a high standard"; as well as dancers skilled in hip-hop, breakdancing and street dance.

The musical will enter a workshop phase next year, and will premiere outside London before transferring to the West End.

'Not human'

Martin's tally of 22 number ones makes him the third most-successful songwriter in US chart history behind only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26).

Born in the Stockholm suburb of Stenhamra in 1974, he studied French Horn at school and spent time in the (terrible) heavy metal act It's Alive before becoming pop's premier craftsman.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Max Martin keeps a famously low profile, rarely giving interviews and abstaining from social media

Part of his "secret formula" is applying the dynamics of metal to pop songs - eschewing repetition in favour of stop-start rhythms and wild contrasts between the verse and chorus.

A serial collaborator, he oversees a large team of writers, who are often assigned different parts of a song to work on. The process is devoid of ego - a chorus from one song might be swapped for the bridge of another, with the whole team willingly sharing credit.

"I don't think that Max Martin is human," Simon Cowell once observed.

"I think he was made in Sweden to make hit records, because nobody human can have done what he's done."

The musician was awarded the prestigious Polar Prize in 2016 and, in a rare public appearance, shared some of the 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."

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