Music Design


Meet the 44-year-old Swede who's been writing American pop hits for 20 years.

They also created a template for the Max Martin sound, which combines ABBA’s pop chords and textures, Denniz PoP’s song structure and dynamics, eighties arena rock’s big choruses, and early-nineties American R. & B. grooves. On top of all that is Sandberg’s gift for melody... Like many of ABBA’s tunes, these Backstreet Boys songs use major and minor chords in surprising combinations (going to a minor chord on the chorus, say, when you least expect it), producing happy songs that sound sad, and sad songs that make you happy—tunes that serve a wide variety of moods.

“... Baby One More Time” ... was ABBA with a groove, basically... Without being fully aware of it, he’d forged a brilliant sound all his own, and within a few weeks every American producer was desperately scrambling to emulate it.”

Swedish writers are not partial to wit, metaphor, or double entendre, songwriting staples from Tin Pan Alley through the Brill Building era. They are more inclined to fit the syllables to the sounds—a working method that Martin calls “melodic math”—and not worry too much about whether the resulting lines make sense. (The verses in “I Want It That Way,” for example, completely contradict the meaning of the chorus lines.) ... This very freedom from having to make sense lyrically has allowed the Swedes to soar to such melodic heights.

(Ugh. I just hate The New Yorker's archaic house style. "R. & B."? Really?)