Max Martin reignited pop music on the U.S. airwaves in the mid-'90s. But he also deserves credit for concocting the sonic signatures of Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Robyn, 'N Sync and Katy Perry -- while producing and writing for an eclectic posse of artists that mesh his trademark singalong hooks with a multitude of genres. Take a deep breath: Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Avril Lavigne, Enrique Iglesias, Cyndi Lauper and Leona Lewis.
Martin's roster of hits earned the Swede ASCAP's songwriter of the year honor in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He's the first non-U.S. citizen to ever merit the award. In November 2010, Martin held hands with a record previously set by the Beatles in 1964, commandeering four hits simultaneously in the Billboard Hot 100's top 10 (by P!nk, Usher, Taio Cruz and Perry). In all, Martin has scored 10 No. 1 hits on the Hot 100. Ironically, the first was Spears' ". . . Baby One More Time" in 1999, and the most recent was 2011's "Hold It Against Me," also by Spears.
Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager told Time that Martin "brings one of the most extraordinary pop sensibilities to come along in a very long time." Likewise, Simon Cowell told the magazine, "If you've got Max Martin, you have a better chance of having a worldwide hit than with anyone else." -Chuck Taylor
Since the mid-'90s, Mike Mogis has had a hand in producing more than 60 albums, including releases by Bright Eyes (of which he's a permanent member), the Faint and Rilo Kiley. He's currently working on an album from Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit.
"I try to mix it up on every record, to keep it fresh. I also try to coax the most believable, sincere and emotive performance out of the band or artist . . . Building that trust between the artist and me puts them in a comfortable position. When you're recording music for the first time with a producer, you feel vulnerable. The trust thing is what really helps get people to perform in a sincere way. Another thing that pervades my records is the combining of unique sounds-taking chances and combining elements that don't typically go together. The other characteristic inherent in my production is taking a few risks with the ornamentation and colors that are put on the track.
I used to think that being a producer carried this baggage of being too corporate. So I thought of myself as an engineer who helped artists formulate a song and create parts. But I guess that turned out to be what a producer does-they help someone realize their ideas and bring them into a real tangible state." -As told to Mitchell Peters
"My trademark sounds are live strings, piano, electronic elements and guitars with textures that are more atmospheric than melodic. I try to find a balance between classical and electronic. The electronic elements keep me edgy and current. But that classical quota extends the life of the songs and makes them less fleeting. My sound for artists like Marc Anthony, Diego Torres, Mickael Carreira and Nelly Furtado is intense.
As a classical pianist I have an enormous classical influence. My goal is to not be ignored, and to move the listener and find the elements that intensify the emotion I'm working toward. Definitely, the piano is a trademark, but I give myself space inside my head because the best versions are there. I try to work things out in my head, come as close as I can to what I want to do, find the ideal instrument, and when I have everything as figured out as possible, I record a demo. Not everything will be there 100% when I record, but I try to have at least 90% of the elements figured out. Otherwise, the process of repetition wears things down, and they lose their essence." -As told to Leila Cobo
Classic melodies driven by a hard beat or unique chord structure. That's the trademark of Stargate, the Norwegian production duo behind such R&B/hip-hop crossover hits as Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" and "Roll Up," Rihanna's "S&M" and "What's My Name?," and Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable."
After writing and producing songs for mostly U.K.-signed acts, including Mis-teeq ("Scandalous"), Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen journeyed stateside in the mid-2000s. The pair clicked with such early hits as Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and Lionel Richie's R&B comeback "I Call It Love."
"We may have 500 song ideas a year," Eriksen told Sound on Sound magazine. "We developed our craft over a long time, so when we have an idea it's easy for us to execute it. I can have the right sounds in five minutes, and we have very effective and quick ways of working without compromising quality."
He continued: "It's like when you're cooking: Three great ingredients work better than 10 different tastes competing with each other. For that reason we try to focus on simplicity and primary colors in our songs and arrangements. We use bright red and yellow and try to keep them separate."
Stargate's sound has powered up hits ranging from Rihanna's "Take a Bow" to Kelly Rowland's "Grown Woman" to Chris Brown's "With You." The duo is reportedly in the studio again with Beyoncé, and just finished Jennifer Lopez's new single, "I'm Into You," featuring Lil Wayne. -Gail Mitchell
As a former honcho at Sony BMG and Warner Bros. in Nashville, Paul Worley is well-versed on driving home hits. He discovered the Dixie Chicks in the mid-'90s, co-produced their first two albums and played guitar on their debut single, "I Can Love You Better," which garnered two Grammys. Worley also signed Martina McBride, Sara Evans and Big & Rich, while producing a tapestry of country acts since the early '80s, including Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Marie Osmond and Blake Shelton.
When Warner declined to sign Lady Antebellum, Worley left the label and produced the act's self-titled 2008 debut album, which included "I Run to You," the No. 1 country song of 2009 and Grammy winner for best country performance by a duo or group. Worley then produced Lady A's second album, 2010's "Need You Now." It cleaned up at the 2011 Grammys, winning best country album, while its title track-which he co-wrote with the group-took record of the year, song of the year and best country song.
Clarke Schleicher, who has collaborated with Worley for 25 years as an engineer and mixer, told Sound on Sound magazine in 2010, "Paul has an amazing ability to see the big picture. He can marry artists to his songs with his productions and is able to see the forest for the trees." -Chuck Taylor