Justin Timberlake, may or may not resemble his dour character Branch in the new DreamWorks animation film Trolls, but the pop superstar was nothing but ebullient over Max Martin‘s nomination into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. “Let’s be honest,” Timberlake said, “there’s nobody in the world who deserves it more than Max Martin.”
The former *NSYNC singer, who hadn’t worked with Martin since he was 15, may have been biased as he was on a panel with Martin and fellow producer Shellback which delved into the process of writing and producing Timberlake’s smash hit “Can’t Stop That Feeling” from Trolls. The pop juggernaut, which just won a Grammy and is up for this weekend’s Oscars, just had its 40th week on the Hot 100, making it one of only eight singles in that chart’s 58-year history to spend its first 40 weeks or more in the Top 40.
The panel discussion was moderated by soul legend Bill Withers who asked the ordinarily press-shy Martin pointblank how he felt being nominated for the Songwriters Hall. “When you say it now, it sounds, crazy,” the modest producer said. “I actually don’t know what to say about it…It feels amazing. It feels like a joke and they’re gong to be like, ‘Ha ha’ at some point. But of course I’m incredibly honored.” Then he added, “I feel kind of old.”
Martin, regardless of his “advanced age” of 45, is in a master class of songwriters shared by few and no less than The Beatles. Martin holds the distinction of having written or co-written 22 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, third only to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He’s worked and written with everyone from the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift to The Weeknd, Robyn and Danny Elfman.
As Martin struggled to wrap his head around the honor, Withers, the wise songwriting veteran and himself a SHOF inductee, calmly comforted the Swedish producer in his rich baritone. “Okay Max,” he said, “You’ve been licensed by me to take your time and process that in your own way and in your own time.” Then, with a nod to a Marvin Gaye song said, “In summary: take your time, take your time, regulate your mind and let your conscious be your guide.”
When asked what’s coming up next, Martin and Shellback weren’t sure what they could mention publicly but said they would be working with Timberlake on his next album. JT interrupted and said, “These guys are humble, they’re working with Pink and Taylor Swift and all your favorite artists. Whoever you like that you know and whoever you like that you don’t know, in the next three years — that’s them.”
The 2017 Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony takes place June 15 in New York City. Martin’s co-inductees include His fellow nominees include Berry Gordy, Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Chicago and Jay Z, the Hall’s first-ever rapper.