Songwriter Max Martin and opera singer Cecilia Bartoli have been named the Laureates for the 2016 Polar Music Prize, to be presented by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on June 16. The announcement will be made at 9am Central Europe time by Alfons Karabuda, chairman of the prize committee.
Martin, born Martin Sandberg in Stockholm, won the Grammy for producer of the year, non-classical, in 2015 and has six nominations this year. He is the most successful pop songwriter of the last 20 years. He has written 21 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any other writer in history except for Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). Martin has produced 19 Hot 100 No. 1s, more than any other producer except for another Martin: Beatles producer George Martin, with 23. Max Martin’s run began with Britney Spears‘ “…Baby One More Time: in 1999. He has also written No. 1s for *NSYNC, Katy Perry, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. Many of those artists — including Spears, Justin Timberlake, Pink and Adam Levine, along with Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, appear in a video congratulating Martin on his Polar Music Prize honor.
Mezzo-soprano Bartoli was born in Rome and made her first appearance onstage at age 8, playing a shepherd boy in Tosca. She made her professional debut as an opera singer in 1987 and has starred in productions all over the world. She is a five-time Grammy winner, most recently in 2011, taking home the trophy for best classical vocal performance (Sacrificium).
Martin and Bartoli will each receive their awards from the hands of the King in the Stockholm Concert House. The prize carries a cash award of 1 million Swedish kronor ($118,754). The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, the manager and music publisher of ABBA. A well-known lyricist, he also was the co-writer on many of their early hits.
The prize was first presented in 1992. Anderson died in 1997; his family has taken up the mantle. Daughter Marie Ledin is managing director of the prize and actively oversees day-to-day activities. Sons Lars Anderson and Anders Anderson are members of the Polar Music Prize Award Committee, and the latter serves as chairman of the supervisory board.
Previous winners of the Polar Music Prize include Elton John, Ray Charles, Ravi Shankar, Ennio Morricone, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Renée Fleming, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Isaac Stern, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Gilberto Gil, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King, Emmylou Harris, Yo-Yo Ma, Patti Smith, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Dizzy Gillespie, Youssou N’Dour and Bruce Springsteen.
Although the prize is of Swedish origin, Martin is only the second Swedish-born Laureate. The first was choral conductor Eric Ericson, who received the prize in 1997.