Songwriter to the stars, Max Martin wins Sweden's Polar Music Prize

Max Martin smiles during an export prize ceremony in Stockholm.
Max Martin smiles during an export prize ceremony in Stockholm. PHOTO: EPA

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - His songs have provided party music and a romantic backdrop for millions - and on Wednesday, the man who created the magic was taken out of the wings and brought into the limelight.

Swedish songwriter Max Martin, who has written chart-topping hits for stars such as Britney Spears, Adele and Justin Timberlake, was awarded Sweden's Polar Music Prize along with Italian opera singer Cecilia Bartoli.

This year's winners are known for their ability to reach wide audiences and both were seen as timely choices for the award, founded by Swedish super pop group ABBA's late manager Stig Anderson and previously won by music legends including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Yo-Yo Ma, Keith Jarrett and Dizzy Gillespie.

While Martin may be unknown to the general public, he's the favourite of pop stars lining up outside his Stockholm studio to record with him.

Some of his hits include ...Baby One More Time, the single that launched Britney Spears' career and made her a household name, as well as Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl, Pink's So What, and Taylor Swift's Shake it Off.

"In the last 20 years, no composer in the world has written melodies as sustainable or as widespread as those of Max Martin," the prize's organisers said in a statement. "Right now, at this very moment, someone, somewhere in the world will be singing a hit song written and produced by Max Martin."

The 44-year-old, whose real name is Martin Sandberg, burst onto the music scene in the mid-1990s writing, co-writing or producing a string of hits for top pop artists.

He worked with some of the stars very early on in their careers.

"He is such an amazing producer and I was really honoured that he wanted to work with me," Spears said in a video tribute to Martin.

Martin, who grew up near Stockholm, has written or co-written 21 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits. Only Paul McCartney and John Lennon have had more Billboard hits.

Bartoli, the Italian coloratura mezzo-soprano opera singer and recitalist, is best known for her interpretations of Mozart and Rossini, as well as for her performances of lesser-known Baroque and classical music.

She has "dug deeply into the history of music and presented long-lost music from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that is completely new to today's audiences", prize organisers said in a statement.

She has sold more than 10 million recordings worldwide, according to the statement, and in 2011, Bartoli won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performances for Sacrificium.

Bartoli and Martin, who each won one million kronor (S$164,560), will receive their award from Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on June 16.

The prize, which has been awarded since 1992 when it went to former Beatle McCartney, has previously been won by Patti Smith, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Youssou N'Dour, Mstislav Rostropovich and Italian composer Ennio Morricone, among others.

Last year it went to US country music legend Emmylou Harris and Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie.