My Universe




I’m immune to the hype.

Last week Bruce Springsteen interviewed Steve Van Zandt on pay-per-view: I was unaware of it until the publicity person tracked me down. Bottom line, it was hype for the book, you got a signed book along with the video for $45, unsigned book and video for $35. A brilliant way to sell books. Assuming you knew about it. In the pre-internet era if Bruce Springsteen was going to be on TV it was big news, you tuned in, now his work is just part of the endless sea of product floating by us 24/7.

But I watched the video. SPRINGSTEEN WAS FANTASTIC! I’ve been down on Bruce, playing the humble elder statesman, but here he was completely relaxed, cracking jokes, it was like hanging with him at the kitchen table after dinner, opining on many subjects, reviewing history. Unfortunately, Van Zandt had a bit of stage fright, it took him a while to warm up. But Little Steven was better on Bill Maher, he’s been everywhere. Hoping you become aware, but then you’ve got to buy the book, and most people won’t, which is why we’ve become immune to the hype, even if we’re aware we don’t want to buy, the product is only for the hard core, why are you bugging us?

Nor was I interested in hearing Coldplay on Howard Stern. Funny how Chris Martin is the one who emerged with the gravitas, not his constantly in the news ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow, but Coldplay peaked back in 2002 with “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” Thereafter Martin has become lighter, and if you’re serious you can’t possibly be interested, the band’s projects are only for the hard core, which is larger than the hard core of all the new bands, because Coldplay broke and matured under the old system, when TV and terrestrial radio were dominant, that paradigm has completely expired.

So I’m reading today’s “Billboard Bulletin,” and the headline is “Coldplay & BTS’ ‘My Universe’ Blasts Off at No.1 on Billboard Hot 100.” Not surprising to me, anything with BTS involved is gonna make an impact, talk about fans, BTS has an army. So I decided to check out the play count, and on Spotify it was 60,593,807, which means the track’s success is not a manipulation, like so much on the chart, people are actually listening to “My Universe” and liking it.

Just for the record, the expensive video only has 41,979,120 views, proving that it’s what goes in the ears that matters today, the video game is no longer paramount, as for YouTube’s subscription numbers, I don’t believe them, the devil is in the details, I’m thinking a lot of people subscribed just to get rid of the ever more invasive commercials, and there have got to be a ton of trials, after all YouTube is imploring us to subscribe constantly. Bottom line, music does not live on YouTube, it’s not what the audience wants.

So with 60 million streams, I decide to play “My Universe,” and I can see why it’s a hit. It’s light, as I referenced above, it’s close to meaningless, but it’s what charts today.

So I’m scanning the “Billboard Bulletin.” You can’t read “Billboard,” what a joke. I now have a free subscription via Apple News+, I thought this was a benefit, but it’s unreadable, it’s all lowbrow consumer focused news, if you’re reading this rag to know what’s going on in the music business, god help you. The “Bulletin” is reciting endless statistics, pages of them, these labels know how to hype their vapid product, it’s a self-serving circle jerk, if you read every word you’re involved, it’s about as interesting as reading a book’s index. But as I’m scrolling I see “My Universe” was cowritten and coproduced by MAX MARTIN!

That’s right, a fifty year old from Sweden is the most powerful person in music, on the creative side, where the goods are baked. Everybody else has their era and then they’re done, this guy is coming up on twenty five consistent years of hits, THAT’S REMARKABLE! They should cancel the Grammys and just give all the statuettes to Max (except for the ones that go to Morgan Wallen), because he represents the zeitgeist of the music business.

About a year ago the buzz was how “Blinding Lights” was absent from the big Grammy nominations. The brand name might have been Weeknd, but the true star was Max Martin.

Max crossed Taylor Swift from country to pop. You buy insurance, just like Coldplay here.


It started with “…Baby One More Time,” no “…Baby One More Time,” no Britney Spears, nothing she did thereafter was even in the league of “…Baby One More Time.” This was 1998, the era of dialup, music online was not a big thing, you had to buy it to hear it, and I did, I had to hear this track, talk about a hit, whew!!! “My Universe” is not even close.

Nor is it close to “I Want It That Way,” the Backstreet Boys’ gigantic hit from 1999. I bought that album too, “Millennium.” Those are the only two boy band/tween albums I ever purchased, and I must tell you “Millennium” is great! It starts off with a rock track better than anybody functioning during that era. You see those are Max’s roots, hard rock, before it lost all its melody and became a niche product. When if it was loud and in-your-face, sung at the top of your lungs, it could still be considered rock. I know the musos, the boomers, pooh-pooh stuff like this, but the joke is on them, they don’t know what they’re missing. “Larger Than Life” is what is absent from the rock world, if bands today listened  to “Larger Than Life” first maybe rock would still matter. Then again, there’s no one in the rock sphere as talented as Max Martin.

Max helped build and sustain Katy Perry.

Max has 60 Top Ten singles, SIXTY!!!

Max has 25 number one singles, TWENTY FIVE! Six of these debuted atop the chart!

And the charts don’t mean what they used to, nowhere close, but these are still significant achievements, he’s now tied with George Martin for having produced the most number ones ever, and George Martin had the benefit of working with THE BEATLES!

And you could say Max doesn’t always work solo. But isn’t it funny how he continues to have hits when the acts themselves, the other writers they use, do not.

Max manages to stay young, hip, on track, with it without looking bogus like so many on the business side of the equation.


The execs have flacks, but not Max. If you know Max it’s only because you’ve read the credits, have gone deep into the weeds. And Max sustains when seemingly nobody else does, the big acts he’s worked with are now doing Vegas residencies, he’s still in the studio creating hits!

And Max does it how everybody else no longer does. Melody is a key element. While all the delusional wankers are sitting at home making beats, Max is the one creating lasting hits. Max knows it’s more than rhythm. Max also knows it’s about sounds, listen to that piano intro on “…Baby One More Time,” never mind the effect on Britney’s vocal. And you wonder why your project gets no traction, try comparing it to Max’s, you’re playing in the bush leagues and he’s WORLD CLASS!

All the things other acts overlook, Max does not. First and foremost the song, then the instrumentation and then the SINGER! Come on, if you’re not a great singer let someone else be the front person. Sure, Bob Dylan doesn’t have the world’s greatest voice, BUT HE’S BOB DYLAN! And you’re not!


Now at this point, Max Martin’s story is well known. He went to music school in Sweden, where they’ve got that dreaded SOCIALISM, which still provides arts in the educational system. Meanwhile, we’re starving the system in America, teachers don’t even have paper, never mind saxophones.

Then Max paid his dues FOR YEARS!

In America we’re supposed to be interested in the work of the barely pubescent. And there’s a canard that if you’re over 30, you’re on the scrapheap. Max is 50!

This guy is breaking all the rules and winning. He’s the antithesis of the American music business. Doing it the opposite of the way everybody else is.

As for working with collaborators, since Max is not an act, he lets everybody else participate in the riches, let them have a writing credit, let them be coproducers, better to be part of a hit than a stiff. And Max has so many hits…good luck getting him to work on your project.

Do you know how many tickets Coldplay is gonna sell on the back of Max Martin? There’s so much money involved, it’s staggering. And it’s all down to one track.

And these songs are not written and produced overnight, that’s not the route Max rides on, he’s not Neil Young, Max is not trying to make art, he’s making music for the machine, because he knows how hard it is to get any attention at all these days. You know what I want to see? Max Martin and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce knows melody, he’s just lost touch with what is a hit, and Max knows that through and through. When you’ve lost your way you’ve got to get outside advice, like Coldplay.

This is positively remarkable. This guy is consistently involved in the biggest hits in the world, year after year after year. And if you listen to “My Universe” three times it will resonate, you’ll feel good when you hear it in the background at the skating rink, while you’re shopping. That’s what music is today, something to hear while you’re doing something else.

Not that I doubt Max could do more, create art, but he’s changed with the times when so many others refuse to.

Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake…Max has had number one hits WITH ALL OF THEM!

This is the world we now live in, music is a producer’s medium, the artists are just faces, all the work is done behind the scenes, it’s just like the early sixties, just like “The Idolmaker.” I lament this, but it won’t be forever. We’ll never get a new Beatles, but we’ll get something! And I’d be surprised if Max Martin doesn’t end up working in the new world too, because the real talent is HIM! Max Martin should get a Kennedy Center award, Max should be teaching, his methods are much better than those at all the “music” schools, like Berklee. This guy has the music in him. He’s beaten America at its own game, and he’s not the only one, it’s just that Max’s focus is music, we’ve got no nukes to take him down, no tax policy, because music just can’t be denied, and it starts with Max Martin!

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