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The 20 Greatest Max Martin Songs That Never Topped the Charts

Due largely in part to the success of a high profile, big budget music video starring Kendrick Lamar, Mariska Hargitay, and many more celebrities, Taylor Swift’s 1989 cut “Bad Blood” rose to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. More notable than the pop star’s success is the man behind the scenes, Swedish superproducer Max Martin, who has scored 22 chart-topping hits as a songwriter.

Though non-pop fans, might not know his name, Martin’s responsible for smashes since 1999 that include Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” (his first taste of No. 1 success on the Hot 100), Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” and Swift’s 2012 anthemic “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” But the 44-year-old hit-maker also has his fingerprints all over a bunch of highly successful singles that never eked out the same chart victory as “Bad Blood.” Below, SPIN‘s compiled 20 of the best Max Martin songs that never achieved No. 1 success, in chronological order (with a full Spotify playlist, sans Swift, at the bottom of the post).

Backstreet Boys, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” (Jive, 1997)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 4
Though Martin worked with the boy band on several tracks from the U.S. edition of their 1997 self-titled LP, it was “Everybody” that showed off his slickly polished, guitar-driven melodies best. A co-production with Denniz Pop, founder of the Swede’s Cheiron Studios, the Backstreet Boys’ single remains one of the group’s most memorable moments, appearing as a postlude in the 2013 Seth Rogen movie This Is the End.

Robyn, “Show Me Love” (BMG, 1998)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 7
Not to be confused with the Robin S. track of the same name, Robyn’s 1998 breakout U.S. success would be her last taste of mainstream fame this side of the Atlantic until her Body Talk trilogy in the late ’00s. “Show Me Love” fits right in with the production Martin was doing with Backstreet and Britney Spears at the time, swaddling the Swedish pop star’s voice in pounding pianos and twinkling, otherworldly chimes with a bluesy beat propelling the harmonies.

N* SYNC, “Tearin’ up My Heart” (RCA, 1998)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 59
Martin had a special touch when it came to groups, understanding exactly where to plug in each one of the members’ respective vocals and personalities to keep the narrative structure of their songs compelling. “Tearin’ Up My Heart” is one of N* SYNC’s most soulful songs — and it felt like it was everywhere that year — but it failed to chart higher than No. 59, and Timberlake never turned to the producer for any of his solo material.

Britney Spears, “(You Drive Me) Crazy” (Jive, 1999)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 10
In his early production years, Martin often melded his Swedish songwriting sensibilities with the sounds of mainstream terrestrial radio here in the U.S., but “(You Drive Me) Crazy” goes full Scandinavian with its clanking syncopated bells, stretched-rubber bass, and scratching turntables. Spears dipped into Martin’s well plenty more times, and for good reason: their partnership eventually yielded the No. 1 hit, “…Baby One More Time.”

Backstreet Boys, “I Want It That Way” (Jive, 1999)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 6
Everyone in the English-speaking world knows this Max Martin song, due mostly in part to the way he raises the melodic stakes on that inescapably hooky chorus. Though “I Want It That Way” came short of the top spot, the Backstreet Boys still called on their producer-in-crime several more times, including on 2013’s comeback project In a World Like This.

Bon Jovi, “It’s My Life” (Island, 2000)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 33
Bon Jovi has Martin to thank for the drum-pounding, wholly pop “It’s My Life,” a crossover success that introduced the New Jersey band to younger generations and relaunched the conversation — albeit briefly — about their Top 40 relevance.

Britney Spears, “Oops!…I Did It Again” (Jive, 2000)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 9
When Britney donned that skintight red catsuit in the “Oops!” video, she all but forced the jaws of boys around the world onto the ground. Her 2000 hit never achieved the chart success of “…Baby One More Time,” but it stripped back the then-teen sex symbol’s remaining innocence, not to mention staking Brit’s eternal ownership over the ellipsis.

Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone” (RCA, 2004)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 2
As the New Yorker writer John Seabrook points out in his upcoming book The Hit Factory (based on a 2012 article of the same name), the first-ever American Idol winner hated “Since U Been Gone” after she recorded it, begging Clive Davis to keep it off her 2004 album Breakaway. What, and deprive the masses of brilliantly structured pop with powerhouse vocals, rock-leaning guitar (the likes of which Katy Perry would later incorporate into her biggest hits), and brain-ingraining lyrics (“I’m so moving on / YEAH, yeah!“)?

The Veronicas, “Everything I’m Not” (Sire, 2005)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: N/A
If you’re sensing a theme here — loads of staccato guitars and bass, strong female vocals, a crescendo of noise just before the chorus comes crashing down — it’s because Martin quickly established a formula with plenty of room for variable. Though the Australian twin duo didn’t make a stateside splash with “Everything I’m Not,” failing to chart at all, it’s a worthy step-sister of “Since U Been Gone” that didn’t deserve the dirt American audiences paid it.

P!nk, “U + Ur Hand” (LaFace/Zomba, 2006)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 9
The fact that a snarling, guns-up song about heartbreak and solo masturbation made its way to the Top 10 is a testament to both P!nk’s personality-laden vocals — that brief spoken interlude (“You know who you are / High fivin’, talking shit”) says it all — and also Martin’s understanding of how to keep her totally on course.

Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold” (Capitol, 2008)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 3
“Hot N Cold” did for Katy Perry what Martin’s “Oops!” did for Britney Spears: it turned a small-town girl with a couple of potentially fluky hits into someone with staying power. Toning down the overtly blatant, groaning cheese of “Ur So Gay” and “I Kissed a Girl” — the latter of which was, of course, a synthy, chart-topping Martin byproduct — Perry’s third One of the Boys single made it clear that she could go big without going boring.

Usher, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” (Jive, 2009)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 4
In 2009, Martin started to go clubbier, embracing the early days of the EDM revolution that would soon, he smartly knew, firmly grip pop music. Usher’s always been a chameleon of sound too, trend-hopping and warping his more than capable howl around whatever the moment calls for, and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” is a Shellback-coproduction that reintroduced the R&B star to the clubs.

Kesha, “Blow” (RCA, 2010)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 7
“Blow” is one of the starkest example of the “Frankenstein’s monster” productions between pop mega-songwriters that became commonplace in the early ’10s: Though it touted Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and yes, Martin among its many co-conspirators, the Kesha single failed to chart as highly as “Tik Tok” or “We R Who We R” — and the singer would quickly change course, embracing more rock-rooted sounds on her album Warrior.

Taio Cruz, “Dynamite” (Island 2010)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 2
One of the earlier examples of Martin’s muted drum intros blossoming into fully realized percussion — see Katy Perry’s later No. 1, “Part of Me” — “Dynamite” introduced America to Taio Cruz, who was then promptly forgotten. It showcases Martin as his lyrical quippiest — and gloriously mind-numbing-est: “I throw my hands up in the air sometime / Saying ‘Ay-Yo’ / Baby let’s go,” Cruz sings in the same unforgiving note over and over.

Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends” (Jive, 2011)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 3
Let’s call “Till the World Ends” the hit that Britney needed, because it was: a full-bodied track that did justice to the darker undertones of her Femme Fatale lyrics, as well as her former mainstream pop glory. A remix brought Nicki Minaj and the song’s cowriter Kesha onboard, but the original showcases Martin’s fizzed-up, chopped-and-screwed chorus best.

Jessie J, “Domino” (Universal Republic, 2011)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 6
The Rita Ora of her time, Jessie J overcame being reduced to 30-second, chair-bound cover song snippets at the 2011 VMAs and delivered her biggest bonafide hit — later trumped by “Bang Bang,” another collaboration with the Swede behind the boards. Produced by Dr. Luke and Cirkut and cowritten by Martin and Jessie J herself, it pops and pops and pops with weird vocal riffs and undulating synths. “Domino” packs the soul and personality the singer needed in order to prove she was more than a product of the factory.

Katy Perry, “Wide Awake” (Capitol, 2012)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 2
Slower Perry songs are rarely her strong suit, but Martin injects this Teenage Dream bonus cut with a balanced blend of Big Booming Bass alongside a soaring chorus that shoots upward, despite its lyrical themes distinctly hurtling Katy in the opposite direction. “Wide Awake” is her highest charting ballad, followed by “The One That Got Away,” another collab with you-know-who that landed at No. 3.

Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble” (Big Machine, 2012)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 2
Stuttering guitars and a fairly standard Swift tale of love lost and scorned quickly fissures as a Skrillex-in-daytime drop takes the chorus to Martin’s favorite sweet spot. Ostensibly about former flame Harry Styles, “I Knew You Were Trouble” took the crossover star’s confessional to a more jilted, electrified plane.

Ariana Grande, “Break Free” (Republic, 2014)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 2
The best thing to say about “Break Free” is that it’s hard to tell where Zedd’s work ends and Martin’s begins, because the two are an unexpected lovely pairing, crashing into each other with synthesizers and drum machines in a race to see who’ll come out on top. Keep your ear open for that trademark Swedish mumblecore lyricism (“Now I’ve become who I really are” is the actual, god’s honest line).

Taylor Swift, “Style” (Big Machine/Republic, 2014)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: No. 6
Though we suppose there’s still time for “Style” to chart higher, it’s hard to imagine the open-booked, electric guitar strumming song to overtake the moment “Bad Blood” is having. Perhaps when it comes to Harry Styles-inspired singles, third time’s a charm.