I’m not sure what this says about me, either that I actually like a lot of the current pop hits or that middle-aged Norwegian guys are really the ones writing most of them. But The Atlantic recently profiled these Norwegians for a fascinating story about the state of the pop music industry:
The biggest pop star in America today is a man named Karl Martin Sandberg. The lead singer of an obscure ’80s glam-metal band, Sandberg grew up in a remote suburb of Stockholm and is now 44. Sandberg is the George Lucas, the LeBron James, the Serena Williams of American pop. He is responsible for more hits than Phil Spector, Michael Jackson, or the Beatles.
After Sandberg come the bald Norwegians, Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen, 43 and 44; Lukasz Gottwald, 42, a Sandberg protégé and collaborator who spent a decade languishing in Saturday Night Live’s house band; and another Sandberg collaborator named Esther Dean, 33, a former nurse’s aide from Oklahoma who was discovered in the audience of a Gap Band concert, singing along to “Oops Upside Your Head.” They use pseudonyms professionally, but most Americans wouldn’t recognize those, either: Max Martin, Stargate, Dr. Luke, and Ester Dean.
It’s not quite Milli Vanilli territory, but it’s definitely a strange tale of behind-the-scenes songwriting. Still, these tunes are catchy, representing a golden age of pop not seen since the Motown days of the 1960s.