"I Googled him, and I was like, 'He's literally written every massive soundtrack of my life,'" says Adele

By Nick Maslow
January 28, 2016 04:55 PM
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

If you’re anything like Adele, Max Martin has had a big impact on you.

“I Googled him, and I was like, ‘He’s literally written every massive soundtrack of my life,'” the singer, 27, told NPR of the Swedish powerhouse.

She’s not exaggerating: from ’90s classics (Ace of Base’s “Beautiful Life” and Britney Spears‘ “…Baby One More Time,” to name a couple) to today’s ubiquitous ear worms (Taylor Swift‘s “Blank Space” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” both of which are nominated for Grammy Awards this year), Martin has designed a large chunk of the pop music landscape.

In total, he has sold over 135 million singles; seen 54 of his songs enter top-10 charts; and scored 21 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s – a feat only outdone by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The one thing more surprising than his ability to maintain momentum in the fickle, ever-evolving world of music: how he’s managed to avoid the spotlight for three decades. Indeed, Martin doesn’t walk red carpets, never performs his material in public and rarely grants interviews. (His rep declined PEOPLE’s interview request for this piece.)

But don’t call Martin business-minded. “I would say I’m not,” he told PopJustice in 2009. “I think that the minute you start thinking like that, is the minute the songs suffer. I try to make the songs as good as I can – the way I like it, you know? And I guess my taste sometimes happens to be what other people, particularly radio programmers, like too.”

For more on Max Martin and the rest of the year’s top Grammy nominees, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Despite his prowess, Martin doesn’t manufacture his iconic melodies on his own. He co-crafted “Blank Space” with Swift for her genre-shifting opus 1989, but the concept is all Swift: “It was one of those things where I would be writing lines years before I ended up constructing the song,” she told NME. Then there’s Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” from her new album 25, which is packed with stinging zingers that could only Adele could pen. “I took my guitar along and was like, ‘I’ve got this riff,’ and then ‘Send My Love’ happened really quickly,” she explained to NPR. “Max Martin, I just could hang out with him forever. He’s so beautiful and lovely and funny and generous and warm and caring. He’s a really amazing man.”

And Martin is happy not claiming all the credit. “I just believe in collaboration,” the Grammy winner told PopJustice. “I mean, I’ve written songs on my own, you know, but I think if the artist has something to bring to the table – someone like Pink, for instance – where they have something to say, it makes your job easier and more special.”

Even with big bucks on the line – and countless record executives trying to get him to work with their artists – Martin doesn’t cave into pressure.

“It’s music, it’s supposed to be fun and inspirational,” he said. “You have to be inspired. If I did it because it was my ‘job,’ and I only did it to make money, I don’t think I’d still be doing it.”