Who’s the greatest musical genius of the last 30 years – and why is it Max Martin? You may not immediately recognise him by name, but the Swedish songwriter is behind some of the most iconic songs in the Western pop music canon. Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl, Larger Than Life by the Backstreet Boys, Baby One More Time by Britney Spears … these barely scratch the surface of the man’s personal hit parade. & Juliet is the Martin-powered jukebox musical which reimagines another side to the classic tale of Romeo & Juliet - one where Juliet doesn’t die, and goes on to find herself in the nightclubs of Paris. It’s now playing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre and has us wondering – why are these songs still so good?
One man who sees (and hears) these tunes in the wild is Richie 1250, PBS DJ and host of karaoke night at The Shady Lady. Each Thursday night, the crowds roll in to take their shot at glory. “I love karaoke and I love the idea of regular, amateur people singing their hearts out for recreation,” Richie says. “I think it’s a good thing for society and I’m happy to celebrate that even if I sometimes have to deal with drunk people being like ‘where’s my song? I want to do my song now’.”
Richie sees a couple of reasons why Martin’s works gets a workout every week. “I think it’s the hooks being so big and catchy that they’re embedded in people’s heads, so it’s not that much of a stretch to remember them,” he says. “When you’re trying to think of a pop song you know, those ones are always just floating on the surface.” Much like the Shakespeare original that inspired & Juliet, there’s something universal about the themes and style that attracts everyone from Swedish backpackers to leather-clad punks. “That candy, soft funk sound he had going on is exquisitely produced to appeal a little bit to every demographic,” says Richie.
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Although Martin has written more than 200 songs, the cream still rises to the surface on karaoke night. “The Britney and the Backstreet Boys ones are always pretty regular,” Richie says. “Baby One More Time doesn’t come up as often as I thought it would, but every time it does, I’m always taken aback at what a perfect pop song it is. It has so many hooks in it. The part that always strikes me is how he made the biggest hook in the song out of just the words ‘and I’.” Others that pop up weekly include I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys and party-starter Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson. “That’s one that gets the whole room,” he says.
If you’re feeling inspired by & Juliet to get up and belt out your favourites, Richie’s karaoke at the Shady Lady is pretty easygoing – write your name and chosen track on a slip and wait for the call up. And if you’re a little apprehensive, you’re in safe hands. “You’ll see other people getting up there singing terribly but, like, doing it with some gusto and having a good time,” says Richie1250. “The crowd is generally very supportive. People are always cheering for somebody if they’re really giving it a go. It’s really nice how supportive the crowd [is] of each other.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Michael Cassel Group. & Juliet is now playing at the Regent Theatre, with a sing along show taking place on June 14. See more information and get tickets.