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Max Martin’s New Take on Hook Arrangement



What do the latest Hot 100 Top 10 entries from Lady Gaga (Stupid Love) and The Weeknd (Save Your Tears) have in common?  They’re both co-written and co-produced by Max Martin.  And while these songs are stylistically quite different from one another, they share some structural characteristics that seem to be unique to Max Martin’s most recent body of work.

While many pop songs and Max Martin hits such as Daylight, Roar and Blinding Lights include a post-chorus in their framework, which is a “bonus” hook section for the listener to sink their teeth into directly following the chorus, Stupid Love and Save Your Tears do something out of the ordinary by placing their bonus hook sections in other, more atypical places.

In the case of Stupid Love, this bonus hook section is a vocal break featured not after the chorus, but after each verse, acting in the way of a “pre-pre-chorus,” so to speak, with the highly repetitive “I freak out / I get down” hook.  This, along with the uniquely hooky pre-chorus that follows (“Hey-ah hey-ah / ooh, ooh”) and the hook-based intro, creates a triple-hook punch that takes the song’s catchiness to the next level (note that pre-choruses do not typically contain hooks).

This atypical succession of multiple hook-based sections is particularly important in Stupid Love, considering that its first chorus doesn’t appear until 57 seconds into the song – far later than most pop and Max Martin hits.  This helps to keep the listener fully engaged until they get to the “payoff” in the first chorus.

Hook Arrangement: Stupid Love


Save Your Tears, which hit the Hot 100 Top 10 almost a year later in 2021, takes this bonus hook section technique one step further, sandwiching its bonus vocal break hook (“I don’t know why I run away / ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh”) at four strategic points throughout the song (see chart below).  And, like Stupid Love, in addition to making the song more catchy and cohesive, the appearance of these sections BEFORE the first chorus hits helps ensure that the listener remains fully engaged until they finally hear the chorus at 1:27, an eternity by today’s pop standards.

Hook Arrangement: Save Your Tears


Furthermore, these four additional bonus hook sections in Save Your Tears bring the song’s total section count up to a whopping 14 sections, which is more than the vast majority of Hot 100 Top 10 hits and all of Max Martin’s Top 10 hits over the past decade.  So how were all of these song sections accommodated in just 3 minutes and 31 seconds?  The answer is by keeping them all very short, including the unusually brief verse and chorus sections, which are each around 10 seconds shorter than the pop song average.  The same is the case with Stupid Love, which similarly keeps every single song section at a brief 16 seconds or less, save for the last two sections.

Section Length: Save Your Tears


Section Length: Stupid Love


But as with most everything Max Martin does, there is a rhyme and reason behind all of this.  In this case, he expertly ensures that today’s fast-paced, attention-span-challenged listeners are kept fully engaged with frequent material turnover while still getting the song’s plethora of hooks fully ingrained in their heads.

Lyric excerpts are reproduced here under Fair Use terms, for the purposes of commentary and criticism.

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