Variety’s fifth annual Hitmakers Brunch saluting the artistes and industry insiders behind the year’s biggest music hits drew a crowd to the open-air City Market Social venue in downtown Los Angeles.
All 300 attendees had to present proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within 72 hours.
Jack Harlow told tales of being in second grade, reports variety.com.
Lil Nas X said he “had a lot of fun pissing people off” this year. BTS sent their regards via video.
Olivia Rodrigo saluted “all the amazing supportive women in my life,” while Lana Del Rey shared: “my lovemaking is my legacy – I get to make music in between.”
“Oh my God, it’s been two years since I’ve been out of my house,” said Jody Gerson, CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, as she looked out on the crowd.
Gerson presented the inaugural Hitmakers A&R Award to Republic Records veteran Wendy Goldstein.
Goldstein said the recognition for the work of finding artistes and developing their vision and brands was appreciated because she still feels like it’s an undersung aspect of the overall industry.
She also recalled her early years as a “secretary” and being told that women could never succeed in A&R. “I believe I proved them wrong,” said Goldstein, who was promoted to co-president of Republic in November.
Goldstein’s advice for enjoying a long run in music? Don’t overlook the “special moments” that come in every career. “Embrace them, savour them and parlay that enthusiasm and that excitement and that love into the next artiste, the next song, the next album. Always keep moving,” she said.
Shirley Halperin, Variety’s executive editor of music, noted in welcoming the crowd that Hitmakers is at its core a celebration of musicians and the teams that support their work: label executives, marketers, talent representatives and more. Among music-makers, one of the best aspects of the creative process is that “a conversation or a good hang can lead to a life-changing piece of art,” she said.
Prolific composer Hans Zimmer was on hand to present Film Song of the Year kudos to Billie Eilish and Finneas, for their song ‘No Time to Die’ for the James Bond flick of the same name.
Zimmer, who penned the score for the 25th instalment in the 007 franchise, raved about the sibling duo’s ability to honour the legacy of Bond tunes while also “showing us the future of all and everything that Bond can become in the future.”
Eilish said ‘No Time to Die’, which was released more than a year in advance of the film that faced multiple pandemic-induced delays in its theatrical release, was “the most surreal song to be able to make.” Finneas was humble about adding a Hitmakers trophy to a case that includes eight Grammys.
“Our career this far has been a cascading list of honours that we feel are shoes too big for us to fill. But we’re here anyway,” he said, beaming in a dark-red suit.
“We’re happy to be here.”
Harlow was honoured as Hitmaker of Tomorrow. Harlow’s feat in 2021 came in part from his collaboration with Lil Nas X on the smash ‘Industry Baby’.
The latter was honoured with the Innovator of the Year kudo for his statement-making work about LGBTQ inclusion in hip-hop with the ‘Industry Baby’ music video and his ‘Montero’ album.
“By being exactly who he is and commanding attention, by creating a universe that is both undeniable and exceptionally entertaining, he’s kicked in the door,” said Chloe Bailey, the rising star singer who presented the award.
Lil Nas X acknowledged he had a steep hill to climb after his 2019 breakthrough with ‘Old Town Road’.
“It was very scary to try to follow up and keep it going,” he said. “I came out. I was myself. I did what I needed to do. I put effort into every single part of my career.”
Del Rey was recognised with the Decade Award, saluting her body of work since her 2011 debut with ‘Video Games’.
She said she has been encouraged by an industry where singer-songwriters “can just journal what they’re thinking and sing about it.”
Avril Lavigne was on hand to honour Rodrigo as Songwriter of the Year, noting her standout year with the viral smash ‘Drivers License’ and other tunes.
“To me it’s a beautiful thing about art: How music can bring us all together and make us feel less alone,” Rodrigo said.
Brazilian singer Anitta handed the Crossover Award to Kali Uchis, who had a Spanglish hit this year with ‘Telepatia’.
Uchis said it was a sign that the world’s ears are wide open.
Normani, who took the Collaborator Award, told the story of her journey to doing high-profile work with Cardi B and others. She also thanked her presenter, choreographer Sean Bankhead, for being one who “pushes me to get uncomfortable, which unlocks the parts of me that used to scare me.”
Austin Rosen of Electric Feel Entertainment, this year’s Manager of the Year honoree, set the mark for the shortest remarks of the afternoon. “I appreciate it,” he said in his split-second at the mic.
Mike Dean, who got the nod for Producer of the Year, observed: “We’re lucky to do what we love every day.”
BTS’ ‘Butter’ took Record of the Year honours.
The K-pop superstars sent a special thank-you video, declaring that the song was an effort to “share fun, positive energy with many people.”
‘Butter’ songwriters Jenna Andrews, Alex Bilowitz, Rob Grimaldi and Stephen Kirk accepted for Record of the Year.
“This is the best moment of our lives,” Andrews gushed.