At the 32nd annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday night, it was all about legacy and leveling the playing field. Despite the cattle-call nature of this ceremony — largely an exercise of teams of songwriters and publishers collecting citations for the year’s most popular singles — it’s also a reminder that those often faceless authors can not only write, but they can sing. This was dramatically demonstrated by Maureen “Mozella” McDonald, one of the three songwriters behind “Wrecking Ball,” more commonly associated with a scantily clad Miley Cyrus and a sledge hammer.
Another highlight involved Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, fronting a large ensemble, to pay tribute to ASCAP Voice of Music honorees the Doobie Brothers, breathing new life into the group’s first two hits, “Black Water,” with author Patrick Simmons on hand to lend authenticity, and “Takin’ It to the Streets,” with Michael McDonald‘s trademark baritone leading the way.
Meanwhile, the two stalwarts behind Kiss — Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, sans war paint — held court in an ante room prior to the ceremony, demonstrating that humility and bombast can indeed go hand in hand. Stanley, being honored with Simmons for their 40 years of ASCAP citizenry, referred to Kiss as “the gift that keeps on giving,” but made an effort to tip his hat to the evening’s raison d’être, and the songwriting architects later gathered in the Dolby Ballroom who, as ASCAP’s Paul Williams put it, are “the heart of the industry.”
“We grew up looking at the Brill Building,” Stanley told Variety. “Goffin/King, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Leiber/Stoller, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers… It’s all about great music. You can have all the smoke bombs you want, you can have all the lasers you want, but if you don’t have songs, you have nothing. You can’t build without a foundation.”
When asked what was more important, the hook or the lyric, Simmons found a way to circle back to the band’s countless admirers. “It’s difficult; it’s a feeling. And let me tell you about the feeling, ’cause we’re not everything to everybody. Our songs are heard and admired and loved by millions of people around the world, but it’s not everybody.
“But let me tell you something about feeling: when you play a sold-out arena or a stadium, and you kick into that song that connects with somebody, for whom that song is the soundtrack of their life, we’ve seen them cry — not because somebody was stepping on their foot — they’re singing along and pumping their fist in the air; it’s very emotional. For us, it’s electric church.”
(Pictured: Dave Grohl with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley