Niall Horan Debuts Duet With Maren Morris, Sam Smith Reveals New Album Details at Capitol Congress

Capitol Congress, the all-day confab conceived by Capitol Music Group chairman Steve Barnett to highlight the company’s recent successes and future projects, held its fourth edition today (Aug. 9) at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinemas. Among the highlights: new songs premiered by Niall Horan (including a duet with Maren Morris), a Q&A and album update from Sam Smith, and Beck’s hot-off-the-editing-bay music video for forthcoming single, “Up All Night.”

Attended by Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge along with label heads, business partners, and international staffers, the event got off to a starry start, as Lil Yachty was presented with a platinum plaque by Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam marking 2.5 billion combined global streams of “Teenage Emotions,” “Lil Boat,” and “Summer Songs 2” – one of several to be handed out throughout the day, including Halsey for worldwide consumption of over 3 million adjusted albums for “Badlands” and “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,” and Sam Smith for worldwide consumption of over 12 million adjusted albums for “In The Lonely Hour.”

Yachty’s appearance was followed by Horan, who explained how he reached out to Morris via email to ask her if she’d consider singing on the song “Seeing Blind” – the country singer happily accepted. The song, which could easily find its way to formats outside of pop, has the acoustic base that Horan has made his trademark, along with an infectious chorus accentuated by Morris’ vocals.

Nashville also beckoned Smith, who explained to moderator Zane Lowe of Apple Music’s Beats 1, that he found the craft of writing in Music City inspiring. Smith’s follow-up to his Grammy-winning 2014 debut has been a work in progress for the better part of two years, during which, the singer revealed, he wrote more than 130 songs with collaborator Jimmy Napes.

Beck speaks onstage during the Capitol Congress at the ArcLight Cinemas on August 9, 2017.

Elsewhere on the production front, Beck spoke glowingly of Grammy-winning producer Greg Kurstin, with whom he worked on (another) surefire dance floor banger, “Up All Night” (Kurstin also participated in a panel with Blue Note Records president Don Was, mixer/engineer Spike Stent, and Capitol EVP No I.D.); and Capitol president Ashley Newton paid homage to the Beatles and the 50th anniversary repackaged and remastered release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Catalog, thanks to ongoing interest in the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Bob Seger, who just in June allowed his music on streaming services, continues to perform at Universal Music Enterprises, whose president Bruce Resnikoff presented to the room of 400. It’s a big birthday year for Capitol, which turned 75 in 2017, and respect for the label’s iconic Hollywood Tower, and the astonishing number of important records to come out of it, was a common theme during the proceedings.

Other topics discussed included the globalization of the music business, the dominance of hip-hop, and the growth of streaming, which is rewriting the rule book on music roll-outs. Capitol’s synch unit, seventeenfifty, has seen some key placements over the last two years, not the least of which includes Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” spot for Honda, and Beck’s “Wow,” for Acura. Newcomers Banks and Barns Courtney also scored campaigns for shows on Netflix and HBO.

Next on Capitol’s priority list is a new single by Halsey, “Bad At Love,” Maggie Rogers, who performed two songs, “Alaska” and “On and Off,” and Vic Mensa, who also took the stage for a performance of “We Could Be Free” and “Wings.”

The Capitol Congress’ opening day wraps at the Tower, naturally, with drinks and food trucks.

Noted television producer Ken Ehrlich (L) and recording artist Sam Smith attend Capitol Music Group's Capitol Congress party in Hollywood.
From left: Milo Stokes, "KB,” Kevin “Coach K” Lee, Trippie Redd, Elliot Grainge, Caroline GM Jaqueline Saturn, Caroline SVP Marketing and Consumer Development Matt Sawin, Capitol Music Group Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett and "Rocket Da Goon."

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