Winners of the ASCAP Pop Music Awards, handed out on April 23 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, included songwriters of the year Steve Mac (Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Pink’s “What About Us,” Liam Payne’s “Strip That Down”), Starrah (Halsey’s Now or Never,” Drake’s “Fake Love,” Maroon 5’s “What Lovers Do” and Camila Cabello’s “Havana”) and Drew Taggart (Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” The Chainsmokers’ “Something Just Like This” featuring Coldplay, “Closer” featuring Halsey, and “Paris”).
Said Taggart: “Every song I write, I’m in a constant state of panic. I never know if I’m ever going to have a big song again, but somehow my best buddy Alex Pall and I keep figuring it out. But maybe this is it. I may have peaked,” he joked in accepting his plaque.
ASCAP president Paul Williams remarked from the stage that Starrah is the first female recipient in 16 years to win the songwriter of the year award.
In addition, hitmaker Max Martin was recognized for the 11th time for “Side To Side” (Ariana Grande), “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” (Justin Timberlake), ”Send My Love” (Adele) and “Just Like Fire” (P!nk). No doubt he will make an encore appearance in 2019 having written four tracks for the forthcoming Ariana Grande album, including insta-hit “No Tears Left to Cry.”
The four have amassed a collective 10.5 billion YouTube views, according to ASCAP’s Williams, who marveled on introducing them, “There aren’t even that many people on the planet!”
Song of the Year went to “Shape of You,” co-written by Mac, Kandi Burrus and Tameka Harris. The top streamed song was “Despacito,” co-written by ASCAP members Justin Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd and Daddy Yankee. “Bad Things,” sung by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello and featuring an interpolation of the 1998 hit “Out of My Head,” was also recognized with a special performance featuring Madison Emiko Love and Fastball’s Tony Scalzo.
Universal Music Publishing Group was named Publisher of the Year its role in 22 2017 hits including “Shape Of You,” “That’s What I Like” (Bruno Mars) and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” UMPG chairman and CEO Jody Gerson accepted the award from ASCAP chief Elizabeth Matthews.
“This is truly a historic moment,” said Universal Music Publishing Group chairman and CEO Jody Gerson, noting that the industry has “worked tirelessly to come together with one, unified voice in the Music Modernization Act,” a bill that redresses fair pay issues for songwriters that, after four years, is scheduled for a House vote. “This is what we are fighting for every day: making sure songwriters get paid fairly.”
ASCAP CEO Matthews echoed the supportive sentiment. “Your music is at the center of this industry and all of us at ASCAP are grateful to support you with a sustainable future,” she said. Also in attendance to support songwriters through legislation that is helping to shape that sustainable future were Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), co-sponsors of the Music Modernization Act. “We want to ensure people are fairly compensated for their work,” Schultz told Variety, calling it “almost a miracle” that the industry put aside years of infighting long enough to get on the same page with this bill.
Independent Publisher of the Year went to BMG in recognition of seven hits over the past year including “Let Me Love You” (DJ Snake and Justin Bieber), “Despacito” (Justin Bieber) and “I’m The One” (DJ Khaled, Quavo, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne). BMG U.S. President Zach Katz was on hand to accept the award.
Katz said some of his competitors questioned whether the sizable BMG qualified as “indie.” “I don’t look at it as major category versus independent. I look at it any categories as are we championing creativity or not championing creativity? I say to everybody in this room, whether you’re an indie or a major, support writers with all your heart and make a major contribution.”
Additional honors went to Lana Del Rey (pictured above), who received the ASCAP Global Impact Award as well as a serenade by Father John Misty, Portugal.The Man, who received the ASCAP Vanguard Award, and Desmond Child, who was recognized with the prestigious ASCAP Founders Award. Child, co-writer of such hits as Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” received a tribute in the way of a performance by Alice Cooper and KISS guitarist Paul Stanley of the Cooper classic “Poison.”
Stanley said Child not only “created the template” for rock hits of the ’70s and ’80s, but also wrote Kiss’s biggest song: “I Was Made for Loving You.”
Child returned the compliment, stating he owed his success to Stanley, who not only introduced him to Jon Bon Jovi, for whom Child wrote many of his biggest hits (“Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”), but provided invaluable advice, telling him, “ultimately, no matter what the critics say, human beings only want to hear big, fun songs full of hope.”
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora , on hand to support Child’s win, said one of the keys to the songwriter’s success is his ability to get into the head of the person he’s writing for: “so the song winds up being a conversation with the artist.”