The song was king at last night’s 66th annual BMI Pop Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills honoring Mark Ronson. The celebrated five-time Grammy winning artist/producer/songwriter is the first to receive the BMI Champion Award at the ceremony in recognition not only of his creative track record, but also for his philanthropy, including his patronage of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which works to provide a musical alternative to drugs for at-risk youth.
“This is like my bar mitzvah, except there are fewer family members,” joked Ronson on the red carpet. “But it might be equally embarrassing. I was surprised when my manager Brandon [Creed] told me I’d be getting this award. It doesn’t seem like I’ve achieved that much. But I’m happy to accept it it. In a room full of songwriters, it’s all your peers, which is different from most awards.”
The BMI Pop Song of the Year went to Sony/ATV songwriter Ed Sheeran and Johnny McDaid for “Shape of You,” while Justin Tranter was named Songwriter of the Year for the second consecutive year, co-writing Imagine Dragons’ “Believer,” Maroon 5’s “Cold” featuring Future, Linkin Park’s “Heavy” and Julia Michaels’ “Issues.”
An ebullient Tranter was pumped up even before the awards ceremony. “The reason this never gets old is because there were so many years of failure,” he told Variety. “My band Semi-Precious Weapons did some pretty cool things, but we were dropped by three labels. For me to be honored and recognized is pretty magical. It makes me feel really grateful I didn’t give up. But I would rather die than go on tour again.”
Martin Bandier’s Sony/ATV Music Publishing took home Publisher of the Year for representing 26 of the top 50 most performed songs of the previous year.
“Winning never goes out of style,” said the lifelong New York Yankee fan. “It feels like a growth business again like when I first started in the 78 era.”
Various tribute videos to Ronson played throughout the night from the likes of Quincy Jones, Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Martin, Josh Homme and Bradley Cooper as well as industry titans like Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge, Warner Music Group’s Max Lousada, Sony Music’s Rob Stringer and Universal Music Publishing Group’s Jody Gerson. Paul McCartney issued a playful message, describing his colleague in three words, “Fuh-King-Great,” while banging on a bongo and explaining their first meeting came at a toilet.
One of the highlights of the evening occurred when Ronson introduced 19-year-old Brooklyn-turned-L.A. singer/songwriter King Princess (Mikaela Straus), the first signing to his Zelig label at Columbia Records.
“It’s just nice to see someone’s talent balloon,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with her.”
Backed by Ronson on guitar, Straus performed a mashup of his hits “Somebody to Love Me,” “Ooh Wee,” “Joanne,” “Uptown Funk” and “Bang Bang Bang.” Another Ronson collaborator, West Memphis, AR, native Yebba, who has been dubbed a cross between Adele and Brittany Howard, earned a standing ovation for her dynamic, multi-octave cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” which originally earned Ronson a Grammy for Producer of the Year in 2008. His “Uptown Funk” was BMI’s Pop Song of the Year for 2015.
The evening’s other emotional peak was the honoring of Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson and the late Chester Bennington for their hit song “Heavy,” marking the band’s 14th BMI Award.
On the red carpet, Shinoda admitted the evening was bittersweet. He was looking forward to releasing his solo debut, the aptly named “Post Traumatic,” which helped him get over the loss of his bandmate. Shinoda playing shows at the KROQ Weenie Roast this Saturday (May 12) afternoon at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, CA, then headlining a free show that night on the steps of City Hall.
“It’s this weird tumultuous time, big ups and big downs,” he says. “The solo record obviously started in a really dark place, but it didn’t stay there,” he said. “It ended up being my journey out of that. I’m excited for fans to hear it, to take them on a voyage out of that place.”
The future of Linkin Park is less clear. “It’s a good question, which I don’t have the answer to,” he admitted. “We honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a process. There are a lot of things to figure out. I know we can go into the studio with the guys and make a great record. Everything else is a question mark. We’ll just wait and see. We’re all on good terms and talk all the time. And they’re very supportive of my solo stuff. … In this transitional time, it’s incumbent upon us to stay creative, active and keep our spirits up.”
For a list of all last night’s winners, head to the BMI website.