Bacon makes everything better, Nick Jonas once sang, and Variety took his advice to heart by celebrating the year’s most influential artists and executives in music at an exclusive brunch on Saturday in West Hollywood.
To toast the annual Hitmakers issue, Variety executive editor of music Shirley Halperin welcomed honorees like Bebe Rexha, British pop sensation Dua Lipa, Migos member Offset and more to Sunset Tower Hotel.
“It’s nice to be with everyone in the day time,” joked Justin Tranter, prolific songwriter for the likes of Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Justin Bieber and Linkin Park, “to celebrate all the work that goes on in front of the scenes and behind the scenes.”
Halperin addressed the crowd ahead of honors for Rexha (Songwriter of the Year), Lipa (Breakthrough Artist of the Year), Migos (Group of the Year) and Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas of Quality Control, who were awarded as the year’s top innovators, presented by Muzik CEO Jason Hardi.
“Who are the 80 people who contributed, in no small part, the soundtrack of 2018?” asked Halperin at the BMI and Muzik-sponsored affair. She dropped some stats from the issue, an analysis of the year’s top 30 songs and the parties who delivered them.
“Thrity-nine of them, or nearly half, are people of color. One out of five are women,” said Halperin to big applause.
“Some are as young as 24 … and others who had their first hits back in 1988. Excluding samples, the average number of writers per hit is 5.4. The largest number of writers on a number one hit? 16. Only one song has 100% of the songwriting credited to one person, and that’s Bazzi for ‘Mine.’ More than 70% have a foundation in hip hop. Eight of the top 30 tracks are by Post Malone and Drake, and both are affiliated with Republic Records, which is our label of the year,” she continued.
Rexha, who was applauded for her “brutal Staten Island honesty” in an introduction by Tranter, became emotional receiving her honor.
“We go through life and sometimes we want more, more, more, more. I’m going to make believe this a Grammy right now … if I don’t get nominated, this my Grammy right here,” said the record-breaking writer behind “Meant to Be,” a duet with Florida Georgie Line, while brandishing her Hitmaker trophy.
“I used to compare myself to a lot of people, and the only thing I feel like I’m so proud of the most is my songwriting ability. It’s the one thing i’ll have forever,” she said.
Offset, of the ubiquitous Migos, counted wall-to-wall fans who became giddy when he thanked his wife Cardi B. during his speech.
“She always supported me from day one and kept me going when I was thinking things were slowing down,” he said.
Lipa, in a stunning white cut-out gown, shared what she learned from her fans and global listeners.
“Never compromise. Always do what you believe in, only do things that you feel comfortable with, things that you are proud enough to put your name to,” said the singer, behind hits like “New Rules,” “IDGAF” and the Calvin Harris banger “One Kiss.”
Among the executives who packed the room were Interscope Records chief John Janick, who was awarded Executive of the Year, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and co-chairman/COO Tom Corson, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, Artist Publishing Group CEO Mike Caren, BMG CEO Zach Katz, Republic Records EVPs Rob Stevenson and Gary Spangler, Caroline president Jacqueline Saturn, Spotify’s Mike Biggane and Carl Chery and Warner/Chappell COO Carianne Marshall.
Hitmaker honorees in attendance included Manager of the Year Dre London and Producer of the Year Noah “40” Shebib, as well as producers and songwriters J White, Shy Carter, Monsters & Strangerz’s Marcus Lomax and Jordan Johnson and BlaqNmilD, mixer Tony Maserati, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s Amanda Hill and Shawn Holiday, RCA’s Tunji Balogun and Sam Selolwane, Warner Bros. Records’ Mr. Morgan and Lee L’Hereaux, Capitol’s Greg Marella and Dixie Tipton, Keep Cool’s Courtney Stewart, Epic’s Joey Arbagey, among others.
Cleopatra Bernard (pictured above), mother of rapper XXXTentacion, represented her late son at the event, along with XXX producer John Cunningham (pictured at right) and manager Solomon Sobande.
As the morning rolled to afternoon, guests enjoyed Red Bull cocktails and L.A. views as DJ Michelle Pesce pumped the Hollywood haunt with music. She played the hits, of course.