Harry Styles, Bon Jovi and Tears For Fears were among the big winners on stage at the 2021 Ivor Novello Awards in London – but events off stage loomed large over proceedings.
By coincidence the Awards, which honor excellence in songwriting and composition, took place on the same day as the Universal Music Group IPO. But, as the major music company was surging towards a market cap in excess of $50 billion on its market debut, the songwriters on which that valuation was partly built were competing for creative glory.
It was an irony not lost on many of the day’s participants. In his opening remarks, Ivors Academy chair Crispin Hunt – a top songwriter himself as well as a leading light of the #FixStreaming campaign – quipped that, “Music owes its writers a very great debt… Around $40bn, according to the Amsterdam Stock Exchange,” he said, referring to an earlier, lower projected valuation.
Later, super-producer Nile Rodgers – presenting the Special International Award to Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora – drew wild applause when he declared: “The songwriter deserves to be paid more money. We work in a wonderful business, but people tend to forget that everything starts with a song.” His comments echoed an open letter to the music industry from his partner in the fast-growing Hipgnosis Songs, Merck Mercuriadis.
But, of course, it wasn’t all about the money. The Ivors, which were first presented all the way back in 1956, is always the most touchy-feely music awards and, after a 28-month COVID-19-enforced absence, there was no lack of emotion in the air at Grosvenor House as the industry reconnected to celebrate the art of songwriting.
COVID also limited the amount of star names who could attend, ensuring it really was the songwriters who took the limelight. So there was no Dave – the homegrown hip-hop star who has taken the U.K. charts by storm this year – to collect the Best Contemporary Song Award for “Children of the Internet”, leaving his co-writer Fraser T Smith to do the honors. It was the third time in four years that the duo have triumphed, leading Smith to praise the greatest “creative journey of my career.”
Harry Styles was also absent when it came to collecting the PRS for Music Most Performed Work gong for “Adore You”, his first ever award at this ceremony. Instead co-writer Amy Allen stepped up and hailed the star for making her and fellow co-writers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson feel like equal partners right from the start.
And there was no Celeste or Jamie Hartman when the pair won Songwriters of the Year, leaving Hartman’s publisher Annette Barrett of Reservoir to read out a speech from the songwriter praising herself, much to the room’s amusement.
Those who could attend certainly enjoyed their moment. Lianne La Havas wept as she collected the Best Album prize with co-writer Matthew Hales (aka Aqualung) for her self-titled record.
Veteran electronic pioneers Goldfrapp – aka Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory – won the Ivors Inspiration Award, presented by Mute label boss Daniel Miller. “It’s a crazy beautiful thing to be able to write music,” said Goldfrapp. “To do something that touches other people continuously blows my mind.”
The Ivors also continued its tradition of celebrating the great songwriters that other awards ceremonies miss, by handing the Outstanding Song Collection prize to Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears, for hits such as “Mad World,” “Sowing the Seeds of Love” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
Not that the reunited duo took things too seriously. Orzabal walked on stage singing along to his own hit and reeled off a list of their achievements before pondering, “I’m not sure what I’m more proud of: ‘Seeds of Love’, breaking America or having our own personal parking spaces at Bath Spa Waitrose.”
Smith then chuckled before thanking “the two people without whom we just wouldn’t be here… Us!”
Meanwhile, Jon Bon Jovi’s absence – he did send a video message, although that robbed us of a potential Bon Jovi reunion – meant his erstwhile songwriting partner Richie Sambora, who left the band in 2013, was able to take the limelight. He duly delivered a lengthy, somewhat rambling speech that will live long in the crowd’s memory, if not necessarily, you suspect, in Sambora’s own.
Sambora also praised Mercuriadis, the Hipgnosis boss who has been disrupting the traditional publishing business by buying up more than $2 billion worth of song catalogs, including Sambora’s own — a bold move in a room full of traditional publishers. But the former Bon Jovi man nonetheless struck the right note at the end as he declared the enduring power of songwriting: “One note can stop time, one chord can save a life and one song can change the world.”
As the crowd headed out to the after parties to gossip about the IPO and the imminent government response to the recent investigation into the economics of music streaming, many Ivors attendees will be hoping that turns out to be true.
The full list of Ivor Novellos winners is below:
“Lianne La Havas”
Written by Matthew Hales and Lianne La Havas
Performed by Lianne La Havas
Published in the UK by Universal Music Publishing and Warner Chappell Music
Best Contemporary Song
“Children of the Internet”
Written by Dave and Fraser T Smith
Performed by Future Utopia feat. Dave and Es Devlin
Published in the UK by Warner Chappell Music and Kobalt Music Publishing
Best Original Film Score
“Calm with Horses”
Composed by Blanck Mass
Published in the UK by BMG UK
Best Original Video Game Score
“Ori and the Will of the Wisps”
Composed by Gareth Coker
Best Song Musically and Lyrically
“God’s Own Children”
Written by Barney Lister and Obongjayar
Performed by Obongjayar
Published in the UK by Promised Land Music-Universal Music Publishing and Beggars Music
Best Television Soundtrack
Composed by Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury, The Insects
Published in the UK by Sony Music Publishing
Outstanding Song Collection
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith
PRS for Music Most Performed Work
Written by Amy Allen, Tyler Johnson, Kid Harpoon and Harry Styles
Performed by Harry Styles
Published in the UK by Artist Publishing Group West-Kobalt Music Publishing, Concord Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing
Rising Star Award with Apple Music
Songwriter of the Year
Celeste and Jamie Hartman
Special International Award with Apple Music
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora
The Ivors Classical Music Award
The Ivors Inspiration Award
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory