The winners: From left: SESAC song of the year winner for "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" sung by Enrique Iglesias Jacob Luttrell; inspiration award winner Bryan-Michael Cox; Usher; songwriter of he year Rico Love. (Photo: Shawn Ehlers)

Last night at SESAC's 16th annual Pop Music Awards in New York, the top honors went to Songwriter of the Year Rico Love, Song of the Year winner Jacob Luttrell (for his work on Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)," and Publisher of the Year EMI Foray Music. But there's not much question that the most buzzed-about moments of the night involved Usher -- who made a surprise appearance toward the end of the show to present Love with his award - and Melanie Fiona, who raised the roof with a stellar rendition of her new single, "4:00 am," which was written by Love.

Fiona sang to track but dazzled the crowd - which was nearly 100% songwriting-based industry professionals -- with a stirring and heartfelt version of the song that hushed the room while she performed it, and then erupted into a roar of applause when she was done.

From left: SESAC President/COO, Pat Collins; SESAC Chairman of the Board/CEO, Stephen Swid; SESAC Senior VP, Writer/Publisher Relations, Trevor Gale; Music Executive, Sylvia Rhode; Rico Love; Melanie Fiona. (Photo: Shawn Ehlers)

Usher looked ultra-glamorous in a stunning grey suit with a lightly ruffled shirt and a bow tie, and gave a nice speech about his long relationship with Love - Usher basically mentored him, signing him to his US label in the mid 2000s and has recorded many of his songs -- and how proud he is to see him come so far.

Photos: EMI's Jon Platt Honored @ SESAC's Pre-Grammy Brunch


Melanie Fiona who riased the roof at the SESAC16th annual Pop Music Awards in New York
(Photo: Shawn Ehlers)

But Love told a more entertaining story, in which he recalled his first nationwide tour, a 40-something-date jaunt opening for Usher. Early in the tour, Usher told him to change up his rap every single night so it wouldn't get stale. "And then we got to the Staples Center [in L.A.]," he recalled. "I looked out in the crowd and I saw Britney Spears and Diana Ross and Magic Johnson and all these people … and I forgot my lines. And the first thing I thought was, 'Imm'a KILL Usher!' " After the set, he said he immediately retreated to his tour bus and didn't speak to anyone until the next morning, when Usher came by. "He said, 'This has to happen. You have to fall hard [in order to come back stronger]. Now what are you going to do at tonight's show?"

From left: SESAC Senior VP, Writer/Publisher Relations, Trevor Gale; Bryan-Michael Cox; Terrence J (Photo: Shawn Ehlers)

Indeed, Love has had an extraordinary couple of years, with a battery of hits that includes Usher's "There Goes My Baby" and "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)," Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams," Nelly's "Just a Dream," Kelly Rowland's Motivation, Diddy-Dirty Money's "Hello Good Morning" (co-written with Nate "Danja" Hills) and "Without You" by David Guetta with Usher.

From left: SESAC Senior Director, Writer/Publisher Relations, Jamie Dominguez; SESAC Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, Linda Lorence Critelli; Usher; Rico Love; SESAC President/COO, Pat Collins; SESAC Writer/Publisher Relations, Penience Le Gall; SESAC Senior VP, Writer/Publisher Relations, Trevor Gale. (Photo: Shawn Ehlers)

Also honored was Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Bryan-Michael Cox, who received the Inspiration Award "for his artistic, entrepreneurial and philanthropic contributions." Cox, who's written and/or produced hits for Mariah Carey, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Monica and many others, has served on the advisory board of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization that helps finance and mentor entrepreneurs from economically disadvantaged communities; works with The Travis Best Foundation, a non-profit founded by former NBA player Travis Best where every year he hosts workshops where he tutors kids ages 13 - 17 in music production, songwriting, music business and publishing.

EMI, Rico Love, 'Need You Now' Win Big at 2011 SESAC Awards

In accepting the award, Cox made severakl interesting observations about songwriting. "One thing I realized is, the song is in the conversation. You've got to know people because you're singing [their lives] in songs. [Usher's hit] 'Burn' was in a conversation.

From Left: SESAC President/COO, Pat Collins; SESAC Senior Director, Writer/Publisher Relations, Jamie Dominguez; SESAC Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, Linda Lorence Critelli; Sam Taylor, EMI Music Publishing Creative Director; Katie Donovan, EMI Music Publishing Creative Manager; Ben Vaughn, EVP & GM, EMI Music Publishing Nashville; Jon Platt, President of North America, Creative, EMI Music Publishing; Senior VP; SESAC Writer/Publisher Relations, Trevor Gale; Cody Verdecias, EMI Music Publishing Associate Creative Manager. (Photo: Johnny Nunez)

"I do this because I love it," he concluded. "If I had to go back and play piano in church again, I would do it."

Among the many industry heavyweights in the audience were Sylvia Rhone, who recently joined forces with L.A. Reid at Epic; Glassnote's Daniel Glass; a large EMI contingent led by Big Jon Platt; songwriter/producers Greg Curtis and Traci Hale and many others (see photos for more).

Complete list of 2012 SESAC honorees:

Songwriter of the Year:
Rico Love

Song of the Year:
"Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)"
Written by Jacob Luttrell
Published by: Artist Publishing Group East & LSLX Music

Publisher of the Year:
EMI Foray Music

"Inspiration Award"
Bryan-Michael Cox

"Motivation"
Recorded by: Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne
Songwriter: Rico Love
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Rico Love Is Still A Rapper

"Without You"
Recorded by: David Guetta feat. Usher
Songwriter: Rico Love
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Rico Love Is Still A Rapper

"Just A Dream"
Recorded by: Nelly
Songwriter: Rico Love
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Rico Love Is Still A Rapper

"There Goes My Baby"
Recorded by: Usher
Songwriter: Rico Love
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Rico Love Is Still A Rapper

"Just A Kiss"
Recorded by: Lady Antebellum
Songwriter: Hillary Scott
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Hillary Dawn Songs

"I Run To You"
Recorded by: Lady Antebellum
Songwriter: Hillary Scott
Publisher(s): Shaw Enuff Songs

"Need You Now"
Recorded by: Lady Antebellum
Songwriter: Hillary Scott
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Hillary Dawn Songs

"Little Lion Man"
Recorded by: Mumford & Sons
Songwriter(s): Edward Dwane, Benjamin Lovett, Winston Marshall, Marcus Mumford
Publisher: Universal Tunes

"The Cave"
Recorded by: Mumford & Sons
Songwriter(s): Edward Dwane, Benjamin Lovett, Winston Marshall, Marcus Mumford
Publisher(s): Universal Tunes

"I'm On One"
Recorded by: DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne
Songwriter: Nikhil Seetharam
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Kromatik Music

"Make Me Proud"
Recorded by: Drake feat. Nicki Minaj
Songwriter: Nikhil Seetharam
Publisher: EMI Foray Music, Kromatik Music

"Moment 4 Life"
Recorded by: Nicki Minaj feat. Drake
Songwriter: Nikhil Seetharam
Publisher(s): EMI Foray Music, Kromatik Music

"Lotus Flower Bomb"
Recorded by: Wale feat. Miguel
Songwriter: Samuel Dew
Publisher: By the Chi Publishing

"Out Of My Head"
Recorded by: Lupe Fiasco feat. Trey Songz
Songwriter: Miykal Snoddy
Publisher(s): Makithot Music Publishing

"What's My Name"
Recorded by: Rhianna feat. Drake
Songwriter: Traci Hale
Publisher(s): Hale Yeah Music, peertunes Ltd.

"Bottoms Up"
Recorded by: Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj
Songwriter: Milton "Track Dealer"
James Publisher(s): iHip Hop Music

"Can't Be Friends"
Recorded by: Trey Songz
Songwriter: Claude Forbes
Publisher(s): S dat Quo

"Cupid"
Recorded by: Lloyd feat. Awesome Jones
Songwriter(s): Greg Curtis, Jason Perry
Publisher(s): Cardraygee Music Publishing, Jasons Lyrics, Reach Global Tunes & Universal Tunes

"Did It On 'Em"
Recorded by: Nicki Minaj
Songwriter: Safaree Samuels
Publisher(s): Scaffboogs Music

"Aston Martin Music"
Recorded by: Rick Ross featuring Drake & Chrisette Michele
Songwriter: Chrisette Michele
Publisher(s): Chrisette Michele LLC, EMI Foray Music, Four Kings Publishing