What does it take to get Pharrell Williams, in all his Lanvin glory, to sit on the floor? “Power. And you have it, Clive,” said the rapper-singer-producer. Replied Clive Davis, 81, “On a good day” — this particular Saturday being one of them. A three-decade-long tradition, the pre-Grammy gala, presented by The Recording Academy and hosted by Sony Music chief creative officer Davis, has become music’s second-biggest night, only behind the Grammy Awards themselves (held the following day, on Jan. 26).
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“This party is a staple,” offered T.I. “I believe it’s just as important and just as highbrow as the ceremony.” That’s thanks to an all-star lineup of performers brought together by the evening’s host (and photographed exclusively for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter). In addition, the event honors a music industry veteran every year, bestowing 2014’s Salute to Industry Icons honor on Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge, which helped lock in a surprise appearance by Lionel Richie. Among those in the Hilton ballroom were Rihanna; Taylor Swift; Alicia Keys, who celebrated her 33rd birthday with a serenade by a room full of fellow Grammy winners; Rod Stewart; Metallica; Apple CEO Tim Cook; and Joan Rivers, who told THR that her name has been on this party’s guest list for 25 straight years. “I come because it’s about friends and family,” she said. “It’s like Clive’s family reunion every year.”
But for many in the house — including performers Imagine Dragons, Lorde, Macklemore & Lewis and A Great Big World — there’s nothing quite like the first time. “It feels like history has happened here over the last few decades,” said AGBW singer Ian Axel, who would perform the band’s hit “Say Something” later that evening. “That room filled with all those people — we’re going to be a little starstruck.”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.