For the first time in the 35-year history of the ASCAP Pop Music Awards, four songwriters tied for pop music songwriter of the year at Monday night’s (April 23) celebration at the Beverly Hills Hilton.
Sharing the title with four entries each were Steve Mac (“Shape of You,””Strip That Down,””Rockabye,””What About Us”); Max Martin (“Side To Side,””Can’t Stop The Feeling!,” “Send My Love,” Just Like Fire”); Starrah (“Now or Never,””Fake Love,””What Lovers Do,””Havana”); and Drew Taggart (“1-800-273-8255,””Something Just Like This,” “Closer,””Paris”).
Martin received the award for an unprecedented 11th time, while Starrah’s win marked the first for a female songwriter in 16 years.
ASCAP named “Shape of You,” which Mac co-wrote with Kandi Burrus and Tameka Harris, song of the year. A new award, top streamed song, went to “Despacito,” co-written by Justin Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd and Daddy Yankee.
With the Music Modernization Act before lawmakers, the comprehensive royalty reform bill received shout-outs during the evening, including from ASCAP president Paul Williams, who asked the attendees to text a number that would send a request to Congressional reps requesting they vote for the bill.
“Let’s take an important moment to thank everyone who has worked so tirelessly to come together with one unified voice on the Music Modernization Act,” said Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson, as she accepted the award with her team for publisher of the year. “We still have always to go, but this is what we are all fighting for every day: making sure that songwriters get paid fairly.”
UMPG had a share in 22 hits in 2017 including “Shape Of You,” “That’s What I Like” and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” BMG nabbed independent publisher of the year for its share of such hits as “Despacito,” “Let Me Love You” and “I’m The One.” BMG U.S. president Zach Katz accepted the award.
Alternative rock act Portugal. The Man received the ASCAP Vanguard Award, with the band performing a spirited version of their massive hit, “Feel It Still.”
Lana Del Rey was honored with the ASCAP Global Impact Award, presented to her by Father John Misty, whom Del Rey declared was her favorite artist. Misty also performed a stripped-down version of “Ride.” In her acceptance speech, Del Rey thanked her co-writer/producer and table mate Rick Nowels, whose wife Maria Vidal was seated a few tables over with Desmond Child, who received the evening’s biggest night, the ASCAP Founders Award. Vidal was a member of Desmond Child & Rouge in the late ‘70s.
In addition to Vidal, Child, who has written more than 80 Top 40 hits, was surrounded by artists with whom he had experienced some of his biggest successes, including KISS’s Paul Stanley, who presented Child with his award and gave an endearing speech chronicling their 40-year history; former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora; and Alice Cooper, who performed their co-write, “Poison.”
In an emotional speech, Child thanked Stanley: “Paul has been a loyal friend and mentor who taught me KISS Rule No. 1, that ultimately, no matter what the critics say, human beings only want to hear big, fun songs full of hope. I use those rules for almost everything I’ve done since then,” Child said.
Child told the tale of his late mother, who was a songwriter and a poet. “Just as my mother struggled all those years, songwriters are struggling right now,” he continued.
Picking up on themes echoed by Williams and Gerson, Child continued, “It’s so great what’s happening now with the Musical Modernization Act, which is the ray of hope that we’ve needed. I want to thank all of you for sticking with it…Technology, both in how music is made and how music makers are compensated, continues to evolve more rapidly than any of us would have imagined. It is our obligation as composers, producers and publishers to ensure the survival of the working songwriter. When it comes to credit and fair compensation, we must face future challenges with practical solutions…we must stay on it and ensure our industry is always at the table, deciding our own future and protecting the value of our precious work.”