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It’s been called Clive Davis’ bar mitzvah and a schmooze-fest of the highest order, and for the hundreds in attendance, plus many more thousands shut out, the annual pre-Grammy gala is, without a doubt, the hottest ticket in town.
When it comes to a music industry crowd, this year’s fete honoring Epic Records chairman L.A. Reid was no exception. Not only did it attract such celebrity attendees as Johnny Depp, Tyra Banks, Sean Combs, Sting, Ryan Seacrest, Miley Cyrus, John Mayer and Katy Perry among dozens more music stars, it also drew the heads of nearly every major label along with a slew of award-winning songwriters and producers.
Up until recent years, the soiree was hosted exclusively by Davis, now Sony Music’s chief creative officer. Today the Recording Academy shares bragging rights to the event held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel — and with that commitment, the responsibility when things go wrong, as with Whitney Houston’s tragic death one year ago.
Fortunately, other than a reported paparazzi scuffle that led Chris Brown to crash his car into a wall miles from the venue, Saturday night was drama-free and rich with music provided by the likes of The Lumineers, Patti Smith, Emeli Sande, Usher, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Hudson and Miguel. Read on for 15 things seen and heard at music’s second biggest night.
- As hundreds of executives filed into the hotel’s main ballroom, it was a traffic jam of handshakes, fist bumps and bro hugs as the likes of Sony Music CEO Doug Morris and Big Machine Records president Scott Borchetta embraced, CAA’s Rob Light and Paul Stanley caught up, Columbia chairman Rob Stringer and his former No. 2, now running the Capitol Music Group, Steve Barnett reminisced and newly hired Virgin head Ron Fair and just appointed EVP at Republic Charlie Walk congratulated each other.
- Magic Johnson, a longtime regular at Davis’ annual gala, snapped photos with Kathy Griffin on the red carpet, and said, “I’m here first of all to support Clive because [my wife] Cookie and I always support Clive.”
- Afrojack opened the night with a DJ set that, even with the lights turned down low for maximum effect, couldn’t hide the baffled and somewhat uncomfortable expressions on most attendees’ faces. They might want to get used to it. Earlier in the night, Afrojack told THR that EDM’s next move is “to take over radio … like in Holland and England, we want to do that in America and South America.”
- Couples night picked up where MusiCares left off as lovebirds Linda Perry and Sara Gilbert made the rounds holding hands. At one point, Perry introduced her girlfriend to producer David Foster, who in turn brought his wife, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Hadid, in for a hello. Meanwhile, outside on the hotel patio, Skrillex and girlfriend Ellie Goulding mingled.
- Longtime “mates” and American Idol visionaries Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick were naturally seated at the same table while a few chairs down was fellow Brit Natasha Bedingfield and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, who told THR,” I’m just here to hang out, have fun, hear some good music and see some friends.”
- “We didn’t look to buy market share, we created it from scratch,” said Clive Davis in one of his many shout-outs to the VIPs assembled. This one was directed at Sean “Puffy” Combs.
- Patti Smith is apparently a Grammy virgin. Prefacing her performance of “Gloria,” the legendary punk singer, whom Davis signed in 1975, told the crowd, “This is our first pre-Grammy, post-Grammy or Grammy-anything appearance.”
- The Lumineers’ two-song performance had one minor hiccup. The band revealed that their cello “got crushed by United Airlines.”
- There’s nothing quite like having a giant spotlight shine on your still flourishing new relationship — so John Mayer and Katy Perry learned seated together at table 11 for their first truly public outing as a couple. Also blush-inducing: Each got to hear a list of their credits and accolades read by Davis, who said of Perry that she’s had “one hit record after another.”
- To mark Whitney Houston’s passing one year later, Davis opted for a vintage video clip of the R&B queen singing “All the Man That I Need.” He may be known for filibustering, but in this instance, not much more needed to be said.
- Davis anointed Miguel the next Usher, telling the room that the R&B star and five-time Grammy nominee is “destined for greatness.” Indeed, Miguel’s smoke-machine-accented set had audience members, like Brandy, up on their feet.
- The L.A. Reid portion of the evening began appropriately with an introduction by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who goes way back with Reid to before his days in Atlanta when having his own label was but a pipe dream. “L.A. had a dream early on to be more than just a record producer and writer … he wanted to do what [Motown founder] Berry Gordy [did],” Edmonds recalled, laughing at the thought of his first introduction to Reid, while he was a drummer in Cincinnati band The Deele. Speaking to Reid from the stage, said Edmonds: To think that “he was in Spandex pants when I first net him — and that you became this icon.”
- “Miguel could’ve been in The Deele for sure,” cracked Edmonds.
- Usher was no doubt the night’s top draw, not just for pure entertainment value, but because he was one of the first artists Reid signed, developed and watched grow over a 19-year career. “You can’t say L.A. Reid without recognizing a man of passion, a man of conviction, a man who believes,” said Usher before launching into “U Got It Bad” and “Climax.” “L.A. Reid is the collector and the connector.”
- Davis’ closer had a “girls night” feel as newcomer Emeli Sande took the stage to sing “Heaven” followed by Jennifer Hudson and Gladys Knight’s duet of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
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