At Clive Davis’ and the Recording Academy’s annual pre-Grammy gala on Saturday night (Feb. 3), two-time Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks proved to be an incredibly effective hype man. The actor delivered a six-minute intro for the legendary record executive, listing more than 50 artists that Davis discovered or worked with, concluding with only slight irony that “the only reason the names Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky haven’t been mentioned is because they all died before Clive Davis graduated from Harvard [and] before he got a desk and a phone at Columbia Records.”
Davis arrived on stage at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., to thunderous applause as he pledged once again to deliver an unforgettable evening, as he has since the party started 48 years ago.
“So, this night is really so special for me and I hope for all of you,” Davis said. “I look out among you, and I see so many familiar faces. You know, the whole thing began long ago in 1976 and I really have to pinch myself that it’s going still so strong. I mean, the demand this year has just been incredible. I’m happy to say that music is alive and well and that you all see the best of the new tonight, as well as the best of those artists who inspire all of us with the truly electrifying length of their careers.”
As usual, the room included some of the biggest stars in the world, including Cher, Mariah Carey and Meryl Streep (sitting with her daughter Grace Gummer and Gummer’s husband, producer Mark Ronson), as well as Lenny Kravitz, Serena Williams, Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson; Scottie Pippen, Cameron Crowe, Peter Asher, Gayle King, Max Martin, Shania Twain, Adrian Brody, Jon Bon Jovi, Paris Hilton, Smokey Robinson and, attending for the 24th consecutive year, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her husband, Paul.
But the brightest stars were on the stage as an incredibly diverse rosters of artists performed. Green Day, introduced by Williams, who called herself the band’s “mascot,” opened the evening with exhilarating performances of “American Idiot” and “Basket Case.”
Next, in a delightful gender twist, Ronson and his co-writer Andrew Wyatt were joined by Lainey Wilson filling in for Ryan Gosling, for a pitch-perfect take on “I’m Just Ken,” from Barbie. The Grammy- and Oscar-nominated Ronson joked he was going into awards season with some guidance from the song about “the beauty of being a runner-up, which is a lesson I’ll try to remember tomorrow night [at the Grammys].” (He’s already emerged a winner with the song triumphing as best song at the Critics Choice Awards in January).
As promised, the evening heavily focused on developing acts, all of them nominated for best new artist this year, who have broken through with defining songs over the past several months. Ice Spice sassily strutted across the stage during “Deli,” while Noah Kahan introduced himself as “Mumford’s son,” a totally appropriate description for his folk sound, as he delivered strong, tuneful renditions of “Stick Season” and “Dial Drunk.” (His banjo-driven performance begs for him to tour with Mumford & Sons as a strong double bill). Victoria Monet, who is up for seven Grammys on Sunday (Feb. 4), danced through an energetic “On My Mama.”
But it was two fellow best new artist nominees who delivered truly starmaking turns. Following Josh Groban’s stirring, beautiful takes on two Stephen Sondheim numbers picked by Davis — Into the Woods‘ “Children Will Listen” and Sweeney Todd‘s “Not While I’m Around,” the Tony-nominated artist was joined by Michael Trotter, one-half of best new artist-nominated duo, The War and Treaty, for a soaring, breathtaking version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” with Trotter’s unwavering falsetto bringing the audience to it’s feet.
Though the Groban/Trotter pairing would have seemed impossible to follow, Jelly Roll took the crowd to church with two songs about his desperate search for redemption as he delivered scorching, pleading versions of “Need a Favor,” performed with a full choir, and “Save Me,” accompanied by Wilson.
Sony Music Publishing chairman and CEO Jon Platt was recognized as the 2024 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons honoree. Feted by energetic crowd-pleasing performances by Public Enemy and the Isley Brothers, two acts who had played pivotal roles in the early stages of his career, Platt took the stage shortly after midnight to receive his award. In a speech that spanned more than 30 minutes during which the fire alarm went off not once, but twice, Platt ran through a number of highlights in his illustrious career, calling the evening’s honor a full-circle moment. In 1998, Platt attended his first Davis pre-Grammy gala, then held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. There, he ran into the late former Motown president/CEO Jheryl Busby.
“He said, ‘Somebody was asking me, who do I see in the industry today that can achieve the things that I’ve achieved. …I told them, Big Jon could run the whole thing one day,’” Platt recounted. Busby’s words were life altering. “For someone to share the belief that they have in you is powerful, it is incredibly powerful. And from that day, I kind of like changed the course of my focus. I had a purpose after that, because this guy said I could run the whole thing. So, I just changed the way I acted change people I had around me, the people I was around, so on and so forth. Everything had great intention. And so, to be here tonight, receiving the industry icon is an incredible full circle moment that I’m quite proud of.”
In an extraordinary moment, Platt took time to acknowledge the rivalry between him and his former EMI Music Publishing colleague Jody Gerson, who is now CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group. “People think Jody and I have this complicated relationship. We do because we’re both intense competitors,” he said. “We compete incredibly hard. Beyond this competition is this deep love and respect that we have for each other. I mean you have to respect your competitors, but it goes deeper than that with me and Jody. Like I have this incredible amount of respect for her. And Jody is the person that hired me at EMI, so in many ways she changed my life. And people always like to say when you achieve these things and you say how you did it, ‘Well, you would have did it anyway.’ Maybe not. The only thing you could do is focus on is how it happened. And that’s how it happened. Everything I’m telling you was how it happened. So, I appreciate you Jody and I truly hope that Marty [Bandier, former CEO/chairman of EMI Music Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing] is proud of the legacy that we’re leaving for him.”
As the clock approached 1 a.m., the final performers took the stage to an appreciative audience as Colombian superstar Maluma sang a high-energy “Hawaii” and the iconic Gladys Knight performed “The Way We Were,” a song Knight and The Pips took to No. 11 nearly 50 years ago in 1975. She was then joined by Dionne Warwick — half the team who recorded the 1985 charity juggernaut, “That’s What Friends Were For” — with Andra Day and Keyshia Cole joining in. The crowd burst into applause when Stevie Wonder, who also appeared on the original song, played his instantly recognizable harmonica solo. Though that was supposed to be the last number, Wonder led the group in “What the World Needs Now Is Love” to usher the audience out into a rainy Los Angeles night.
The setlist for Clive Davis and the Recording Academy’s 2024 pre-Grammy party:
Green Day — “American Idiot, “Basket Case”
Mark Ronson — “I’m Just Ken” with Lainey Wilson and Andrew Wyatt
Ice Spice — “Deli”
Noah Kahan — “Stick Season,” “Dial Drunk”
Victoria Monet — “On My Mama”
Josh Groban — Sondheim medley with “Children Will Listen” and “Not While I’m Around”
Josh Groban and Michael Trotter Jr. — “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Jelly Roll — “Need a Favor,” “Save Me” with Lainey Wilson
Public Enemy — “Can’t Truss It,” “Bring the Noise,” “Fight the Power”
Isley Brothers — “Shout”
Gladys Knight — “The Way We Were”
Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Andra Day and Keyshia Cole —“That’s What Friends Are For,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love”