VarietyRecognizing the artists, writers, producers and music executives behind the 25 biggest singles of 2022, the sixth annual Hitmakers Brunch took place Saturday at Los Angeles’s City Market Social House, and the honorees included Elton John and Dua Lipa (Hitmakers of the year), Sam Smith and Kim Petras (innovators of the year) and Selena Gomez (movie song of the year). Imagine Dragons also won Group of the Year, and frontman Dan Reynolds’ acceptance speech was definitely the funniest moment of the event. The singer spent much of his time on stage brazenly mocking the Atlantic Records executives present – which Variety had ironically just named Label of the Year – for signing Imagine Dragons a decade ago.
After beginning his speech by noting that he “had a weird path” as a Mormon growing up in Las Vegas, then thanking Brigham Young University for evicting him, Reynolds joked, “Shout out Atlantic Records. You guys have passed us. Shout out to you. But you took us to Disneyland. Remember that? You took us to Disneyland for free! That was great! [Former Atlantic A&R rep] mollie [Lehman], if you are here, you tried to contract us, but people didn’t believe us. But Atlantic, we celebrate you. It’s good to have some healthy competition.”
Reynolds then declared Imagine Dragons’ actual label, Interscope Records, “the best in the world”, though he admitted, “Our president isn’t here. He doesn’t care enough. But that’s okay. It’s all right. Make your “Don’t worry. It’s all right. We’ll keep making money for you.”
To put Reynolds’ comments about Atlantic’s huge missed opportunity into context, Imagine Dragons have sold more than 75 million records worldwide since 2012, making them one of the best-selling artists of all time. They are also the first rock act to have four songs – ‘Radioactive’, ‘Demons’, ‘Believer’ and ‘Thunder’ – each racking up more than 1 billion streams.
Reynolds gutted Hitmakers’ room of all-star attendees — including Jack Harlow, HER, Rita Wilson, Kara DioGuardi, Caroline Polachek, Justin Tranter, and event emcee DJ Cassidy — as he then reminisced about Imagine Dragons’ humble beginnings at Vegas’s O’Shea’s Irish Pub—home to “the cheapest beer on the Strip”—said, “It’s awful. It’s the worst. It’s hell on earth. We played six-hour gigs there for three years. They made us do half covers and half originals. We played Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” We played “Save a horse, ride a cowboy.” It was terrible. It was really, really terrible. But they made our money, and then we were able to buy Taco Bell. And here we are. So thank you to O’Shea’s. Thanks to Atlantic Wall. But most of all thanks to Interscope.”
Reynolds concluded his hilarious speech by noting that his Mormon parents never wanted him to be a musician, chuckling, “I have seven brothers. They are all doctors and lawyers. But I am now the richest!” After Reynolds and his bandmates – guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman – left the stage, VarietyMusic’s obviously amused editor-in-chief, Shirley Halperin, thanked him for “waking up the room.”
Watch Reynolds’ full speech below:
Other 2022 Hitmakers accolades included Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” for Record of the Year, Latto for Breakthrough Artist, Future for the Collaborator Award, Omar Apollo for the TikTok Future Icon Award, DioGuardi for the A&R Award, Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson for Songwriters of the Year, Jesse Collins for Executive of the Year, Ebonie Ward for Manager of the Year, Ricky Reed for Producer of the Year, and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” for Sync of the Year.
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