Variety’s sixth annual Hitmakers brunch, which recognized the artists, writers, producers, and music executives behind the 25 biggest singles of 2022, took place Saturday at Los Angeles’s City Market Social House, and among the honorees were Elton John and Dua Lipa (Hitmakers of the Year), Sam Smith and Kim Petras (Innovators of the Year), and Selena Gomez (Film Song of the Year). Imagine Dragons also won Group of the Year, and the acceptance speech by frontman Dan Reynolds was definitely the funniest moment of the event. The singer spent a good portion of his time at the podium cheekily mocking the attending executives from Atlantic Records — which Variety had ironically just named Label of the Year — for passing on 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, and then thanking Brigham Young University for expelling him, Reynolds quipped: “Shout out Atlantic Records. You guys passed on us. Shout out to you. You took us to Disneyland, though. Remember that? You guys took us to Disneyland for free! That was great! [Former Atlantic A&R rep] Mollie [Lehman], if you're here, you tried to sign us, but the people didn't believe us. But Atlantic, we're celebrating you. It's good to have some healthy competition.”
Reynolds then declared Imagine Dragons’ actual label, Interscope Records, “the best in the world,” although he admitted, “Our president isn't here. He doesn't care enough. But that's OK. It's all good. Don't worry about it. It's all good. We'll keep making you money.”
To put Reynolds’s 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 top-selling artists of all time. They’re also the first rock act to have four songs — “Radioactive,” “Demons,” “Believer,” and “Thunder” — rack up more than 1 billion streams each.
Reynolds kept Hitmakers’ room of all-star attendees — which included Jack Harlow, H.E.R., Rita Wilson, Kara DioGuardi, Caroline Polachek, Justin Tranter, and event emcee DJ Cassidy — in stitches as he then reminisced about Imagine Dragons’ humble beginnings at Vegas’s O’Shea’s Irish Pub — home of “the cheapest beer on the Strip” — saying, “It's horrible. It's the worst. It is hell on Earth. We played six-hour gigs there for three years. They let us do half cover songs and half originals. We played Britney Spears’s ‘Toxic.’ We played ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.’ It was terrible. It was really, really terrible. But they made us money, and then we could buy Taco Bell. And here we are. So, thank you to O’Shea’s. Thank you to Atlantic. But thank you to mainly Interscope.”
Reynolds wrapped up his hilarious speech by noting that his Mormon parents never wanted him to be a musician, chuckling, “I have seven brothers. They're all doctors and lawyers. But I'm the richest now!” After Reynolds and his bandmates — guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman — left the stage, Variety’s clearly amused executive editor of music, Shirley Halperin, thanked him for “waking up the room.”
Watch Reynolds's full speech below:
Among the other 2022 Hitmakers honorees were 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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