Songwriters Hall of Fame: 9 Best Moments From 2022 Induction Ceremony

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After two years of COVID-related cancelations, the Songwriters Hall of Fame returned for an in-person ceremony on Thursday (June 16) night in New York City. The 2022 induction gala honored Mariah Carey, Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, The Isley Brothers, Steve Miller, Pharrell Williams & Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, Rick Nowels and William “Mickey” Stevenson. Lil Nas X was honored with the Hal David Starlight Award, while Paul Williams received the highest songwriting honor, the Johnny Mercer Award. The evening also saw UMPG chairman/CEO Jody Gerson receive the Abe Olman Publisher Award for her lengthy career of songwriter advocacy.

From surprise guests (both musical and less-than) to knockout live performances, these were the standout moments from the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) induction ceremony.

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Lil Nas X’s Short n’ Sweet Speech

Accepting the Hal David Starlight Award, which honors “gifted songwriters who are at an apex in their careers,” Lil Nas X offered some off-the-cuff remarks about his success and ambitions.

“I didn’t write a speech. This award means a lot to me for the simple fact that somehow, I keep doing things and it keeps working,” he noted to laughs and applause. “Thank you, universe. I don’t have any kids in the audience, or a wife, or in my case a husband to say thank you to, but thank you to my imaginary husband and kids.” Before leaving, the Hot 100 topper made his intentions clear regarding the SHOF: “I hope to be back. I will, I will, in 40, 30 years. Much love to you guys.”

Mimi Serves Diva

During her induction, Mariah Carey played up the diva persona, joking about her lighting and pretending to be offended that her collaborator Jermaine Dupri got into the SHOF before her. And tongue-in-cheek or not, she also casually mentioned “the verkakte lawsuits” that can make the profession a drag. Coincidentally, someone filed suit against her for copyright infringement just this month – for a song released 28 years ago, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Annie Fetes Annie (and Dave)

Before ripping through a cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” that was somehow appropriately chilly yet heartfelt, St. Vincent saluted Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics as “scary, sexy, smart and impossibly cool.” Annie Clark recalled an early, formative memory of “watching MTV and all of a sudden a beautiful, orange-haired androgynous creature appeared — wearing a suit and tie, looking like a chic dictator — while a blindfolded man with an ominous coif played a synth line on a computer keyboard.” Soon after her intro, Lennox (wearing camouflage) and Stewart (strumming an acoustic guitar with gusto) performed their classic “Here Comes the Rain Again,” demonstrating, among other things, the astonishingly soulful range Lennox’s voice still possesses.

The Muppet Connection

Paul Williams, a previous inductee who received the “gold standard” Johnny Mercer Award at this ceremony, got teary and fiery at various points during his speech, speaking about his 32-year sobriety and his hope that someday, someone will write a song befitting comedian-turned-war hero President Zelenskyy. And while everyone from Ingrid Michaelson and Rita Wilson sang his praises, the biggest surprise guest had other inductees green with envy: Kermit the Frog appeared via video to salute Williams for “saying in words and music the longing each of us feels inside.”

Revenge of the N.E.R.D.

After thoughtful speeches from inductees Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, who changed the course of American top 40 music at the turn of the century as the Neptunes, the inordinately talented Jon Batiste took the stage to perform a medley of the duo’s hits. The big surprise was when Usher joined in for a smooth, sensual run-through of Pharrell’s falsetto-filled “Frontin’,” with Ush doing the honors of rapping Jay-Z’s verse.

(Steve) Miller Time

Another surprise appearance came from Bryan Cranston, who shared that his whistling on Malcolm in the Middle led to an improbable ASCAP membership. Cranston’s musical bona fides aside, the celebrated actor said he had an “instant camaraderie, music without the music” when he met Steve Miller backstage at a Broadway show. When Cranston mused that no one knows what the hell a line like “pompatus of love” means in the Steve Miller Band’s Hot 100 topper “The Joker,” Miller provided some oblique light on the famously obtuse lyric. “‘Pompatus of love?’ My attorney is here tonight and he will explain what it is and how much it costs when you say it,” Miller said of the line, which some have traced back to a 1954 song from the doo-wop group the Medallions.

Shout, Let It All Out

The Isley Brothers, who were writing songs before many attendees at the ceremony were even born, absolutely tore it up with a career-spanning hits medley. Ernie Isley also shared that the first time he heard the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” which samples the group’s 1983 jam “Between the Sheets,” he cracked up laughing and predicted it would be a bigger hit than the track it sampled. He was right, but no hard feelings – he thanked the late icon and even rapped a bit of Biggie’s verse while performing the Isley original.

Rick Rolls With Sound Problems

Weathering some technical issues beyond his control, Rick Nowels performed a rousing medley of hits he’s written or co-written, including iconic tracks like Dido’s “White Flag,” Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” and Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” His introduction came by way of journalist Ronan Farrow, who casually mentioned he’d shared some musical demos with Nowels at one point and received feedback. Is there an impending Ronan Farrow musical career? Seems like we need a Ronan Farrow-type investigative reporter to get to the bottom of this.

Dancing in Our Seats

Smokey Robinson, a previous SHOF inductee and Johnny Mercer Award winner, introduced fellow Motown veteran William “Mickey” Stevenson, calling the songwriter/A&R man his “brother-brother” and noting the induction was “long overdue.” In his speech, Stevenson admitted he’d originally come to Motown founder Berry Gordy decades ago hoping to snag a gig as a singer, but Gordy flatly told him, “the songs are great but the voice is sh-t.” Stevenson said he stormed out, walked back into the office and accepted a job at Motown for “five dollars a day and all the chili you can eat,” which led to him writing all-time classics such as “Dancing In the Street,” “It Takes Two” and “Devil With a Blue Dress On.” And hey, at the SHOF gala, he even got to sing lead for an enthusiastic audience. It wasn’t quite dancing in the streets, but dancing in the seats isn’t bad either.

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