Variety is pleased to announce the honorees for its fifth annual Hitmakers celebration. The Dec. 2 issue recognizes the writers, producers, publishers, managers and executives who helped make — and break — the 25 most consumed songs of the year.
Hitmakers culminates in an invitation-only brunch held on Saturday, Dec. 4, presented by Peacock and the streamer’s Emmy-nominated comedy series “Girls5eva.” At the brunch, the cast and creator of “Girls5eva” will help MC the event with videos made exclusively for the celebration.
Amazon Music will host the red carpet pre-show and awards presentation with Variety, and present the Rising Star of the Year Award which recognizes Polo G. IHG Hotels and Resorts will showcase their properties at the event.
Wagoneer is the official partner of the event and will be showcasing the all-new 2022 Grand Wagoneer on site. Premium spirits portfolio William Grant & Sons will be providing specialty cocktails made with Hendrick’s Gin, Reyka Vodka, Milagro Tequila and Monkey Shoulder Whisky.
The 2021 Hitmakers program includes the following awards selected by Variety’s editorial team:
BTS’ “Butter” – Record of the Year: The song “Butter” blasted out to the world in May, becoming a record smashing single for BTS. The writers and producers, including multi-hyphenate creatives/executives Jenna Andrews and Ron Perry, the K-Pop group’s own RM, Stephen Kirk, Alex Bilowitz and Rob Grimaldi, crafted the perfect hit that just won’t quit. BTS prepared a special video for the Variety Record of the Year honor.
City Girls – The Future Is Female Award presented by Motown Records: The duo who prompted the world to “Act Up,” Miami’s City Girls have quickly risen to be one of the most promising acts in hip-hop, a genre typically dominated by male performers. Closing out 2021 with a bang — JT is featured on Summer Walker’s “Ex for a Reason” and Yung Miami just released a solo single, “Rap Freaks” — City Girls are helping ensure that the Future Is Female as they pave the way for more female artists, writers and producers.
Columbia Records – Label of the Year: With a string of multi-format and -platform hits including “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” by Lil Nas X, “Mood” by 24kGoldn ft. Iann Dior and “Stay” by the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber — and a new album by Adele — Columbia Records artists have owned the charts for much of 2021.
Mike Dean – Producer of the Year presented by Beatclub: From Kanye West to Lana Del Rey to Don Toliver, six-time Grammy-winning producer Mike Dean has had a fruitful 2021 on top of his long-term collaborations with Travis Scott, Kid Cudi and Madonna.
Lana Del Rey – Decade Award: In October 2011, Lana Del Rey released her first single, “Video Games,” and a star was born. A decade later, she is regarded as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 21st century thanks to Grammy nominations and critical acclaim for her albums “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” “Born to Die,” and in the last year, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” and “Blue Bannisters.”
Billie Eilish & Finneas – Film Song of the Year: In co-writing the Grammy-winning and critically acclaimed “No Time to Die,” Billie Eilish and Finneas have entered the iconic James Bond canon, helping the MGM film, released this year, become a box office smash that’s grossed over $700 million worldwide.
Glass Animals – Group of the Year: After a lot of “rock is back” stories that didn’t pan out in recent years, Glass Animals proved that it really is still possible to break an actual band in a big way, and now the U.K. band’s sleeper hit “Heat Waves” has become a top 10 pop hit after a year of the group being the new face of rock.
Wendy Goldstein – A&R Award: Republic Records president of West Coast creative Wendy Goldstein receives Variety’s inaugural A&R Award for her work crafting hits for the Weeknd and Ariana Grande in 2021, and a career that spans three decades.
Jack Harlow – Hitmaker of Tomorrow: From his Grammy-nominated hit “Whats Poppin” to his smash collaboration with Lil Nas X, “Industry Baby,” Jack Harlow has become one of music’s most talked-about artists. Looking ahead, the Louisville, KY rapper is poised for an even bigger 2022, making him Variety’s Hitmaker of Tomorrow.
Walker Hayes – Sync of the Year: The country singer’s “Fancy Like” was an inescapable, TikTok-driven crossover hit that got major play on Top 40 and AC stations, even before the release of a remix version with Kesha. Its mention of a “fancy” night out at Applebee’s was just a lyrical detail, not intended as a sync — but of course the restaurant chain had to have it for a TV ad campaign once they heard it.
Lil Nas X – Innovator of the Year: With the release of his debut album, “Montero,” Lil Nas X has proven to be a musical trailblazer and visual innovator whose arrival has changed the course of culture. That thanks in part to his provocative videos — on full display in 2021’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” — in which the artist demonstrates a singular point-of-view and an ever-evolving fashion-forward style.
Max Lousada – Executive of the Year: As CEO for Warner Recorded Music — home to iconic labels Atlantic, Warner and Elektra, among others — Max has steered a roster that includes music giants Lizzo, Ed Sheeran, David Guetta, and Coldplay, and many of 2021’s biggest songs, among them Dua Lipa’s “Levitating,” Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open,” Cardi B’s “Up” and Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut in the Ocean.”
Normani – Collaborator of the Year: Features on hit songs by Sam Smith (“Dancing With a Stranger”) and Khalid (“Love Lies”) led Normani to cameo alongside Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in the video to “WAP.” Cardi returned the favor in 2021 on “Wild Side,” a No. 1 radio hit for Normani and the latest feather in her collaboration cap.
Polo G – Rising Star Award presented by Amazon Music: Polo G’s “Rapstar” was all over playlists and radio in 2021, the result of a year-long journey for the Chicago rapper, who took the song from a short YouTube video to a TikTok phenomenon to a No. 1 single. The future looks bright for the 22-year-old newcomer, who receives Variety’s Rising Star award.
Olivia Rodrigo – Songwriter of the Year: With her debut album “Sour” released months after turning 18, Olivia Rodrigo has solidified her place as one of the most important voices of her generation. Variety celebrates her string of 2021 hits, including “Drivers License,” “Good 4 uU” “Deja Vu” and “Traitor.”
Austin Rosen – Manager of the Year: With a client roster that includes Post Malone, 24kGoldn and Iann Dior, as well as hitmakers Louis Bell, Carter Lang and Blake Slatkin, Austin Rosen’s Electric Feel Entertainment has become a powerhouse in music management that helped shape the sound of 2021.
Kali Uchis – Crossover Award: The dreamy pop hit “Telepatía” has helped Crossover Award honoree Kali Uchis expand the reach of Latin music. Already a Grammy winner, 2021 has proven to be Kali’s year as she positions herself among the biggest players in pop.
Steven Victor – Hitbreaker of the Year: The posthumous success of Pop Smoke, whose “What You Know Bout Love” and “For the Night” are among the 25 most-consumed songs of 2021, is due in part to the vision and conviction of industry veteran and philanthropist Steven Victor, founder of Victor Victor Worldwide.
“Variety’s Hitmakers issue tells the definitive story of the year in music while recognizing those who played a hands-on role in making and breaking the biggest hits of 2021,” said Shirley Halperin, Variety’s executive editor of music. “On the heels of the 2022 Grammy Award nominations, and in tandem with our own Music for Screens Summit (Dec. 1-3), Variety has the industry covered top to bottom. We look forward to toasting the successes of 2021 and the people who really move the needle in this business we all love.”