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The start of a new decade inspired a change of plans for Billboard’s annual Power List. In previous years, the publication ranked 100 music industry professionals for their strides in the business by creating strategies that have propelled artists to the top of the charts and proved that the senior practices of the business can sometimes benefit from a fresh makeover. For 2020’s edition, the brand opted to not rank those chosen professionals but instead gathered and produced a list of honorees including Lyor Cohen (YouTube’s Global Head of Music), Roc Nation’s Jay-Z (Chairman), Desiree Perez (CEO), and Jay Brown (Vice Chairman) to Quality Control’s CEO Pierre “P” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee.
To a resounding applause inside the event’s NeueHouse location on a balmy Thursday evening (Jan. 23) in Los Angeles, Hannah Karp, Editorial Director of Billboard Media Group, explained the reason for the change and the company’s hope that next year will produce another list of futuristic innovators. “For one thing it’s always been hard to compare the power of executives in different sectors,” Karp said. “We also wanted to inspire a new generation of music business executives that honor leadership instead of just leverage.”
The first award of the night, which was named in honor of Jay Frank, a beloved music industry veteran who worked as senior vice president at Universal Music Group (UMG) before he passed away from cancer in 2019, was given to Mitchell Shymanskly, vice president of data and analytics at UMG, for his strides in digital music leadership.
“Jay was a visionary in our field, he saw things differently which is the true definition of an innovator,” he said. “He was looking constantly for an edge and it was a great privilege of mine to have the opportunity to work alongside him.” Shymanskly learned the mantra, “We don’t succeed alone.” That quote was echoed by Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who received the Breakthrough Award. He gave praise to his team for their work and success, especially after a year of witnessing Lil Nas X’s breakneck speed to pop stardom.
While future pioneers both in front and behind the mic filled the room, a living legend who helped shape some of music’s most fortified models also made a special guest appearance. The Clive Davis Visionary Award was presented to Atlantic Records’ Craig Kallman (CEO) and Julie Greenwald (COO) by the man himself, Clive Davis.
Greenwald shared the duo’s singular vision that allows Atlantic Records the ability to remain one of the music industry's pillars of success. “Build and maintain a music company that we love, we surrounded ourselves with an extraordinary team of people and then we signed artists that both Ahmet and Lyor would truly be proud of,” Greenwald said. For women in the music industry, being able to take that stage and receive these awards was a major feat for Jody Gerson, UMG’s CEO, who received the Executive of the Year award. The Executive of the Decade award was given to UMG's chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications,” she said. “I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive. It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits regardless of who you are or how you identify.”
Gerson also sits on the board of directors for She Is The Music (SITM), a program that promotes inclusivity in the music industry. Gerson revealed that UMG will donate $50,000 to the organization, which aims to provide resources for gender diversity in songwriting, producing, executive positions and more. In 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study on the lack of women representation in the music sector. The research, which was published in 2018, concluded that for the year of 2017 out of 651 producers only two percent were women while men dominated at 98 percent. In the songwriting world, out of 2,767 credited songwriters, 12.3 percent were women while 87.7 percent were men.
Now, with new sights and plans set to change the makeup of the industry, Gerson reiterated that there's no better time than the present to implement new practices. “The moment of change is here.”
Hip-hop savant Mac Miller’s death in Sept. 2018 shook the music world to pieces, because it was such a startling example of potential cut short after showing so much growth. Artistically, Mac ascended from early perceptions as a vapid frat rapper into a serious, well-rounded musician who offered soulful production, tender vocals, and was ambitious enough to bar up with hip-hop’s best lyricists and serve as a hub for some of Los Angeles’ most talented artists. But a big reason why his music was loved so much was because of his vulnerability: Mac created art that attempted to battle depression and substance abuse, which appear to have eventually taken his life. Swimming, the album he released less than two months before his death, saw him take on those demons face to face – and the new posthumous LP Circles, which Miller’s family reveals was well into production at the time of his death, was meant to be a “companion” album to its predecessor, with a concept of “Swimming in Circles.” Such a sudden death will always haunt those who loved him, but Circles could give fans closure and healing that Mac seemed to never receive.
Circles embarks where Swimming ends with more exploration of self-discovery, seeking understanding, and working towards becoming a better person. Both records mirror what many millennials are currently facing when it comes to their mental health. Mac Miller was gripping with his desolation, battling his vices and dark thoughts, but pursuing peace and refusing to apologize for his mistakes. Despite knowing how his personal story ends, his honesty and vulnerability prompt you to root for him to make it to the other side. His confusion and frustration, like many millennials, are reflective of feeling defeated by waves of emotions with the understanding of the world as well as ourselves. According to a report released in 2019 by Blue Cross Blue Shield, millennials are seeing their physical and mental health decline faster than Generation X as they age. The report showed that depression found in American millennials increased by 30% between 2014 and 2017. However, unlike previous generations, adults between the ages of 23 to 38 have become open about their struggles with mental health. Mac Miller died at age 26, and Circles showcases his willingness to share his battles.
In a Buzzfeed article, written by Anne Helen Peterson explained how millennials are becoming the “Burnout Generation” from the intense pressure of emulating a life similar to our parents had. This isn’t surprising as many millennials have experienced the 2008 recession. After graduating, many found entry-level positions do not pay a livable wage. The constant news cycle being available to us through our phones, social media, the desperate need for a work/life balance, and the opioid epidemic have all been linked to the deterioration of this generation’s mental health. From the outside, Mac Miller seemed to have everything right – a successful career, the access to do what he’s passionate about, and money – but his lyrics show that he was also dealing with being burned out like many of us. The most relatable song on the record is the synthy “Complicated,” where Mac laments the constant traffic running through his mind. “I’m way too young to be gettin’ old,” he tragically observes, questioning why he’s dealing with so much daily stress. In the following Disclosure-produced track “Blue World,” Mac honestly raps about the the ups and downs of depression: “think I lost my mind, reality’s so hard to find/when the devil tryna call your line.” Mac Miller was battling his opiate addiction and his breakup with pop star Ariana Grande during the creation of his final two albums, and Circles depicts a man exhausted from his constant hurdles.
The somber tone of Circles blends the jazz-hop of Divine Feminine (“Hand Me Down,” “Good News”), the lo-fi of Swimming (“Woods,” “Once a Day”) and indie rock vibes (“Everybody,” “That’s On Me”), similar to his Tiny Desk performance. “Blue World” and “Surf” are the only songs where you’ll hear Mac rapping, whereas the rest of the album shows his vocal range that sets the mood of his emotions. While the musicality certainly deserves some attribution to producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West), who also worked on Swimming, it’s also a testament to Mac’s own artistic progression over the last ten years. He learned to use a variety of tools by the time of his death, and that was on display here.
The breezing tranquil rhythm of “That’s On Me” is one of the more positive vibes on the album, feeling content with what’s happening. Listening to the lyrics after knowing how this chapter ends is hard. “I don’t know where I’ve been lately, but I’ve been all right/I said good morning this morning and I’ll say goodnight,” Mac says. With the beautiful production and his willful vocals, it makes us know that there was a time where he felt okay through it all.
Millennials are breaking the cycle of other generations that didn’t tend to their emotional and mental needs. Whether it’s through humorous memes on the internet or healing crystals and meditation, they’re finding new ways to develop self-care and improve their health. Circles and Swimming were therapeutic for Mac, a window into his psyche and his therapy sessions to see the multiple layers of who Malcolm could have been. Hopefully, they can help his fans process their pain as well.
The Marathon Clothing and PUMA are teaming up once again. The brands will be collaborating in honor of the late Nipsey Hussle. His wife, Lauren London, debuted the Marathon Clothing x Puma’s “Hussle and Motivate” collection on social media on Thursday (Jan. 23).
London is featured in the line's campaign shoot with Hussle's close friends, YG, J. Stone, and Pacman Da Gunman. Per a press release: "After first releasing in September 2019, PUMA will re-issue key pieces from the collection for fans and supporters including co-branded tracksuits and t-shirts featuring checkered patterns and TMC motifs, as well as PUMA’s signature California sneakers in black and white iterations."
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Another image from the clothing collaboration shows London wearing a white sweatshirt with a message that reads, “We (The Marathon Clothing) honor the unwavering faith of those that never quit. Our products represent their testimony. Life is a marathon.”
A portion of the net proceeds from PUMA’s sales of the PUMA x TMC Collection will go directly to the Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation. Beginning February 1st, the collection will be available again in select retailers and on PUMA's official website.
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London previously linked with Puma for a viral video campaign paying tribute to her longtime love. Hustle, whose Victory Lap recently went platinum, will be celebrated at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards with a tribute featuring YG, Roddy Ricch, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, and John Legend.
The 2020 Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.