2015 was an incredible year for visionary songwriter and pop icon Lady Gaga, who was named Billboard’s 2015 Woman of the Year during its Women in Music event held December 11, at New York City’s Cipriani. In accepting the prestigious accolade, which is given to “a key influential figure who drove the conversation for that year,” Gaga gave an emotional speech, lauding her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, for her unwavering support. She also gave an emotional performance of “Til It Happens to You,” a song that bravely and brilliantly tackles the need for empathy for victims of sexual assault. “I wanted to use today as an opportunity,” said Gaga, “an opportunity to continue to spread the message and the movement for young people to raise their voices.”
“It’s a year where I’ve really spent time reflecting and doing things exactly as I want to do them,” she told Billboard. “I am most powerful when I’m following my heart and my instincts.” Doing just that, Gaga’s year included a GRAMMY for Best Traditional Pop Vocal album for Cheek to Cheek, her album of American pop standards with Tony Bennett; her remarkable tribute performance to The Sound of Music at the Academy Awards in February; a co-headlining tour in support of Cheek to Cheek; and her Golden Globe-nominated role in FX’s American Horror Story, all of which undoubtedly clinched the 2015 Woman of the Year crown from Billboard.
Following a lengthy tribute to her storied career as a groundbreaker of country music, BMI songwriter Loretta Lynn was presented with Billboard’s Legend honor. Having written over 160 songs and released over 50 studio albums (with a new one, Full Circle, slated for March 2016), Lynn’s appearance brought the audience to its feet.
Also celebrated at the event were BMI affiliates Fifth Harmony, who were named Billboard’s Group of the Year. Hailed for their uncompromising mission of self-respect and empowerment, the quintet’s debut album, Reflection, entered the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 5, featuring the single, “Worth It,” which certified platinum in June, notching the group’s first Top 15 hit on Billboard. Staying true to theme, 5H member Dinah Jane-Hansen declared during the ceremony, “Each one of you in this room is beautiful, strong and powerful beyond measure.”
BMI writer Brittany Howard, primary songwriter and lead singer of Alabama Shakes, was also feted by Billboard with this year’s Powerhouse honor. Fusing old school southern grooves and gritty soul with the modern sensibility of Howard’s candid, heartfelt songwriting and bold vocals, the band enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2015, with their sophomore album, Sound & Color, debuting at the top of the U.S. Billboard Top 200, and going on to sell over 792,000 copies. Staying true to her muse, Howard delivered an impactful performance of “Joe,” that genuinely wowed the crowd.
Watch the 2015 Billboard Women in Music event on Lifetime at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 18.
Congratulations to all for these well-deserved honors!