Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo and more reflect on their music’s impact during Variety’s Hitmakers Brunch.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Variety

Variety honored the top 25 music acts of 2021 on Saturday, with Olivia RodrigoLil Nas XBTSBillie Eilish and others taking home high honors at its fifth annual Hitmakers Brunch.

Lil Nas X was crowned innovator of the year and reflected on how much his life has changed in 2021, noting that he went into the year worried if he would recapture the success of 2019’s “Old Town Road.”

“This year took a lot of mental strength for me just to even continue to keep pushing after my debut…reached such a high place so, so quickly.  And it’s very scary to try to follow up and keep it going,” he said while accepting his trophy. “I came out. I was myself. I did what I needed to do. I put effort into every single part of my career.”

Olivia, who was named songwriter of the year, spoke about the impact of her debut single, “drivers license,” which she says is “about this really hard time in my life.”  The Grammy nominee was touched by how it resonated with “people regardless of sexual orientation, or gender or age,” and said, “To me it’s a beautiful thing about art: How music can bring us all together and make us feel less alone.”

Billie, who accepted film song of the year alongside her brother, FINNEAS, for penning the Bond theme for No Time to Die, said it was “the most surreal song to be able to make.”

BTS virtually accepted their award for record of the year for their summer smash “Butter” and said they created their song to “share fun, positive energy with many people.”

Many of this year’s honorees later appeared in Lil Nas X’s hilarious TikTok video, which he shared Sunday.

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