Friday, November 15, 2013

Bonnie McKee -- "American Girl" (2013)

I am an American girl!
Hot-blooded and I'm ready to go!
I'm loving taking over the world!

Bonnie McKee is an American girl, and she really, really wants to take over the world -- to be precise, the world of pop music.

Bonnie was a 15-year-old singer/songwriter living in Seattle when a friend got her EP to a popular Los Angeles DJ, who started playing one of her songs regularly on his morning drive-time show.  

That sparked a record label bidding war.  After signing with Reprise Records when she was just 16, Bonnie moved to Los Angeles and started work on an album.

Bonnie McKee
But things didn't go exactly to plan.  That album wasn't released until 2004 -- Bonnie was 20 by that time -- and it didn't chart.  Her record company dropped her.

Bonnie had to get a job working in a vintage clothing store.  One day, she met another broke singer-songwriter, Katy Hudson, who had recently changed her name to Katy Perry.  The two hit it off, and started to hang out together.

Fast forward a few years.  Katy Perry had become a superdupermegastar pop singer.  Bonnie McKee hadn't, but she was a hugely successful pop song writer -- the co-writer of no less than nine #1 singles.

Bonnie and Katy -- BFF!
McKee is now one of the stable of several dozen songwriters and record producers who work for Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald's publishing company, Prescription Songs.  Gottwald, who was recently profiled in the New Yorker, has produced hits for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Kelly Clarkson, and the pop music train wreck du jour, Miley Cyrus.  (That's right -- we have Gottwald to thank for Miley's "Wrecking Ball.")

But Bonnie doesn't want to be just a songwriter -- she wants to be a pop star in her own right.  So she's working on a new album, which is scheduled to be released next spring.  

The lead single from that planned album is "American Girl," which was released last summer.  But "American Girl" made it only to #87 on the Billboard "Hot 100," despite the fact that it sounds a lot like a Katy Perry song.  (That's not surprising since Bonnie has co-written no fewer than five of Perry's #1 singles, including "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream.")

Superdupermegastar record producer
Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald
Actually it may sound more like a Ke$ha song or a Britney Spears song than a Katy Perry song.  Did it fail because it sounds so generic?

I don't see how that can be the explanation, because the hits by those artists all sound totally generic as well.  

The public's lack of enthusiasm for "American Girl" has led to speculation that Bonnie's album will never see the light of day.  Bonnie recently released a second song from the planned album -- it's titled "Sleepwalker" -- but she has said that it's not an official single.  Rather, it's an "in-between-gle" that's intended to give her fans something to tide them over until the next official single is released.  (Sounds like someone is trying to lower expectations.) 

So why is Katy Perry a big star and Bonnie McKee isn't?  I have no idea, but I'm guessing that it has to do more with luck than anything else.

Anyway, that's the wrong question.  Ask yourself not why Katy Perry is a big star and Bonnie McKee isn't.  Ask yourself instead why Katy Perry (and Ke$ha and Britney and Miley and the whole kit and caboodle of 'em) are big stars.  That's the question you should be asking.

I would suggest to Bonnie McKee that if she's going to become a pop superstar, she'd better do it soon -- because she'll turn 30 in a couple of months, and it's going to become harder and harder for her to pull off music videos where she dresses like a slutty 17-year-old and sings about sitting on the curb at the Seven-Eleven drinking spiked Slurpees and bragging to her slutty friends "No, I don't listen to mommy."

Sure, Katy Perry is almost as old as Bonnie, and she's doing just fine.  But Katy has a five-year-plus head start on Bonnie -- Katy's first hit album was released in 2008.

And Miley Cyrus is breathing down both their necks.  Ms. Cyrus -- did you know her real name is Destiny Hope Cyrus? -- is not quite 21.  (Of course, she's 21 going on a very slutty 30.)

So it's probably time for Bonnie McKee to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way -- but which I mean go back to being an anonymous (although well-compensated) songwriter, cranking out hit singles for others with the help of your fellow Prescription Records assembly-line workers.  That's good billable work, as we lawyers are won't to say.

Here's "American Girl":

Here's a lip-dub video of "American Girl" that features a whole bunch of celebrities, including Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Macklemore, Kiss, Joan Rivers, and -- last and almost certainly least -- George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu):

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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