Bonnie McKee sheds light on the ups and downs of the biz.
Bonnie McKee is responsible for 10 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. That includes a handful of songs for Katy Perry ("California Gurls," "Teenage Dream," "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)"), Britney Spears ("Hold It Against Me"), Taio Cruz ("Dynamite"), Rita Ora ("How We Do (Party)") and Cheryl ("I Don't Care"). In the last several years, McKee has shifted focus onto her own material, transitioning from behind-the-scenes mega songwriter to a bonafide pop star. She released a four-track EP in 2015 titled Bombastic with conceptualized music videos for each song. It was a stunning achievement, but it appears McKee's insatiable appetite for success is never satisfied.
In a candid, hour-long podcast with multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman,” Justin Bieber’s “Take You,” Demi Lovato’s “Hold Up,” One Direction’s “If I Could Fly”) as part of his And The Writer Is... series, McKee opens up about her ascent into the industry, her relationship with Perry, working on "Teenage Dream," sexual harassment in the industry, Dr. Luke's "famously bad" recording contracts and how a tumultuous past shaped her into the accomplished songwriter she is today.
It's an extremely in-depth interview, but here are a couple of highlights:
• Bonnie cringes when she hears Cheryl Cole's "I Don't Care" because it was originally meant for her.
• "Teenage Dream," which she described as a “nostalgic love song,” had five versions. One of the original lyrics included: “You make me feel like I’m born again / All brand new c’mon Peter Pan."
• On the evolution of pop music and "unlearning" how to write: "I think the sound has changed [in the industry]. Things are looser now. It's more abstract in a lot of ways which I appreciate," adding pop music is "constantly evolving" and that it's the "most challenging" genres of music.
• "TGIF" is "autobiographical." Bonnie says collectively between her and Katy, "most of those things happened."
• Girls aren't encouraged enough in the music biz to produce.
• The dark side of the industry: "[There's] a lot of sexual harassment," she says. "A lot of that. Sad to say... you sort of get used to it and you kind of learn how to read a room and know what time of day is appropriate." She continues, "there are some people that I won't go to night sessions because people are drinking and things get rowdy."
• On working with Britney Spears on Femme Fatale: "When I was working on Femme Fatale, I hadn't had a bunch of hits yet. 'Hold It Against Me' was my third No. 1, and that hadn't even come out yet. I was still in my fighting to make it place. When things started going well for me is when I started wanting to get sober because I wasn't sad anymore."
• Recants moving to L.A. as a signed artist with two million dollars and blowing through it.
• On her big recording contract: "[Dr.] Luke's deals are famously bad. Everybody knows that. He's a brilliant businessman. He's getting his. He gave me my career. I felt it was a bit of the deal with the devil, but most of these deals are... it's just the face changes. It was a necessary deal and I don't regret it at all."
I know in the digital age, devoting an hour to something feels outrageous, but it's worth a listen:
Also, Katy Perry, call Bonnie back. MMKAY?