Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bombastic EP | Bonnie McKee

It's hard to believe that it has been two long years since we heard from Bonnie McKee,  an American musician who made a name for herself as a songwriter in Katy Perry's camp for Teenage Dream. Her career has been a bit rocky: she released an ill-fated studio album eleven years ago and was dropped by her first record label soon afterwards. In 2013, she tried to spark some life into her career as a fresh-faced "American Girl" under a contract with Epic Records before departing from that label, too, alongside pop duo Karmin and X Factor UK contestant Cher Lloyd. But, it seems that the third time is the charm: McKee has taken the reins of her own career as an independent artist and produced the four-track Bombastic EP.

All of McKee's most memorable products post-2010, both for others artists and her solo career, have been pop gems without extra frills or experimentation. As the title of the extended play may insinuate, McKee adds a little flair to her sound without rumpling her effective, simplistic pop base this time around; her synthpop tracks have been amplified and layered with loud, gritty rock coatings. In fact, "Bombastic" fits every meaning of its title's definition; claustrophobic synths, grinding guitars, and McKee's sassy vocals make it the extended play's brightest track. (Not to mention that its accompanying music video, a sexy mock-up of an '80s instructional work-out video, could be a front-runner as one of the best pop clips of the year.)

The electrifying "I Want It All" marks McKee's most striking departure from "American Girl," "Sleepwalker," and the like. She adds an assertive, jagged edge to her vocal delivery to compete with the track's heavy rock backdrop. "I want your touch / I want your kiss / I want tough love / I want it all / I want your fear / I want your life / I want your mind / I want it all," she roars. Oppositely, the final two tracks of the extended play, "Wasted Youth" and "Easy," allow McKee to tone down her high-energy attitude and reveal a flatter style of synthpop. They both also deliver some of her more reflective lyrics; the former revolves around a recurring theme in pop music of 'getting it while we're young' ("Hold on, hold onto your wasted youth / Hang on, hang on, 'cause it's going so soon / And shine on, 'cause we'll never be the same, we'll never be the same"), while the latter gives way to a typical love song ("You were a candle, and I'm scared of the dark").

Bonnie McKee has the talent and the credibility to be successful, but it seems that this extended play is not enough to shape a unique identity. It's clear that she's the perfect hybrid of Ke$ha and Katy Perry (two artists that she has written for), but that's about it; only "Bombastic" matches the level of bubbly attitude exuded by "American Girl." That's not to say that the songs aren't ear-catching, though, because they're sufficient products. McKee hints that the release of a full-length album circa the Epic Records days is still possible, which could do her a whole world of good, but for the time being, the Bombastic EP should be enough to hold us over.

The Bombastic EP is out now digitally through an independent release.

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