Bonnie McKee

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Bonnie McKee
McKee in 2013
McKee in 2013
Background information
BornVacaville, California, U.S.
OriginSeattle, Washington, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active2002–present

Bonnie McKee is an American singer and songwriter. Her debut album, Trouble, was released in 2004 under Reprise Records.[1] After underperforming, McKee was dropped by her label and took a musical hiatus before establishing herself as a songwriter. McKee has written 10 singles that have reached number one in either the United States or the United Kingdom,[2][3][4][5][6] which have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide combined.[7][8][9][10] In 2013, McKee made a return to music with a slew of singles, including "American Girl".[11] She would later independently release an EP, Bombastic (2015).

McKee is particularly known for collaborating with pop singer Katy Perry, and the duo has written the hits "California Gurls", "Teenage Dream", "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)", "Part of Me", "Wide Awake", and "Roar" together. McKee also co-wrote "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz, which became the second-best selling song by a British artist in the digital era.[12] McKee also co-wrote other hits such as "Hold It Against Me" by Britney Spears and "C'Mon" by Kesha, and has also written for Cher, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, and Adam Lambert. McKee also has collaborated with Canadian acapella singer Mike Tompkins.

Early life[edit]


McKee was born in Vacaville, California, and raised in Seattle, Washington.[13] She studied classical piano and became a member of the Seattle Girls Choir Prime Voci at age 12, and toured with the choir throughout North America and Europe. She recorded two albums with the choir, titled Jackson Berkey Meets The Seattle Girls' Choir and Cantate 2000.[14] She briefly attended the Bush School,[failed verification] where she recorded a demonstration piece as part of a class project, before being kicked out soon after.[15] At age 12, McKee's mother gave a demonstration CD featuring her singing Bette Midler and Fiona Apple songs to a friend of hers, the co-founder of the Sub Pop label, Jonathan Poneman, who was intrigued by her songwriting talents. According to McKee, this was the moment when she realized she had to be "more than just a singer," but a songwriter, as well.[13]


2004–2005: Career beginnings and Trouble[edit]

By age 15, McKee was writing songs and performing in the Seattle area. McKee's raw demonstration tape got to Colin Filkow, an ex-Priority Records label executive. Filkow recognized that she was a rare talent and signed her to his management company, Platinum Partners Artist Management in Beverly Hills. He flew her to Los Angeles, and welcomed her into his family; she was only 17 at the time. He inspired her to sing and write songs and to trust her instincts. Filkow took Bonnie's demonstration to dozens of labels, publishers, agents, and entertainment lawyers. After more than a year, Filkow signed Bonnie to Warner Bros. Records in one of the most lucrative signings ever for a new artist.

Her debut album Trouble was recorded across a period of two years by producers Bob Power and Rob Cavallo,[16][17] and commercially released on September 28, 2004.[1] Reprise was unsure on how to sell McKee, so the label settled a partnership with internet radio website LAUNCHcast, which would promote the lead single "Somebody". "Somebody" soon became one of the most played tracks on the website, and its popularity with young females led to a strategy where McKee would be a subversive alternative to the teen pop demographic.[18] "Somebody" was performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, included in the motion picture Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, and had a music video featured on MTV's Buzzworthy and VH1's You Oughta Know.[19] Trouble received positive reviews in Blender, Nylon, The Los Angeles Times, and Teen People, but was commercially unsuccessful. McKee spoke about the album being unsuccessful, saying, "It was devastating when the album didn't happen," she said.[20] "I realized there are so many steps from getting a deal to having a hit...and I didn't get there. It was a huge letdown."[20] McKee began work on a second studio album, which never came to existence.[15] According to McKee, she "downward-spiraled" and began to abuse crystal meth, an addiction with which she struggled for several years.[21] She was dropped from the label after defacing the CEO's car with lipstick during the middle of the night.[21]

2006–2013: Songwriting and Epic records releases[edit]

Following her release from Reprise Records, McKee managed to get a job at Pulse Recordings' publishing arm, Check Your Pulse, through her boyfriend and longtime collaborator, Oliver "Oligee" Goldstein.[16][21] She lived in poverty, without hot water, a cell phone, or a car,[22] while spending many hours in the recording studio, learning how to use Pro Tools and crafting new songs alongside Elliott Yamin and Leighton Meester. In 2009, McKee was introduced to music producer Dr. Luke by her manager Josh Abraham. Dr. Luke had collaborated with McKee's longtime friend Katy Perry on her second album One of the Boys.[16] Around this time, Perry expressed interest in having "a co-writer I could volley with", adding that "Bonnie and I are on the same zeitgeist tip."[21]

Together, they (along with Max Martin and Benny Blanco) began writing songs, ultimately producing the hits that would appear on Perry's third album, Teenage Dream. McKee co-wrote three singles from the album, "California Gurls", "Teenage Dream", and "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)", the last of which was inspired by McKee and Perry's misadventures in their teenaged years. Each of the singles topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[23][24] and they earned McKee several BMI Pop Awards in 2011 and 2012 for her role as a songwriter.[25][26] McKee also co-wrote two more chart-toppers for Perry, "Part of Me" and "Roar", and four other songs that hit number one on either the Hot 100 or the UK Singles Chart, Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me", Taio Cruz's "Dynamite", Rita Ora's "How We Do (Party)" and Cheryl's "I Don't Care". On June 22, 2017, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that "Roar" had received an RIAA Diamond certification award for 10 million copies sold.[27]

McKee performing live in Commerce, California, on November 9, 2013

In 2012, McKee co-wrote two songs that appeared on Adam Lambert's album Trespassing, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album Chart.[28] She appeared as a featured performer on "Thunder" from Rusko's album Songs, released on Mad Decent.[29] During this time, she signed a recording contract with Epic Records.[30] She had garnered attention for her fashion sense, appearing on E!'s Fashion Police,[31] and appearing on the pages of The New York Times, New York Post, and Schön! Magazine. In 2013, McKee was awarded with three more BMI Pop awards for her songwriting work on Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" and "Part of Me", as well as Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me".[32]

McKee performing on the KIIS Jingle Ball Village Stage at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013

McKee's first single under Epic Records was "American Girl", which was released on July 23, 2013.[33] She posted a promotional video for "American Girl" on YouTube in June 2013 which garnered 2.3 million views. The official music video for the song was released on July 22, 2013.[34] In October, McKee released a new song titled "Sleepwalker". McKee confirmed that the song was not a single, but rather an "inbetweengle," a portmanteau meaning "in between single", meant to tide fans over until her next official release.[35] The music video premiered on October 17, 2013, and starred McKee and Kelsey Chow.[36] McKee had spent several years under a joint deal between Epic and Kemosabe Records, and had planned to release her second studio album in the summer of 2014. A second single titled "S.L.A.Y." was performed at multiple venues and while she was on tour with Karmin on their Pulses Tour, but was delayed many times and eventually not released. McKee left Epic and Kemosabe Records after feeling she had a lack of control over her career and the creative direction that she wanted to take.

2014–present: Independent career, standalone singles and Bombastic[edit]

On December 18, 2014, McKee released a song called "California Winter" on to her SoundCloud and iTunes.[37] On April 12, 2015, in an interview with Ultimate Music, she announced she had departed from Epic Records. McKee stated that this was because she favors her being an independent artist because she felt controlled and like she had no creative freedom. She said that she is releasing her second extended play in June. She also stated her intentions for it to be a visual EP. One song titled "Wasted Youth" has been announced and has already had its music video filmed. At the Billboard Music Awards 2015, McKee revealed in an interview that Charlie Puth, with whom she had previously worked on her song "California Winter", had co-written her next single, which she also said would be released in the next week. This single is believed to be called "Bombastic" as teased on her Instagram page. The video for "Bombastic" released onto Bonnie's VEVO account on May 26, 2015. McKee is set to appear in Eden xo's music video for her single "The Weekend". McKee plays "Cinderella". The "Bombastic" EP was released on June 30, being her first album release since her 2004 debut Trouble. On July 1, McKee announced on a live stream she was trying to get back the rights to the songs she had previously recorded with her former label Epic Records, so she could finally get to release them; she also confirmed physical copies of the "Bombastic" EP were being released in the coming months. For Christmas, McKee released a special called "California Winter Extravaganza" in her YouTube account on December 16, which features Ferras, Sarah Hudson, Lindsey Stirling, Todrick Hall, Karmin, Eden xo, Paper Pilots, and Bridget Marquardt.[38]

On January 12, 2016, McKee released the music video for "Wasted Youth" on her VEVO channel.[39] She uploaded a cover of Prince's song, "When Doves Cry" on her YouTube channel on April 28, 2016, as a tribute to Prince following his death on April 21, 2016. Of the cover, she said, "Prince has been and always will be one of my favorite artists and songwriters of all time. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I ask myself nearly every time I sit down to write a song, "What would Prince do?" "Doves Cry" is perfection and I know I could never even hope to touch his brilliance, but in his passing, I realized how much this song really means to me, and was inspired to pay homage to the late, great, genius who taught me to take musical risks, to act my age and not my shoe size, and how to get through this thing called life".[40] On June 21, 2016, McKee released "I Want It All" as the third single from the EP and published the music video on her VEVO account.[41] In September 2016, in collaboration with Quest Nutrition brand, McKee released the video for the song "Stud Muffin" inspired by the movie Grease. On November 2, 2016, McKee released "Easy" as the fourth and final single from the EP and published the music video on her VEVO account.[42]

Mckee featured on Norwegian DJ Kygo's track "Riding Shotgun" from his album Kids in Love, which was released on November 3, 2017.[43]

In 2020, McKee expanded her storytelling by writing, directing, scoring, editing and starring in her first short film April Kills The Vibe[44] where she plays both of the main characters (April and Lola). She has won multiple awards for this short film, including Best Actress, Best Women's Short, Best Director,[45] Best Composer,[46] and Best Score.

Personal life[edit]

McKee identifies as bisexual, stating on an episode of In Bed with Joan, "I think it's one of those things where, you know, I think all little girls kind of play 'doctor' with their girlfriends, and then I kind of never grew out of it."[47]


McKee has cited Mariah Carey, Madonna, Tina Turner, Blondie, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince as major influences on her while she was growing up.[40][48]


Studio albums

Extended plays


Opening act



Year Title Role Notes
2004 Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! Herself Cameo appearance
2007 August Rush Lizzy
2012 Katy Perry: Part of Me Herself Cameo appearance
2015 California Winter Extravaganza Herself/Host Short film
2020 April Kills the Vibe April/Lola Short film


Year Title Role Notes
2004 American Dreams Janis Joplin Episode: "Shoot the Moon"
2009 CSI: NY Eleanor Ravelle Episode: "Help"
2012 Fashion Police Herself
2020 Royalties Kimmy Kelly Episode: "Kick Your Shoes Off"

Web series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2013 Breaking Bonnie Herself Main role; 6 episodes
2014 In Bed with Joan Herself Episode: "Bonnie McKee"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Johnny Loftus (September 7, 2004). "Trouble - Bonnie McKee : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  2. ^ "Katy Perry Closing In On Michael Jackson's #1 Singles Record - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  3. ^ "Britney Spears 'Hold It Against Me' hits #1 spot - PopWrap". Archived from the original on November 28, 2011.
  4. ^ "Rita Ora bags third consecutive UK #1 single with 'How We Do' :Toya'z World // Urban Pop Culture at your Beck & Call…". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  5. ^ Trust, Gary (September 4, 2013). "Katy Perry Dethrones Robin Thicke Atop Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  6. ^ "Taio Cruz - Chart history | Billboard". Billboard. Archived from the original on May 27, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  7. ^ "Katy Perry Breaks Own Digital Sales Record With 'Last Friday Night,' Closing in on Michael Jackson No. 1s Record | Billboard". June 24, 2011. Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  8. ^ "Country Days Of Summer - May 21, 2013". RIAA. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  9. ^ "Billboard". Archived from the original on November 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Trust, Gary (September 11, 2013). "Katy Perry Rules Hot 100 For Second Week Lorde Reaches Top 3". Billboard. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  11. ^ "iTunes - Music - American Girl - Single by Bonnie McKee". Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Nielsen Company & Billboard's 2011 Music Industry Report". Business Wire. January 5, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Bonnie McKee, ABC TV Show Music & Songs by Artist". ABC. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  14. ^ &#8250 Stephanie Laurens. "Cantate 2000: Seattle Girls Choir, Jerome Wright (Conductor), Jackson Berkey (Composer), Jackson Berkey, Seattle Girls¿ Choir ¿ Prime Voci" "Carrie Brady" "Helen L". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Fallon, Kevin. "Bonnie McKee Strikes Out on Her Own". NewsWeek. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c "Billboard". October 2, 2010.
  17. ^ "Bonnie McKee".
  18. ^ Anderson, Chris (2008). The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Hyperion. pp. 100–4.
  19. ^ "Bonnie McKee Spins Janis Joplin Turn Into Career Kick Starter". MTV News.
  20. ^ a b Kawashima, Dale (September 16, 2013). "Hot Songwriter Bonnie McKee Writes Hits with Katy Perry and Taio Cruz, Readies Her Own Album". Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  21. ^ a b c d Diehl, Matt. "Singles Lady: Bonnie McKee Is Looking Out For Number One". Billboard. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  22. ^ Winnie Sun (August 11, 2015). "Financial Lessons From Bonnie McKee, Music's Millennial Powerhouse". Forbes.
  23. ^ "KATY PERRY'S TEENAGE DREAM IS THE NO. 1 ALBUM IN THE U.S. | Radio FactsRadio Facts". Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  24. ^ Matthew Perpetua (January 5, 2011). "Katy Perry Sells Most Digital Singles in Dismal Year For Record Sales | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  25. ^ "2011 BMI Pop Music Award List | Press". May 18, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  26. ^ "Carole King Named BMI Icon at 60th Annual BMI Pop Awards | News". May 16, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  27. ^ "Katy Perry Makes Gold And Platinum History - RIAA". June 22, 2017. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  28. ^ "Adam Lambert Scores First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 With 'Trespassing' | Billboard". Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  29. ^ Jason Lymangrover (March 26, 2012). "Songs - Rusko : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  30. ^ "Bonnie McKee, 'Teenage Dream' Co-Writer, Signs With Epic Records". The Hollywood Reporter. April 21, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  31. ^ "Fashion Police Show: A Style Perp Fights Back! on Fashion Police". E! Online. June 25, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  32. ^ BMI (May 15, 2013). "Adam Levine and Top Songwriters Honored at 61st Annual BMI Pop Awards". Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  33. ^ "iTunes - Music - American Girl - Single by Bonnie McKee". July 23, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  34. ^ Rubenstein, Jenna Hally. "New Video: Bonnie McKee, 'American Girl'". MTV. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  35. ^ Davis, Rebecca Willa. "NYLON MAGAZINE". Nylon. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  36. ^ "Bonnie McKee - Sleepwalker (Official)". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  37. ^ "Bonnie McKee - California Winter". SoundCloud.
  38. ^ Wass, Mike (December 17, 2015). "Bonnie McKee's 'California Winter Extravaganza' Features Ferras, Sarah Hudson & Lindsey Stirling: Watch". Idolator. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  39. ^ BonnieMcKeeVEVO (January 12, 2016). "Bonnie McKee - Wasted Youth". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  40. ^ a b Bonnie McKee (April 28, 2016). "Bonnie McKee - When Doves Cry (Official Audio)". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  41. ^ BonnieMcKeeVEVO (June 21, 2016). "Bonnie McKee - I Want It All". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  42. ^ BonnieMcKeeVEVO (November 2, 2016). "Bonnie McKee - Easy". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  43. ^ Rishty, David (November 3, 2017). "Kygo Displays Artistic Maturity on Sophomore Album 'Kids In Love'".
  44. ^ "April Kills The Vibe".
  45. ^ "Best Director". May 6, 2021.
  46. ^ "Best Composer".
  47. ^ "Bonnie McKee Opens Up About Being Bisexual". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  48. ^ McDonough, Megan (August 11, 2013). "Bonnie McKee on songwriting, her upcoming debut album and her hopes for the future". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2015.

External links[edit]