Song You Need: Welcome to the stage, Bonnie McKee! – Jarastyle

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You know Bonnie McKee. Maybe not her face or voice, but you know her pen. Between 2010 and 2014, McKee wrote ten number one hits; a quick listen to her new single “SLAY,” and you’ll probably be able to guess which ones. Think “Put your hands on me / In my skintight jeans.” Think “Daisy dukes / Bikinis on top.”

After years as Katy Perry’s secret weapon, McKee tried to break out as a solo artist. She was set to release an album on Epic records, but when lead single “American Girl” flopped, the label dropped her and the album was shelved. “SLAY” was supposed to be “American Girl”‘s follow-up, but for the past decade it sat in the vaults along with the rest of Hot City. Being a totally genuine time warp, though, is part of what makes this re-recorded version feel so vital.

I often see people on my timeline pining for the kind of euphoric, sugar-rush bangers that dominated early-2010s pop radio. Instead we get half measures: Dua Lipa’s TikTokified disco, or “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2,” which is candy-coated but lacks catharsis. To find the real crack, one must venture into the indiesphere. Before “SLAY,” the last song that hit all the little gay pleasure centers in my brain like this was “Sister Ray” by Foxes, another artist known best for someone else’s world-conquering hit.

Bonnie McKee is an independent artist now too, not that you’d know it from “SLAY”‘s weapons-grade hooks. She comes from the Max Martin school of sound over lyrical sense (even giving a shoutout to his favorite year in the chorus), and not to mention: This. Goddamn. Bridge. It channels an era when the bridge was the crown jewel of a great pop song; when it separated the great songwriters from the simply good; when it could kick what was already a banger into the stratosphere. On “SLAY,” that’s exactly what it does.

In the song’s self-directed video, McKee assumes the form of a Valkyrie warrior. It’s a vindicating image for an artist who spent years fighting the industry that made her, and has finally emerged triumphant. Her pen has become her sword.


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