Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Bonnie McKee – Wasted Youth

I’m still reckoning with Charlie Puth co-writing “Bombastic…”


Andy Hutchins: “Someday,” Bonnie said, putting the finishing touches on her latest not-as-cool-as-Charli XCX, not-as-big-as-the-stuff-she-wrote-for-Katy Perry stomper, “John Hughes is gonna make another movie, and I’m gonna be on the soundtrack.” No one has the heart to tell her the truth.

Megan Harrington: No one likes you when you’re over 22.

Alfred Soto: I tell student journalists to avoid leads with “They say ‘An apple a day,’ etc” phrases. Warning people a cliché is coming doesn’t expunge a guilty sentence, which surely the writers of this punchy non-descript empowerment anthem know — or maybe they don’t. 

Katherine St Asaph: I’m rooting for Bonnie McKee as much as anybody and probably more, but I just don’t know with this. Even setting aside the fact that pop-for-pop’s-sake, no matter how meticulously made, is not a career-maker by itself, “Wasted Youth” showcases as many of McKee’s weaknesses as her strengths. She’s probably the best vocalist for the song — a truly frightening thought is Katy Perry singing it. The instrumental booms and chugs like mobile artillery, and the “kids, don’t make my mistakes” undertone is potent even without its real-life subtext. But the songwriting rules McKee’s learned (her words, not mine) involve tossing a couple good images into a lot of repurposed pulp — in this case Pink Floyd, Springsteen and Journey, not explored beyond namedrops. You’d think leaving a major would free up McKee for more candor, but the extent of the youth-wasting here is sleeping with your shoes on. (Like, not even someone else’s?) But it’s too rangy and jaded for the Radio Disney audience that’d suit the lyrics, too Katy-polished for the Zara Larsson alt-pop types who’d suit the anthem. So who is it for? Those holding on till the next EP, I guess.

Thomas Inskeep: You wanna know why McKee has yet to have a hit as an artist herself? Because she gives away all her good ones, and I use that term very loosely. “Wasted Youth” is essentially track 9 on a Perry album, the one you listen to two or three times before deleting it from your iTunes.

Will Adams: McKee’s at her best when writing about youth, whether bursting with hyper-saturated emotion on “Teenage Dream” or extolling American suburbia in “American Girl.” And as fun as it was to hear her detonate several crates of dynamite on “Bombastic,” I get the sense that stuff like “Wasted Youth” is her true home. The drums march on, the guitars crunch under their weight, and McKee soars above it all with a plea — to you, to herself — to hold on. A few years ago, pop urged us to make the most of this one night. “Wasted Youth” takes on a darker tone; there’s no telling when it’s all going to end, just “soon,” and the key word here is wasted. McKee acknowledges the past regrets but, in the final moments of carefree youth, lets them go to ride that last wave.

Micha Cavaseno: It’s like the midway point between Pat Benatar and Katy Perry, with all the swell and none of the excess, which is where the real fun is.

Cassy Gress: What is the percussion doing? OK, tick-tick-tick because your youth is wasting away, but it takes a full minute before there’s much of anything on the offbeat, and the bass drum doesn’t come in at all until the second chorus! It picks up in the bridge a bit and then… goes away again? I spent so long waiting for the song to get going that it almost felt like she missed the point of her own song. The fact that she can nail those high E’s and F#’s is pretty impressive, though. 

Brad Shoup: It’d be uncanny how much she sounds like Kesha here, except 1) she did it on “Bombastic,” 2) as a very successful songwriter she knows all about channeling and 3) I’m trying to channel all my thoughts about Kesha into wishing for a victorious resolution to her lawsuit. This song lives and dies with McKee’s range: when she tops out (which is often), it’s super-stirring. And it’s necessary: that crenellated bass drops out early, and the tom hits are going for arena but come off slurred. The most interesting part is the bridge, with its sustained guitar notes reminiscent of “Roar.” That was a McKee co-write, and I’m glad she’s still proud of the touch.

Reader average: [6] (1 vote)

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2 Responses to “Bonnie McKee – Wasted Youth”

  1. :(

  2. Trash reviews. This song is amazing and iconic and QUEEN Bonnie will not be denied!