If you’ve been listening to Top 40 radio for the past few years, then you definitely know Bonnie McKee, even if her face is still relatively new. But that’s all about to change this summer, as the 29-year-old singer-songwriter, whom Rolling Stone named “Best Secret Weapon” in 2011, becomes as ubiquitous as the pop superstars with whom she’s collaborated via her own hit single, “American Girl,” available on iTunes on July 23. With eight No. 1 singles on her songwriting resume, including Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and “California Girls,” Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me,” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” the self-described “pop star in training” is more than equipped to make her own mark in music. Just like the pop icons she grew up listening to in the ‘80s, McKee’s songs have powerhouse vocals, big choruses and bright, colorful imagery that render them irresistible. “Some of my earliest memories are of watching Madonna, Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper on MTV,” says McKee over the phone in New York City, where she’s on a press and promo tour. “I loved how the artists of that era were so visual. Seeing what they could do really modeled me as a musician. Every day I ask myself, ‘What would Prince do?’”
For some, an eight-year hiatus from the music industry can mean total extinction. For BMI songwriter Carlos Vives, it meant exactly the opposite: a rebirth. The 51-year-old Colombian superstar’s formidable comeback in 2013 is a testament to his timeless sound, his growth as a songwriter and his newfound love for life and music.
Flashback to 2004, and Vives was one of Colombia’s hottest musical exports, along with his compatriots (and fellow BMI members) Shakira and Juanes. The work that he and his band, La Provincia, started in 1994 on his breakthrough album of vallenato standards with a modern twist, Clasicos de la Provincia (Classics From the Province), was finally paying off in a big way. He had a GRAMMY under his belt, he could easily sell out arenas across the United States as well as abroad and the sound he created – tropical pop or tropi-pop for short – dominated the airwaves. Life at home was equally great; Vives was happily married with two kids.
But things took a turn that same year. His marriage to Puerto Rican actress, Herlinda Gomez, dissolved and his longtime contract with EMI came up for renewal. When a deal couldn’t be reached, the label let their option expire. According toBillboard, this may have had something to do with the fact that the label was undergoing ownership and management changes around the same time – among other factors. When his management at the time failed to reach a new deal with another record label, Vives retreated from the spotlight in his home country, played the occasional local concert, created children’s music and opened up a nightclub. Happily married to former Miss Colombia Claudia Elena Vasquez, he expanded his family while also writing and producing for other acts. Nearly a decade later, with music industry veteran Walter Kolm as his new manager and Vasquez as his closest advisor, Vives is hotter than ever. Under a new record deal with Sony Music Latin, Vives released his latest album, Corazon Profundo (Deep Heart), in April 2013. The work debuted atop Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart led by the hit single, “Volvi a Nacer” (Born Again). Add to that his recent stint on the Colombian TV edition of The Voice and a worldwide tour that kicks off this month in Panama, and it’s safe to say Vives is back. BMI chatted with Vives via phone about his big comeback, just weeks before he kicked off his tour.