Released: 17th September 2001
Writers: Andrew Frampton / Steve Kipner
Peak position: #6
Chart run: 6-18-33-52-74-X–X–X-50-46-68-X–X–X-74-67-74
Over a year after making her chart debut with the True Steppers and Dane Bowers, the time came for Victoria Beckham to launch her solo career proper. But the pressure was mounting, and the perceived failure of Out Of Your Mind was going to make this less an uphill struggle and more of a vertical climb.
First things first, we need to reiterate that Out Of Your Mind was not a flop. Sure, it didn’t reach #1, but it still has the highest first-week tally of any solo-Spice single and is the fourth biggest seller overall. By almost any other measure, it was a resounding success. But Victoria Beckham was being held to a different – virtually unattainable – benchmark. By this point, all four of her former bandmates had now bagged themselves a solo #1 and enjoyed varying degrees of album success. The pressure wasn’t just on Victoria Beckham to join them; you sense that bettering them would be the only real response to silence her critics.
Not Such An Innocent Girl wasn’t necessarily the obvious direction for Victoria Beckham to pursue; make no mistake, it’s a terrific (and sorely underrated) pop song. But between Out Of Your Mind and the clutch of pop-R&B uptempo tracks on her debut album, this had a slightly softer sound. It also did little to address the identity problem associated with Victoria Beckham as a pop act, where many of the uptempo songs she was singing bore little relevance to her persona as a happily married mother. That was reserved mainly for the ballads (you’re a heartless monster if Every Part Of Me doesn’t move you). Therefore, to enjoy a song like Not Such An Innocent Girl, you have to suspend your disbelief and disassociate the track from the artist singing it.
If you touch me I won’t break
Don’t think of me that way
I’m not such an innocent girl
Don’t wrap me up in cotton wool
Upon a pedestal
I’m not such an innocent girl
Once you do that, there’s such a lot to appreciate here. Not least the fact that Victoria Beckham has a rather pleasant pop voice. We’re not going to make it out to be something more than it is, but the song is a perfect fit for her tone and delivery. Indeed, the intro very much sets out her stall: the production is crisp and polished, the vocals are more adventurous than you might expect, and there are some choppy snatches of background dialogue peppering the melody. We were already hooked, and Not Such An Innocent Girl certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The song is broadly a coming-of-age anthem, with Victoria Beckham asserting that there’s a bit more to her than a sweet façade. It was a rare case of confused branding because that was surely more Emma Bunton’s persona if any. In that sense, it’s a shame that there isn’t a little more individuality in the lyrics. But there are certainly moments where they do manage to capture the lore of the pouting, pointing Posh Spice character: “I’m not made of china, I’m not made of glass, would it shatter your illusions if this angel had a past?” However, if conclusive proof were needed that some of the lyrics work better than others, there’s the infamous: “I’ve got a secret rose tattoo, I’m dying just to show you” line. It’s iconic, of course. But mainly because it’s so silly. It’s one thing to use a bit of artistic licence, but quite another to start making stuff up; even if it is nicely realised in the video.
Elsewhere, Not Such An Innocent Girl is a veritable smorgasbord of production quirks, and we love all the little touches. For example, in the first verse, at the end of the: “Baby I’m not who you think I am” line, there’s a juddering: “NO, NO, NO” backing vocal slipped in. It’s similarly repeated in the second verse: “I’m not as shy as you think I am (I’M NOT THAT SHY)”. The song is such a rich tapestry of sonically cohesive work, but it’s a double-edged sword in that it’s relatively easy for some of those finer elements to be overlooked. You very quickly get accustomed to the fact that Victoria Beckham’s signature style is never to expose her voice for too long without a production flourish to bulk out the sound a little. It works well for the most part, although we’re still not entirely sure what’s going on with the: “Don’t think of me that way, not such an innocent girl” during the final chorus, where the vocoder consumes the vocal, making it sound more like an electronic burp. It certainly handed her critics the ammo they needed, but on a more positive note, it also gives the material tons of replay value as your ears continue to pick out elements buried deep in the mix on repeated listens. Not Such An Innocent Girl might appear at first to be a fairly straightforward pop song, but it has much more about it than it was given credit for.
And considering there is a degree of technical limitation to the vocals, we think Victoria Beckham puts in an excellent performance. The track takes off for its finale, with a soaring (or as close as we’re going to get here): “Oh-oh, oh whoa, whoa-yeah” ad-lib that slays. For its last minute or so, Not Such An Innocent Girl impressively elevates itself to a climax through Victoria Beckham’s sheer determination and commitment to the song (“I won’t break!”). It’s an earnest and sincere performance, concluding in a nifty coda that finds her riffing with herself. Nobody – least of all Victoria Beckham – was under any illusions here, but she goes to town on the song with all that she has. And it pays dividends: Not Such An Innocent Girl is a brilliant effort, and it’s just a shame that it wouldn’t ever be judged by the same standards as most other pop songs.
If Not Such An Innocent Girl wasn’t necessarily what we expected from Victoria Beckham, then the music video most certainly was. It’s an incredibly lavish affair that looks like it cost an absolute bomb. It sees our chanteuse arrive in a futuristic arena surrounded by onlookers, where she’s promptly split in half. Not literally, we hasten to add. With their respective black-and-white styling (and one godawful wig), it’s ‘bad Victoria’ vs ‘good Victoria’, and they do what any split personalities do: they have a dance-off. From a technical perspective, it’s really impressive for a music video, and the editing is seamless as the two Victoria’s tussle their way through the dance sequences. The latter half of the video sees the pair compete in a hoverbike race around the arena (just because). Again, considering the context, it looks superb and on a par with – if not better than – some CGI sequences in major movies of the time. As the pair’s vehicles collide head-on, the explosion causes Victoria Beckham to re-emerge as a singular. She gives a knowing smile in the direction of the camera and struts out of the arena. It’s an excellent concept for a first video, with a remarkably big budget aesthetic. Whether it successfully created a new persona around Victoria Beckham is doubtful, it certainly left no doubt that she was up for playing the pop game.
But once again, the pop game played her. No stranger to a high-profile chart battle, Victoria Beckham found herself embroiled in another one. This time her rival was none other than Kylie Minogue with Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. If the intention was to land a #1 hit, it was unfortunate timing to end up against one of the defining songs of the decade, as indeed had been the case with Out Of Your Mind. But actually, this chart battle wasn’t much of a fight at all. Not Such An Innocent Girl entered and peaked at #6, before fading quickly, although it did spend a few months bobbing around the lower reaches of the top 75. We would suspect that the performance of the single was more a reflection on Victoria Beckham than the song itself; the momentum just wasn’t with her at this point, which is fair enough when Kylie Minogue was releasing one of the biggest singles of her career. The two would square up again just a few weeks later when they released their albums on the same day, and it was a similar story once more, as Victoria Beckham entered and peaked at #10. It wasn’t quite time to throw in the towel, but suddenly that vertical climb was looking increasingly insurmountable…