Released: 28th July 2003
Writers: Jason Levine / James McCollum
Peak position: #55
Chart run: 55
After landing her first top ten hit in the UK, Kaci was finally back with a follow-up. And she was full of surprises; because of all the directions she could’ve taken after keeping us waiting for 16 months, absolutely no one was expecting a belated fourth single from her debut album.
It’s easy to sit as an outsider to the music industry and cast aspersions of the inner machinations of record labels. There is absolutely no doubt that managing a pop act and orchestrating an album campaign is far more complex than it appears. But equally, there are times where it seems as if some decisions make things more complicated than they need to be, and Kaci is a perfect example of this. Having been primed to sweep into the teen-pop market as Britney Spears et al. prepared to graduate from it, her big breakthrough had finally come with a well-pitched cover of I Think I Love You, which peaked at #10 in the UK. And then everything went quiet. Now, had Curb Records decided at that point to pause, take stock of what worked and what didn’t, before revising the strategy for Kaci, then that would’ve made sense. But, instead, after a 16-month gap – a period where entire albums from other acts had come and gone – she returned with the fourth single from her debut, Paradise. It didn’t really matter how good I’m Not Anybody’s Girl was, since it was almost inevitably doomed to fail.
The track landed a lucrative marketing opportunity when it was added to the soundtrack of Gwyneth Paltrow’s flight attendant rom-com View From The Top. Alas, this never became quite the boon it should’ve been for Kaci. The movie’s planned late 2001 release was delayed because an airline comedy suddenly didn’t seem like a great idea after September 11th. Thus, it was pushed back until 2003 and then, despite a stellar cast – including Christina Applegate, Mike Myers, Candice Bergen and Mark Ruffalo – received a critical mauling. In the end, if I’m Not Anybody’s Girl was going to be a hit, it would most likely be in spite of View From The Top, not because of it.
Now at the ripe old age of 15(!), this song attempts to mature Kaci by sending her down the route of self-empowerment anthem. And it does so very well; indeed, you’d barely think it came from the same album as Paradise, Tu Amor, and I Think I Love You. The track fuses soaring guitar synths with a juddering garage beat to create a ridiculously uplifting ode to walking away from a relationship with your head held high. It might seem preposterous to think that Kaci could pull off a song that makes assertions such as: “Leaving everything at home, I headed out in the pouring rain, kept thinkin’ bout the two of us, and how we ended up this way”. However, her voice proves to be her strongest asset and belies that I’m Not Anybody’s Girl was recorded when she was barely a teenager.
It’s not just Kaci’s tone that sells the track. However, it certainly helps that her vocals sit somewhere amidst Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore, pitching her comfortably between them in terms of age and certainly old enough for the lyrics to hold some weight. Instead, her delivery is what really elevates I’m Not Anybody’s Girl. The way Kaci snarls through the second verse: “’Cos I never even told you, you were wrong, and if you think that you gotta control me just to be a man, then baby you will never understand” – even finding time to throw in a derisive chuckle – is loaded with attitude and sincerity, such is her natural ability to get under the skin of a song and make you believe she’s lived it. For good measure, there are moments where Kaci veers into some Britney-esque tics: “Wasted too much time on analysing everything I do (oh-woah), only to figure out that I was wasting time on you-oh-OOH”, further making the song feel like one that could credibly have been part of the bubblegum pop invasion.
And that’s fundamentally where I’m Not Anybody’s Girl belongs. This is the sort of delightfully breezy pop song you’d find tucked between the big hits on a turn-of-the-century debut album. It’s gifted with an unsuspecting, satisfyingly hook-laden chorus that will worm its way into your brain and leave you feeling warm inside: “I’m not anybody’s girl, and I will not belong, and there’s nothing you can do for me, I can’t do on my own; I’m not anybody’s girl, that’s just the way it is, and I will do exactly what I wanna do, with anyone and anywhere I choose”. Whether that was enough for what was ostensibly Kaci’s comeback single is questionable. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this single – it’s a great little track – but it was now (or soon to be) competing against the likes of Stripped, Justified and In The Zone, which were already pushing their respective artists into the next phase of their career.
Still, knowing that they needed to re-establish Kaci into a market that was rapidly shifting, Curb Records went all out with the music video, right? Well, any fans of View From The Top were probably satisfied with what is essentially a three-minute clip show of the movie, interspersed with shots of Kaci performing the song in a recording studio. Everything about it feels executed with the bare minimum effort. While her beanie hat is very nice indeed, it further gives the impression of the video being thrown together at the last minute. This is the sort of visual treatment you would expect to see as DVD bonus content or – at a push – if I’m Not Anybody’s Girl was rounding off a huge selling album campaign and existed solely to wring out a few final sales. Thus, the overall impression it leaves is: we waited sixteen months…for this?!
Even taking that into consideration, it’s difficult to know whether there would ever have been the right circumstances for I’m Not Anybody’s Girl to be a hit because it backfired spectacularly. Even though we were definitely in fourth-single-from-the-album territory here, a meagre #55 peak in the UK suggests this was more than just the consequence of poor timing. A quicker turnaround might have seen I’m Not Anybody’s Girl into the top 40 thanks to the momentum generated by I Think I Love You, but it seems likely that we’d still be lamenting a similar outcome.
We certainly can’t fault the optimism of Curb Records because they did try to re-launch Kaci’s debut album off the back of this single. But all this amounted to was re-packaging it with a new name: I’m Not Anybody’s Girl (which is better, in fairness). That was it. No new tracks, no remixes. Nothing. In fact, there were even fewer songs on the album than before because the Spanish versions of Tu Amor and Everlasting were removed. Evidently, Curb Records were invested in Kaci to a degree, but after 16 months, there needed to be a better strategy than just trying to flog the same album again. It wasn’t a groundbreaking debut – nor did it claim to be – but it’s decent enough, with solid uptempos (Everlasting, I’m Gonna Break Your Heart This Time) and cute ballads (Butterflies Don’t Lie, Just An Old Boyfriend). However, if it didn’t sell the first time around, it would take more than a new title and cover art to change the album’s fortunes. Consequently – yet not at all surprisingly – it failed to chart.
In the end, being attached to a ropey movie was the least of I’m Not Anybody’s Girl’sproblems. Not a lot went right for this single, but nonetheless, it is an underrated – if not entirely forgotten – track that is performed exceptionally well. There was never any question that Kaci should’ve released a fourth single; it just needn’t have taken as long as it did. However, the charts were a better place with her in them, even if this time it was a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance.