[25 October 2005]
What does it mean for a girl to shake her “feather”? I’m sincerely hoping it means something entirely other than what I’m picturing. Kaci Brown, apparently, shakes her feather really, really fast. She’s Dora the explorer and you can be her monkey boots.
What? Exactly. Okay, so first things first. I’m not 17, like Kaci, but I’m not so old as to think pink lipstick and glitter are unacceptable job interview accessories. Still, I find something so utterly repulsive about Kaci’s new CD, Instigator, that it’s making me miss Britney’s school uniform. I’d even take Xtina’s chaps over this piece of writhing, conniving teen-porn. It’s a mystery what the folks at Interscope were thinking letting this thing out of the gate. With the exception of two songs that demonstrate a burgeoning talent both as a writer and a vocalist, the rest of Kaci’s CD is positively puerile.
The problems begin when Kaci starts to sing. There’s nothing at all wrong with the girl’s voice—in her pop tunes, she’s got an Xtina vibe, which can only be a good thing; in her better songs, she wants to be Bijou Phillips but lacks the life-scars to pull of the attitude. So, the issue is Kaci’s self-penned lyrics. Ready? From the title track (which, it must be said, features a killer back beat):
“I’m an in-, I’m an instigator, /
Is that your boy? /
Girl, well see you later! /
I’m a tr-, I’m a troublemaker, /
One boy, two boys, three boys, and I. /
I’m an in-, I’m an instigator, /
If he’s cute then I’ll take the waiter!”
Right. Such remarks, (and delivered with such confidence), about foursomes and bitchy boy-stealing might not be so offensive were the speaker out of high school. Kaci’s not like the girl who longs to be treated like a woman—in her mind she’s already there and damn it if she’s not gonna tell you every chance she gets. Sadly, though, for Kaci, being a grown up means little more than scanning dance clubs corners for “stud[s]”. Witness “Body Language”, perhaps the album’s scariest track: “Eyes lock, / Buns move, / Jelly’s jumping… I like the way you do it boy”. Kaci’s vocals here should come with a warning label. “Let me teach you something new,” the, let me remind you, 17-year-old suggests, before ending the song with a free-for-all of pre-orgasmic, heavy breathing interspersed with kiddy claps. And swallow to fade.
What happened to the sweet girl on the sweet single, “Unbelievable”, who sweetly sings about a confused teen romance featuring a boy who loves her, but treats her badly, but she still loves, but doesn’t want to—you know, the typical teen stuff that should fill out this record? Just when you start to sympathize with her on “Unbelievable”, she hits you with “Like ‘Em Like That”, singing about hot boys and sexy bodies and one night stands—“Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, and Black, / So many I just can’t decide… Show me a man who has nothing I need, / And he’ll mean the world to me”.
Maybe I’m just an old fart (at 26), but it’s hard to view Kaci’s compositions as anything but irresponsible and dangerous for her target audience. If it’s a joke or some form of weird 21st century irony, I’m not getting it. There’s no problem with a sexy, young girl celebrating her youth, but Kaci seems to have forgotten that womanhood is about more than just cruising for “boys” (she doesn’t say men, but you can bet she means it) and “shake-shaking” it for the “shy boys” and the “hot boys”. This is an attempt at sophistication that fails in the most explosive and embarrassing manner possible. Not only does the singer succeed in destroying her credibility, she all but ruins any future opportunities for personal and artistic growth as a musician.
Honestly, what’s likely to be waiting for fans on the next record? More sex? More callous ways to steal other girls’ boyfriends? Fivesomes?
If Instigator represents pop’s next envelope-pushing trend, you can count me out. The lyrics here are smarmy and smutty. Sad, really, because the actual instrumental part of this mess is pretty good. It’s just a pity no one has yet schooled Kaci Brown on the value of subtlety.