In 1994, Jennifer Trynin had a remarkable single from her album, “Cockamamie.” The song is symbolic of the cultural movement that saw women creating memorable rock and pop songs.

Jennifer Trynin and the sound of 1990’s girl power

The 1990s were a time full of developments in popular music. There was something phenomenal about the number of female performers and the sometimes-groundbreaking work they produced.

In retrospect, it wasn’t just rock music that experienced a surge in girl power. R&B saw an influx of chart-topping girl groups that influenced other musicians and the fashion world. Country music, too, saw a revival because of singers who reinvigorated the genre.

The 1990s were a time of revitalization for rock music. The grunge movement boasted heavy guitar riffs, new vocal stylings for male singers, and an entirely different set of themes for songs. But women were not excluded from grunge. However, there were many female alternative singers that made notable music, and some audiences might have missed what they did.

One of those performers was Jennifer Trynin. Her 1994 album “Cockamamie” demonstrated a new kind of awkward-cool sensibility that resonated with a new generation of young women. Arguably, the best song on the album is “Better Than Nothing.”

Jennifer Trynin: A different kind of cool

I ended up with a copy of “Cockamamie” by accident. But I was intrigued by the cover. The minimalist design of it appealed to my art school taste. The background is a turquoise so pale it looks mostly white. There is a red chair near the facing-right corner.

Trynin herself is on her back, fully clothed, across the bottom. Her outfit is one favored by almost every neo-utilitarian young woman I have ever met: Brown corduroy pants, dark booties, light-colored t-shirt.  She looks like her audience, or at least someone her audience knows. Before listeners even get the CD open, they have an idea of who they will hear.

“Better Than Nothing”: Jennifer Trynin at her best

The song opens with hollow, but not unhappy sounding drumbeats, which are soon topped by guitar notes that are so bouncy they are almost rubbery. Trynin’s voice is wry; a soft, raspy alto that suggests simple things she could do with a significant other. The alternative to it all is “maybe we could just stay home.” Then the chorus kicks in and lets the audience know that the good feeling might be gone by the next day.

Trynin’s work is indicative of the 90’s introspection that decades later is even more obvious. What is not to be missed is the guitar work that encourages dancing in a way few alternative songs do. The aforementioned rubbery guitar line bounces less, and as the song builds up to the full chorus, the guitar kicks into a sound that is heavier, but still endowed with plenty of movement. It is a rollercoaster of sound.

Listeners  in small-and medium-sized markets might never have had the opportunity to hear Trynin on the radio. Even when my hometown got its first alternative radio station in 1996, I don’t remember hearing Trynin’s songs. Those songs have been for a cadre of Generation-Xers suddenly world-weary from first jobs and first serious relationships.  That Trynin’s voice has been largely overlooked is unfortunate.

 

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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