Book review of Everything I'm Craked Up to Be

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Buy your copy from Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be: A Rock & Roll Fairy Tale starstarstarstarno star Author: Jen Trynin
Publisher: Harcourt (2006)
Genre: Biography/Music

Jen Trynin. Jen Trynin. Damn, why does that name sound so familiar…?

Well, unfortunately, it’s probably because you’ve seen her debut album, Cockamamie, as you’ve flipped through the used or cut-out bins at your local record store; it pops up so often that if you concentrate really hard, you might even be able to summon in your mind’s eye the cover photo of Ms. Trynin lazing on her back, with a red chair up in the right hand corner of the shot. Plus, if you heard it, you’d most likely know her single, “Better than Nothing,” except, of course, you’d identify it as “that ‘Feeling Good’ song,” because that’s just what people do.

So now you’re thinking, “Oh, okay, right, I know who you’re talking about. Whatever happened to her?” Well, here’s your chance to find out.

Jen Trynin was a singer/songwriter on the Boston scene in the early ‘90s, where was inspired as much by Kurt Cobain as Aimee Mann. When her original tunes caught the ears of the right people, she found herself in the midst of a bidding war, and, the next thing she knew, she was signed to Warner Brothers. For an artist more concerned about playing live and writing her next song, she found herself somewhat mystified by the various lawyers and label folk surrounding her and talking up multi-album plans for success. Trynin was more interested in pushing her music in a grass-roots fashion than through a huge promotional explosion…which, of course, is nothing short of crazy talk to major label execs. Still, with “Better than Nothing” getting both video and radio airplay, things were looking up for Trynin…until a certain Canadian chick emerged with “You Oughta Know” and not only stole Trynin’s thunder but a fair amount of her promo push as well. (Alanis Morissette was and is on Maverick, which is Madonna’s WB subsidiary…and you know the WB wants Madge happy.) Suddenly, Trynin was made to feel as though she was on her way out before she’d had half a chance to prove herself.

If you’ve already read Jacob Slichter’s bio, “So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star,” where he details his experiences as a member of Semisonic as the band worked their way through the major label system, you might think you’ve heard this story before. You’ll find, however, that Trynin’s experiences as a solo artist are decidedly different, particularly from the marketing perspective but also as a woman on tour with an all-male backing band. It’s also interesting…if somewhat disheartening…to find that a really cool female musician can be almost entirely unaware of the artists you’d swear were her inspirations. (There’s a moment in the book when someone suggests to Trynin a similarity between her and Exene Cervenka from X…and receives little more than a blank stare in response.)

“Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be” is just over 350 pages, but once you get rolling, you won’t be putting it down ‘til you’re finished; it’s a fast, fascinating read that keeps you enthralled as you follow Trynin’s educational but ultimately unfortunate saga in the business. Everyone’s familiar with the tale of the struggling artist who got signed to a major label and thought they were gonna live the rock ‘n’ roll dream, but instead of grabbing hold of the brass ring, the door hit them on the ass on the way out. The thing is, you always hear the generic version of the story; with her “Rock & Roll Fairy Tale,” Jen Trynin provides you with the specifics…and they’re equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.

~Will Harris