Photo Credit : Becca Hamel
I was scrolling through TikTok when I came across the profile of Jenna. The young musician did her own version of the song ‘The Way I Loved You' by Taylor Swift. But gay. And I was hooked.
Jenna is from a small city outside Toronto named Oshawa, and music was always in her life: ‘My mom literally told me that I could sing before I could talk!’ And since then, after spending her childhood writing songs about toys and performing in local gigs, and competitions, she found her calling.
‘In High School, that’s when I decided I wanted to seriously write songs, as a career. So in ninth grade, I started doing actual gigs around Toronto, in bars and bigger venues.’
' I didn’t even really mind getting heartbroken. This feels like a lot, but not in a bad way, In a way that I am glad I’m feeling. '
She released first song when she was nineteen, and her writing process is a reflection of her artistry: independent and dreamy: ‘I’m usually alone in my room. I feel weird writing anywhere else because I need my own space, in my own head. I pick up my guitar and I start playing chords that I think sound nice. I usually start with a concept I want to write about.’
She talked about one of her first songs named ‘Bedbugs’. ’I actually personally feel like ‘Bedbugs’ is one of my favorite songs that I have ever written. Just because of the fact that it’s one of the only slow songs I’ve written and I have such an emotional attachment to it.’
Like some of her inspirations: Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, and Conan Gray, Jenna is a storyteller. And to tell a story, you need to be immersed. This is why she is in touch with her feelings and knows how to exploit them with her music:
‘When I’m hurt I’m never like ‘Oh this sucks I want to get over it so fast and just be happy.’ For me, it’s more like ‘Wow, I’m really wallowing in this emotion and it’s really helpful for my music. So I didn’t even really mind getting heartbroken. This feels like a lot, but not in a bad way, In a way that I am glad I’m feeling. I wrote it last summer after a summer fling I had. A girl in my town was interesting. Everyone was boring and she was kind of crazy. ‘Pink Slips’ is also loosely based on her. And I was like intrigued by this person. I was sad but kinda enjoying the sadness.’
For her brand new song ‘Pink Slips’ that she co-wrote with her friend Alexander Gallimore, she had the concept before the melody: ‘I used to see someone who was objectively perfect but it became boring. Then I developed a crush on someone who was completely opposite and it was a lot more intriguing.’
But an important question remains: what do pink slips mean? Well, for those who didn’t grow up with American culture, it’s a detention slip. It’s what the teacher will give you if you are late for their classes, and it’s pink. Now you know.
‘It was strange that I never craved the typical perfect relationship, like everybody I knew. I never wanted the cliché version of the relationship. I was always most intrigued by the weirdest person at the party. So I was like: we should write a song that shows the complete opposite, how a person is so perfect yet so boring and how someone can be so insane yet so intriguing.’
With this openly sapphic song, Jenna is up to be a good queer representation in music. Growing up in an accepting family, she never had a big coming-out moment. But she admits she had her first crush on a girl when she was fourteen. Even if she doesn’t label herself. She doesn’t care about gender.
There’s a handful of sapphic women that I listen to, but there’s not nearly enough. It’s like you turn on the radio, it’s like so many heterosexual songs and at this point, I’m a little bit sick of how oversaturated the heteronormativity is in media.
‘What started the success of my song was the fact that it was queer. Because if it were straight, I think that I wouldn’t have grown so much attention. It’s catchy for that kind of niche audience of women who like women. So in the end, maybe I was different from the kids in my high school. But I wouldn’t have traded these experiences for anything because that’s what’s driving my success. Originality is the most important thing in a person.’
And when asked if she wants to be a sapphic representation in music, she doesn’t hesitate.
‘I want to be. I always thought that there wasn’t enough. There’s a handful of sapphic women that I listen to, but there’s not nearly enough. It’s like you turn on the radio, it’s like so many heterosexual songs and at this point, I’m a little bit sick of how oversaturated the heteronormativity is in media. I want to be an artist that other girls who like girls are like ‘You need to listen to this artist’ ‘you need to listen to this song that’s about a sapphic experience.’
And she’s right. The music industry is filled with heteronormativity. But the more we move forward, the more openly LGBTQ+ artists are topping the charts: Hayley Kiyoko, girl in red, Lil Nas X, Kim Petras… and we can only hope to see a bright future for queer artists.
Since her first song Weeping Willow, Jenna grew as an artist. From her ‘DIY’ record, when she made the entire song in a friend’s basement and the fear of release because no one knew who she was, she evolved. 'I’ve learned a lot since releasing my first song. I’ve learned about promoting my music, finding individuals that listen to the same music as me. It’s fun to start at the absolute bottom, with the cheapest guitar and cheapest mic and paying no money for production.’
But now, with ‘Pink Slips’ at almost 50k streams, and her profile trending on TikTok, we are ready to see her and to listen to her. And for those who are already hooked (me included), and are desperate for some more music, no worries. It’s coming. Because of COVID cases in New York, the borders are closed again. She was supposed to record there, but don’t panic. She said that she’s been writing nonstop. She has some tracks in mind and she assured me that in the next few months, we will hear her brand new songs. We are ready.