Forgotten alternative classic: “Jenny Says” by Cowboy Mouth


New Orleans-based Cowboy Mouth rose to prominence on the strength of their single, “Jenny Says.” The 1996 alternative rock hit attracted listeners on the basis of its easy to sing chorus and sentiments that resonated with 1990s youth contingent.

Cowboy Mouth and 1990s alternative rock

Soundscapes available to listeners in the 1990 were as varied as there were bands. In northeastern Indiana, the largest city in that part of the state got its first alternative station. While relatively late to that development, the new listening option was nonetheless welcome.

Bands that ranged from the politically charged drive of the Cranberries, to the anger of bands like L7, Alice in Chains, and many others dominated Music Television and pay-per video service The Box. Even without alternative radio, fans of alternative music could hear their favorite genre.

Enter Cowboy Mouth. The band featured a singing drummer, and a full throttle singing style. “Jenny Says” seems to be about a micromanaging significant other that threatens to crush the soul of the narrator. After listing the commands the title woman gives, the lyrics accuse audiences: “You beat yourself up/to bring yourself down.” Toward the end of the song, that line changes to “You beat yourself/cause you love it!”

“Jenny Says” functioned as an anthem to many Gen-Xers. The song’s repeated “Let it go/let it go/let it go” made people think that was the title. Songs like “Jenny Says” mattered because they helped define an era. When most of the early and mid-range of Generation X were on the cusp of true adulthood. Some were reluctant to do so. A song that encouraged standing up for yourself was bound to be popular.

After “Jenny Says”

“Jenny Says” was so popular among certain groups of people, that I was surprised that the song only reached No. 26 in 1997. Unfortunately, Cowboy Mouth wasn’t able to replicate the success they had with “Jenny Says.” And even after their record label dissolved their relationship in 2000, that didn’t stop the band from continuing to play. Like any other band that lacks big label backing, Cowboy Mouth survives by playing live and producing their work through small labels. The influence of Cowboy Mouth did not go unnoticed. In 2011, Cowboy Mouth was inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame.


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