When you read the bio (or rather, thesis statement) for former Ava Luna band member Becca Kauffman’s current music project Jennifer Vanilla, you wouldn’t be alone in feeling like you’re reading the mission statement of a trendy new startup. Described as “the entrepreneurial fantasy vessel and avatar-cultivation experiment LARPed* into reality,” Jennifer Vanilla “is an all-purpose, multi-use substance well suited to both analog and digital realms.” In essence, ‘JV’ is a pop performance art persona that sees Kauffman apply her skills as vocalist and voice over artist in a sort of modern dadaist cabaret, programmed to highlight the absurdity of our current moment.
Following the release of her debut EP under the alias in 2019, Kauffman returns as JV with the new single Body Music. Against a stylish piano house loop, Kauffman delivers a spoken word monologue in a hautey voice, a put on pretension that instantly pokes fun at Body Music’s adopted genre. A sax slides in, as Kauffman vocalises “let’s get jennifreaky.” It’s camp, kitschy, and oh-so tongue in cheek. Recalling the loungey and fashionable house of the late 90’s by groups like M People, Kauffman uses JV to basically take the piss at the tropes of a style associated with the word “chic.” She manages to do this while taking herself entirely seriously, which makes Body Music wildly enjoyable in a way that avoids it slipping into total SNL-style parody.
The Jennifer Vanilla project is fascinating. With Kauffman’s experience as a voice artist for networks like MTV and for high profile award shows, she understands the theory behind celebrity and pop. Using this to her advantage, what she’s created with Jennifer Vanilla is a contemporary clown-cum-pop superstar. It’s the sort of farce that feels needed in our present moment, and we’re crossing fingers that we see JV on one of the MTV red carpets her creator has previously narrated soon enough.