‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ review: A sizzling adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 1970’s-era rock band novel might be spring’s next hit album
When we read about fictional bands, we usually can only imagine what their music would sound like. But Amazon Prime’s new limited series Daisy Jones & the Six changes that for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name, which was released in March 2019 and has been a hit ever since. The ten-episode series brings the book to life and, with it, the music of the titular band.
Daisy Jones & the Six recounts the story of a 1970s rock band and their meteoric rise to fame. It all builds toward the band’s seemingly sudden and drastic break in 1979 when the members walked away at the height of their fame. The story not only plays out in real-time but talking head interviews with the people involved provide perspective and added insight into events as the unseen interviewer tries to get to the bottom of why the band broke up. The show contains a whopping 24 original songs written specifically for the fictional band by a variety of songwriters, including eleven songs for the Aurora album that is at the heart of the story.
The interview format of the novel revealed how each member of the band remembers their time together slightly differently, leaving the reader to decide which version of each story is the actual truth. The series isn’t able to weave this in quite as successfully, but it still does an excellent job of utilizing the interviews to expand on character motivations and show when a character is omitting something from their narrative.
Charismatic and talented but controlling frontman Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) tells a distinctly different story from wild child singer-songwriter Daisy Jones (Riley Keough). The tumultuous relationship between the two, who are drawn to each other against their own wishes, makes up the bulk of the series. For Billy, Daisy represents temptation both in straying from his committed relationship with photographer wife Camila (Camila Morrone) and in returning to the drugs and alcohol from which he has gotten clean.
But Daisy is also the creative partner who makes his songwriting better and who dares to challenge him when no one else could. That includes disgruntled bandmate Eddie (Josh Whitehouse) and his younger brother and bandmate Graham (Will Harrison). Graham and The Six keyboardist Karen (Suki Waterhouse) are in a less dramatic but equally ill-fated relationship that explores what happens when two partners don’t want the same future.
The final member of the band, Warren (Sebastian Chacon), is just happy to be making music and living it up with drugs and girls, especially as the band rockets to fame with a successful national tour and Rolling Stone cover. Producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) is the one with the brilliant idea to unite singer-songwriter Daisy Jones with the up-and-coming band The Six, both of whom are young talents he’s nurturing. But he certainly pays for his efforts in how much more difficult the combined set is to manage as Daisy and Billy’s relationship continually throws complications into their plans.
The series takes a look at the music culture of the 1970s (the book was inspired by Fleetwood Mac), as well as grappling with addiction. It questions what it means to be an artist and what being an artist means sacrificing in one’s personal life. It looks at women’s autonomy and sexism within the music industry. And it also explores how Billy can be completely enamored with his wife Camila and young daughter Julia but also drawn to Daisy like a moth to a flame.
Daisy Jones & the Six is the perfect book adaptation, perhaps partially because the author is a producer on the show, in that those who’ve read the book will love it, while it will attract plenty of new fans who are experiencing the story for the first time. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s series makes some changes to the book, but they work well and make sense within the TV format – consolidating characters, amping up the tension between Billy and Daisy, and further delving into the life of Daisy’s best friend, disco singer Simone (Nabiya Be). In fact, the parts focusing on Simone are some of the best, and they provide an additional, almost “outside” perspective on being an artist and what a more healthy relationship looks like.
The series is perfectly cast, with Claflin’s vulnerability keeping Billy from becoming too much of an asshole for the audience to root for. He’s done plenty of roles that take advantage of his charisma before, but this is the first to showcase his commendable singing and rockstar presence on a stage. He deftly portrays how Billy’s dedication to his craft sometimes blinds him to everything else happening around him, including the feelings of the people he cares for.
Meanwhile, Keough is the ideal person to play Daisy Jones. The eldest grandchild of Elvis Presley playing one of the most fascinating fictional musicians feels almost too right, and her voice is exactly what you want for this style of music. Her Daisy is maddening but magnetic; the audience is as caught up in her spell as the crowds despite having a front-row seat to how destructive her behavior can turn. Daisy Jones is not easy to like – she’s strong-willed, petulant, and has little regard for her own well-being – but she’s also challenging to look away from. When Billy writes “More Fun to Miss” about her, you’re offended for her sake – but completely understand his point of view.
The series takes some time to set up its exposition, and the first two episodes are a little slow. But once it’s rolling, it’s the kind of magic that will compel people to binge it in only a few sittings. From the vintage style outfits on Daisy, Karen, and Camila to the massive amount of beautiful locations, the craftwork on the series is stunning as it brings to life the life of a band in the 1970s.
But what is a band without a stellar album? The music is genuinely great, especially songs like “Regret Me” and “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb),” which feature heavily in the narrative of the book but come to life in a whole new way. Reid’s lyrics are tweaked to fit the music better, but the songs that fans have been anticipating surely won’t disappoint. It’s perhaps not surprising as the Aurora album was composed and produced by Blake Mills (who has produced albums for John Legend, Jack Johnson, and Marcus Mumford), with other musicians, including Phoebe Bridgers, making contributions. The album is being released by Atlantic Records and is already selling multiple editions of vinyl records.
Daisy Jones & the Six might mark the first time that a fictional band has one of the most anticipated albums of the spring, but it’s entirely well-deserved and a tribute to how great the series is as a whole.
The 10-part limited series Daisy Jones & the Six will premiere its first three episodes on Amazon Prime Video March 3, with two new episodes debuting each week thereafter.