Reviews

Daisy Jones & The Six: Sounds of the Seventies

10 Mins read

With its addictive soundtrack, great performances and loveable characters, it’s one of the most exciting mini-series to hit Prime Video in recent years. BEWARE: The following review contains spoilers for both the TV series and the novel.

Adapted from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name, Daisy Jones & The Six is a new Prime Video series following the rise and fall of a fictional rock ‘n’ roll band in the ‘70s. The ten episodes chronologies both the band’s rise to fame and fall from grace.

Interspersed between these events are interviews with the band members Daisy Jones (Riley Keough), Billy Dunne, (Sam Claflin), Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse), Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chacon) and Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), as well as the people that worked with them throughout their careers.

These ruminations on the band’s success, paired with a first-hand look at the events that took place create an immersive experience for viewers that feels so true they will often forget its fiction.

Loosely based on the tumultuous circumstances surrounding the rock sensation Fleetwood Mac, the mini-series offers a dazzling soundtrack, attentive costume and set design, and some powerful performances. Although it isn’t without its faults, Daisy Jones & The Six feels like an event you don’t want to miss.

Over its ten episodes the series offers a multitude of interweaving plots that concern each member of the band and all those in their orbit. At the heart is a fractious relationship between Daisy Jones, and Billy Dunne – two talented musicians who, in a twist of fate, come to front the world’s most beloved rock ‘n’ roll band.

Finding solace in drugs and alcohol at the start of his career, Billy pledges sobriety and dedication to his doting wife Camila (Camila Morrone). However, this becomes a whole lot more complicated when Daisy Jones arrives on the scene.

Jones is beautiful and fiercely talented and with her own dependencies, she is the physical embodiment of everything Billy has sworn against. What comes as a result is a story ablaze with conflict and tension, which leaves the viewer continuously questioning their own loyalties to the lead characters.

Sam Claflin (Billy Dunne) and Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) performing together in recording booth.
Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) in Daisy Jones & The Six [Lacey Terrell / Prime Video]

For those who don’t much care for love triangles and forbidden romance, Daisy Jones & The Six also offers numerous subplots that are bound to spark an emotional attachment or two.

Perhaps the anti-love story between keyboardist Karen Sirko and guitarist Graham Dunne would interest you more, or maybe following disco pioneer Simone Jackson’s (Nabiyah Be) pursuit of stardom in New York City will grab your attention. Even keeping tabs on the band’s bassist Eddie Roundtree, and his growing disillusionment with everything Billy Dunne is enough to provide that angsty tension that will keep you wanting more.

With all these different narrative branches, both Taylor Jenkins Reid and the series writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, have allowed every player to feel multi-dimensional, and therefore real, so that the illusion of Daisy Jones & The Six as a non-fiction piece of television feels fully realised.

Set in 1970s Los Angeles, costume designer Denise Wingate and cinematographers Checco Varese, ASC and Jeff Cutter collaborate to make Daisy Jones & The Six an immersive experience that feels true to the era. Wingate drew inspiration from popular artists of the time, like Linda Ronstadt for Daisy, Joan Jett for Karen, and Bruce Springsteen for Billy.

For Verase, who shot six of the show’s ten episodes, it was important to capture an authentic 70s LA so he could bring it to a modern audience. ‘My first mantra was to create the world I would have seen in the 1970s through the optics of an audience educated in 2023 and make it polished and attractive and beautiful,’ Varese told Motion Picture Association.

With this in mind, iconic locations like Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip feature as backdrops to Daisy Jones’ drama, with the band even filming and recording in the renowned Sound City studios where Fleetwood Mac famously formed. This attention to detail helps emulate the aesthetics of classic rock’s golden age and reminds audiences of pre-existing cult classic films set in the same era, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000).

At the beginning of the series, we meet Daisy Jones as Margaret, a young dreamer who is always getting in the way of her parents’ socialite lifestyle. Never knowing the feeling of being nurtured and loved, Daisy grows into a complex contradiction. As someone who is both self-assured and in search of approval from others, Daisy Jones is a liability to most but also completely and utterly loveable.

Riley Keough (Daisy Jones) crowd surfing
Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) in Daisy Jones & The Six [Lacey Terrell / Prime Video]

Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road and Zola) embodies the cherished Daisy Jones of Reid’s novel, both in looks and temperament. With shocking red hair, big gold hoop earrings and an opposition to any clothing that isn’t sheer, Riley Keough carries the ethereality that lovers of the book are drawn to.

But however delicate she is in her looks; Jones is an unparalleled talent in her field and embodies the ferocity and spark of her real-life counterpart Stevie Nicks. Keough’s study of Nicks is one carried out with precision, as she feels moulded to her blueprint in an intricate way we only see in biopics.

In the BBC documentary Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Stop (2009), Nicks’s band member Mick Fleetwood explains how, “with all the movements” Stevie did on stage, she cast “a whole spell” on the audience. Keough’s Daisy can be seen doing the same, with a particularly tantalising performance at their last-ever show in Chicago, Illinois.

Nicks’s stylist Margi Kent revealed “Stevie had a real fondness for […] becoming a different character as soon as she came on stage. […] When she put on a shawl, she literally became a different character.” This also feels true for Daisy Jones, whose appearance on stage, feels like nothing short of a mirage. It’s these intricate details that recreate the magnetism of performances put on by Fleetwood Mac and brings their appeal to a whole new generation.

Although the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, the real-life king of rock’n’roll, Riley Keough says in an interview with Stephen Colbert for The Late Show that “music wasn’t [her] thing.” Her pursuit has always been acting it seems, with her dream coming to fruition with roles in the Oscar-nominated Max Max: Fury Road (2015) and Netflix’s The Devil All The Time (2020).

Despite that, her performance as Daisy Jones proves she is an undisputed talent in her own right, not only as an actor but as a musician. Her raw vocal ability is enough to stir something in the stoniest of hearts and each performance she delivers feels special.

In a scene where Daisy is arguing with a potential love interest, she says, “I am not the muse. I am the somebody,” which encompasses both the character and the talented Keough who brought her to life.

Unfortunately, Sam Claflin’s Billy Dunne doesn’t have quite the same conviction. Well-known for his roles in book adaptations, such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and Me Before You (2016), nobody was surprised to see Claflin cast as Dunne in Daisy Jones.

Nevertheless, whether it’s Billy’s characterisation that’s to blame, Claflin’s performance, or perhaps a mixture of the two, he feels out of place most of the time despite being at the centre of the narrative.

“Same old tired rock and roll tale,” Billy says when talking about his decline into alcoholism and drug abuse. It’s true, Billy’s story is like a familiar parable that’s claimed many victims such as Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix.

Here, however, Dunne’s arc fails to capture the turmoil of these real-life stars or even fictional characters that suffer from the same vices, such as Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine in A Star is Born (2018). Billy Dunne’s story feels more reliant on a tell don’t show approach, which means despite its dark themes, Daisy Jones & The Six fails to provide a grittiness that feels paramount in narratives like these.

Claflin’s dedication to the role can’t be criticised, as to step into the shoes of Billy Dunne he had to learn how to be a performer, train his voice, and learn the guitar from scratch. Nevertheless, it is predominantly off the stage where his performance falters.

At the core of the issue is Billy Dunne’s overall unlikeability. Taylor Jenkins Reid has written Dunne as a central character with no redeeming qualities, with screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber only making a few tweaks to make him more bearable. The overarching narrative of the show is the push-and-pull love triangle between Daisy, Billy, and his wife Camila, but most of the time Dunne presents no real appeal.

He is commendable in the way he continually champions sobriety, and he shows dedication to building a good life for his family, but this is not portrayed frequently enough to outweigh his manipulation of Daisy, his selfishness when it comes to the band and the dishonest way he navigates through his marriage with Camila.

Seeing Dunne’s vulnerability is where Claflin’s performance is strongest, but overall, his depiction of addiction, lust and love doesn’t feel nuanced enough to make a lasting impression.

Sam Claflin (Billy Dunne) performing in on stage
Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) in Daisy Jones & The Six [Lacey Terrell / Prime Video]

Keough and Claflin are joined by an ensemble cast who feel essential to the emotional impact and overall success of the show. Although an honorary member of The Six, Billy’s wife Camila Dunne, who is played here by Camila Morrone, feels like the glue holding the band together.

Morrone, who got her start as a model, but has since appeared in small productions like Never Goin’ Back (2018) and Mickey and the Bear (2019), feels like she really finds her feet in this role. Morrone’s depiction of Camila is one of self-assuredness and grace, acting as the solid ground to each member of The Six, who all have times when they feel untethered.

Developed from the stay-at-home mother of three in the novel, writers Neustadter and Weber give Camila her own vocation. With big dreams of becoming a photographer, Camila represents a woman who can do both.

Suki Waterhouse and Will Harrison deliver a heart-wrenching sub-plot of unrequited love as keyboardist Karen Sirko and guitarist Graham Dunne, respectively. Despite only being side characters, it is their love story (or anti-love story) that feels like the more compelling romance of the show. We root for Karen and her desire for independence and freedom, but Graham is so quick to steal our hearts, we can’t help but feel a little bit bitter.

Josh Whitehouse, who plays bassist Eddie Roundtree, gives a moody performance that teeters on the edge of teenage dirtbag wannabe. He is presented in Daisy Jones as Billy’s foil, and although he tries to stand up for himself, he can never quite speak louder than Daisy.

Sebastian Chacon’s Warren Rhodes is undoubtedly the most loveable and unproblematic of The Six, and although he mainly stays in the background of the action, he offers a much-needed respite from the high-intensity drama that the rest of the characters are caught up in.

Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse) and Graham Dunne (Will Harrison) hugging
Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse) and Graham Dunne (Will Graham) in Daisy Jones & The Six [Lacey Terrell / Prime Video]

Although the narrative of Daisy Jones & The Six is compelling, where the show truly shines is in the musical numbers scattered throughout. When Daisy and Billy come together for the first time at the end of the third episode and perform the song Look At Us Now (Honeycomb), you feel like you’re witnessing something extraordinary.

Every time they perform together, particularly when they’re accompanied by the whole band, they’re able to recreate the tension and emotional vulnerability that Fleetwood Mac was so famous for delivering.

The album Aurora, which is now available to stream, as well as to purchase on CD and vinyl, was composed, performed, and produced by Blake Mills, with additional production by Tony Berg and in collaboration with musicians such as Chris Weisman, Jackson Browne, Marcus Mumford, and Phoebe Bridgers.

Mills and all his collaborators were able to pay homage to Fleetwood Mac’s unique rock sound, whilst creating something that still felt unique. Amongst everything Daisy Jones & The Six is, it feels like a love letter to music and songwriting, showing its power to say all the things we’d otherwise be unable to articulate.

Songs Regret Me and More Fun To Miss, mirror Stevie Nicks’ Dreams and Lindsey Buckingham’s Go Your Own Way, the songs that the pair wrote about each other amid their break-up and were subsequently forced to perform night after night just as Billy and Daisy do on screen.

The scenes where Daisy Jones & The Six are performing are also strongest because of the sense of comradery that presents itself. Despite the strength of the cast’s individual performances, they are undoubtedly at their best when they’re together.

It’s a shame then, that for a lot of the series, the writers preoccupy the characters with their own individual storylines and neglected the importance of making the band feel like a family.

This lack of rapport off the stage results in an underwhelming conclusion when the band eventually splits. “You’ve left family before, you can handle it,” Simone tells Daisy. “I know. I just really loved this one,” Daisy replies. These words, which should hold so much weight, feel vapid without the evidence to support them.

Daisy Jones also presents pacing issues that draw attention to the more superfluous elements of the series. The most obvious of these is Daisy’s trip to Greece and shotgun wedding with Nicky (Gavin Drea). Although these events were (mostly) reflective of the original material, in the scope of the overarching narrative it didn’t feel necessary.

It’s suggested that Nicky’s inclusion is a narrative tool in making Billy jealous, spurring him to realise his true feelings for Daisy, but although the groundwork is laid down, this doesn’t appear to be what happens.

Instead, Nicky’s influence on Daisy makes her more dependent on drugs, which only seems to affect Billy in the way it hinders the performance of the band. Whether this is Billy channelling his emotions elsewhere is never made clear.

Considering this, it feels like the whole episode in Greece would be better repurposed in fleshing out the dynamics between Daisy and the other band members.

So, Daisy Jones is not without its flaws, but this doesn’t stop it from being one of the sharpest, most exciting mini-series to hit Prime Video in recent years. With a companion album ready to stream and rumours of a tour sparked by the cast, for many, it feels like Daisy Jones & The Six is more than a television show, but something to truly believe in.

All episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six are now available to stream on Prime Video.


Featured image courtesy of Lacy Terrell/Prime Video.

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