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tHe is the most important character in Taylor Jenkins’ novel Red Daisy Jones and the Six? It’s the music—and any fan of the book, a fictional oral history of a ’70s rock band, will have strong feelings about exactly what it should sound like. It might have shades of Stevie Nicks, a touch of Joni Mitchell, a dash of The Eagles’ soft rock—and it should feel vibrant, like they’re “taking a piece of your heart and showing it to you,” singer Billy Dunn puts it. Prime Video success Daisy Jones So the TV adaptation has always been riding on the songs — but how do you write the perfect track for a make-up artist in full?
There is an ancient tradition of music written specifically for stories brought to the screen, from the sublime to the absurd. Think Lady Gaga’s Ally making her euphoric debut singing “Shallow” alongside veteran rock star Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine in 2018 A star is bornThe guttural howl that electrifies the second half of the song is shocking. Then consider the vicarious acute embarrassment of watching SuccessionKendall Roy spits out the stressed rhymes “L to the OG.” From the heavy metal of Spinal Tap to the pop of girl group Josie and the Pussycats to Hugh Grant channeling Duran Duran in Music and lyricsThe history of film and television is littered with fictional earworms.
Jenkins Red’s 2019 novel, a BookTok favorite championed by Reese Witherspoon and her online book club, was the second in her “Famous Four” quartet exploring the lives of women in the spotlight (after 2017’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). The 10-part series charts the rapid rise of rock group Fleetwood Mac alike in the ’70s, headed by Dunn (Sam Claflin) and fickle singer-songwriter Daisy Jones (played by true rock royalty Riley Keough). Their story is littered with love triangles, drug use, and fraught studio sessions get back Looks like love in. In the show’s imagined world, The Six album Aurora It has near-legendary status – only bolstered by its sudden split shortly after its release.
Bringing the band’s (fictional) music to (real) life, then, required songwriters of considerable pedigree. Presented by musician Blake Mills and veteran producer Tony Berg who have previously worked with artists such as Phoebe Bridgers, Laura Marling and John Legend. Over the course of the show, Mills wrote or co-wrote 25 songs, something Berg describes as “creepy” — a rarity for a TV project. “Usually, the show goes to the Billboard charts, picks the top 20 songwriters, and orders songs from all of them. What you get, in my opinion, is generally pretty awful,” he explains.
Instead, Mills’ writing – and Berg’s additional production support – serves as the show’s storytelling, giving The Six a cohesive, recognizable voice. Both subtly reflect the group’s musical evolution over time, and absorb the various psychological dramas that surface during anyone’s recording session. Real Life, 12 tracks Aurora The album ranges from the band’s bittersweet first single “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb)” to the sexy, soulful harmonies of “Regret Me”.. It’s hard to believe that neither Keough nor Claflin had any musical experience prior to recording – they look (and sound) like real rock stars.
Combined, Mills and Berg’s connections meant that they were able to call on the likes of Bridgers, Marcus Mumford, and 1970s singer-songwriter Jackson Browne for help; Berg’s daughter Z, formerly lead singer of Noughties indie group The Like and now a solo artist, co-wrote three tracks. It was surprisingly difficult to sell it, Berg admits, “because television has treated music so badly for so long… because it’s always garbled”. In this case, though, he and Mills were able to promise “not to interfere with the process…the songs wouldn’t be in circulation”.
Crucially, a TV show with music is an entirely different beast than a traditional musical. In the latter, songs may convey real feelings, but often feel more like a flight of fancy than a wireless song. For audiences to believe in The Six’s music, it must feel like the real result of the hot sessions we see on screen.
In other words, the circumstances of the writing have to seep into a fictional artist’s song in order for the track to resonate with listeners. So when three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Laurie McKenna was “traveling into a studio to write with Lady Gaga” for A star is bornAlong with fellow Nashville musicians Hillary Lindsey and Natalie Hemby, she had a different set of considerations than usual.
“As a songwriter, we think about the radio, we think about the audience and we think about the artist’s audience, what they want to hear from them,” she explains. But as she watched Gaga admire the famous way she “dives deeper into how to develop that character” as the days went by, McKenna knew she had to think about exactly where protagonist Ally had written “always remember us like this”.
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“She wants to write something that stands alone, sure, but that song has to be written like she’s sitting on her bedroom floor,” says McKenna. “At that point, she didn’t even know if anyone was going to listen to her music.” The finished product is a raw, elegiac ballad with “Nashville bones,” none of the production bells and whistles that characterize Ally’s voice later in the story. It feels emotionally honest precisely because it was made to seem as though Ally was just writing for herself, not for crowded yards.
“Always Remember Us That Way” feels remarkably personal, as its imagined writer may have spent years honing it. These fictional circumstances couldn’t be farther from the imagined production of ’90s pop rock comedy Meredith Scardino. Girls 5Eva. The show, which recently premiered on Netflix, tells the story of a one-hit girl group that peaked at the turn of the millennium, then fade from the public consciousness — until their biggest track is sampled by an up-and-coming rapper. Scardino and her writers’ room work on the lyrics, and then composer and executive producer Jeff Richmond sets them to music.
Dreaming up the band’s ’90s back catalog, Scardino was well aware that “a lot of these songs [would have been] Too quickly.” It’s safe to assume that Girls5Eva didn’t have a Max Martin-esque super producer on speed dial. “I felt like, ‘Well, it doesn’t have to be this great piece of art or music,’” she explains. “It might sound like an afternoon thing, because they were a B or C level type of act. They didn’t necessarily get the best of it.” [collaborators]. The results? Satirical but oddly believable tracks like “Dream Girlfriends” and “Jailbait,” which skew an uncomfortable sneer at this era — that female empowerment made a lot of men very wealthy. “There was this feeling of girl power, but it was designed A lot of it is done by a team of guys behind the scenes.”
Scardino has no musical background, but he got a quick apprenticeship writing pop parodies while working alongside Girls 5EvaExecutive Producer Tina Fey (Married to Richmond) on Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In one of the final episodes, she is assigned to write 10 songs for a “parody of those Now That’s What I Call Music! CD compilation”, called Now that sounds like music (Described in the show as having “music inspired by music you love but legally different from”).
A maker group like Girls5Eva was as much about selling a product as it was about creating a sound, and when she was first presenting the show, Scardino created a fake CD to give to TV heads. “I wanted to have a quick shortcut to give network execs an idea of what kind of group they were,” she recalls. She even invested in “shrink wrap” and “this hair dryer that melts plastic” to make it look shelf-ready (and to keep execs from opening it, “because I didn’t have music on it”). There was a tracklist on the back, featuring the names of the songs that eventually made it to the series, and even “discount stickers”. The song’s zany, often joke titles contrast with the more honest tracks the band has recorded today, which were written by Grammy winner Sara Bareilles (who plays Dawn on the series). “[They] Really grounds the show and makes you believe in this group as a viable group today.”
Girls5Eva’s autotune and synths are worlds away from The Six’s Seventies sound, which harkens back to a time when quirks and imperfections didn’t necessarily fade away in post-production. Instead, Berg explains, these “idiosyncrasies” have become an important part of the sonic landscape. “There are chords that you don’t hear in hit songs per se. But that’s exactly what made the songs so successful 50 years ago—the iconoclasm, the willingness to do something awful,” he says of creating Aurora.
To really get into the spirit of the decade, location was important. The album was set at the legendary Sound City studios in Los Angeles, which Mills and Berg jointly run. Not only have they been helpfully close to the likes of Bridgers and Mumford, who have recently recorded albums there — their actors and backing musicians have also been recording in rooms steeped in musical history, formerly frequented by the likes of Neil Young, Elton John, Tom Petty, and yes, Fleetwood Mac. “There’s an aura about it,” Berg says. “Blake and I have studios full of equipment that was made and bought in the ’70s. All the equipment that we recorded on, is actually quite faithful to the era.”
What we’re left with are a handful of songs that will stay on viewers’ minds long after the credits roll Daisy JonesThe final episode – which will easily fit into your ’70s Spotify playlist. Could a dedicated fan ask for more than that?
Daisy Jones & The Six on Amazon Prime Video starting March 3. “Girls5Eva” is streaming on Netflix