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‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ and Our Vicarious Nostalgia

Sam Claflin as Billy Dunne and Riley Keough as Daisy Jones in Amazon Prime's "Daisy Jones and the Six."
Sam Claflin as Billy Dunne and Riley Keough as Daisy Jones in Amazon Prime's "Daisy Jones and the Six." By Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/Prime Video
By Isabelle A. Lu, Contributing Writer

It’s the 1970s: rock ’n roll, shaggy hair, big dreams. A star is not so much born as hurled into existence — an electrifying powder-keg, held together by passion and genius alone. It explodes, over before it really got going. This is the story of fictional band “Daisy Jones & The Six.”

“Daisy Jones & The Six,” Amazon’s adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bestselling novel, premiered on March 3. The eponymous band’s music — performed by the show’s actors singing and playing instruments as their characters — was released before the series itself, beginning with singles “Regret Me” and “Look at Us Now (Honeycomb)” and culminating in the album “AURORA” on March 2. Crafted with the help of ’70s music legend Jackson Browne himself and released by Atlantic Records, the pre-series release was the key to a marketing scheme devoted to making the band feel real.

For many lovers of music, the artists’ personal histories are an added source of interest and entertainment. After all, musicians’ love lives are fodder for tabloids. Inspired by the turbulent relationship of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, “Daisy Jones” is the epitome of this dream where the love lives translate directly to the lyrics. Consequently, its marketing spills fiction into reality, creating a fantasy where the band itself is real and the ’70s live again.

Adding to this perception, the Spotify page for “Daisy Jones & The Six” credits episode tracks under their fellow fictional musicians: “The Dunne Brothers,” “Wyatt Stone,” “The Winters,” and “Simone Jackson.” Atypical for soundtracks, this creates the sense that these people truly existed a while ago before fading away into the depths of Spotify.

And the internet is eager to discover them, with this renaissance of nostalgia thriving on Tiktok. There, Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 song “Dreams” went viral and returned its album “Rumours” to the U.S. Top 40 in 2020. ’90s and Y2K style is trending. Taylor Swift marketed her record-shattering album “Midnights” with videos in the same ’70s aesthetic as the “Daisy Jones” paraphernalia: orangey-browns, bold stripes, and grainy-photo quality galore. Upon its release, “AURORA” reached #1 on the U.S. iTunes chart.

“Daisy Jones & The Six” serves up the past to a generation that clearly craves it. Living in a present dominated by the monotony of screens, scrolling, and social media leaves us gasping to feel alive. We invest ourselves into media, art, and even people in order to feel more intensely, and into the past to find romantic simplicity. Enter the vintage formula of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll, so passionate it implodes: It reignites the senses and the heart alike. The visible remnants of ’70s pop culture glimmer with mystique and an impenetrable iconicity, rosily tinting our perceptions of the era. What’s more, “Daisy Jones” actress Riley Keough is the granddaughter of Elvis Presley himself, adding an aura of dynastic rock royalty.

The counterpart to drawing a romanticized past close is doing the same to people. Not only do we want to feel real, we want characters and celebrities to feel real. Parasocial relationships, in which fans act as if they personally know a media figure, are particularly visible in pop artists’ fanbases. “Daisy Jones” makes the characters our celebrities, blurring the lines between them and activating multiple levels of obsession.

On a topless Instagram post that evokes the book’s description of the “AURORA” album cover, Keough gets comments like “major daisy jones vibes” and “we love you daisy jones” followed by a slew of crying emojis. Like Daisy, Keough is the beautiful face of the brand. The commenters exhibit pleasure and even catharsis in seeing an actress resemble her character. Fiction is one step closer to reality: Daisy Jones lives.

This fiction-to-life transformation extends to cast dynamics. Actors display their camaraderie in press interviews, inviting the viewer to join in on the jokes and warm feelings. It’s comforting to feel like our emotional attachments are shared by those pretending onscreen. On some level, we hope, they’re not pretending.

With little music experience, the “Daisy Jones” ensemble underwent an intensive band camp that resulted in a real album and real bonds. Instead of casting seasoned musicians or adding digital tricks, the show landed on something perhaps more appealing to our desire for authenticity. The cast is like the band, risky and unpredictable and exciting.

We listen to “AURORA,” then want the story behind Daisy Jones & The Six’s break up. We admire the visuals, adopt the obsession, and become the audience for the nostalgic fantasy they’ve created. And the show’s marketing is prepared — Amazon has band merch already waiting for us.

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