Daisy Jones & The Six’s “Let Me Down Easy” and my love for Z Berg
March 21, 2023
Mar. 2, 2023. My 19th birthday. I’m scrolling through Instagram, and I see the most life-changing post of all time: Z Berg, the quintessential musician of my high school years, announces that an album she worked on is number one on iTunes.
This album is “Aurora” by Daisy Jones & The Six. Daisy Jones & The Six are a fictional band from the novel of the same name by Taylor Jenkins-Reid. The book was adapted into a TV series, which released Mar. 3, one day after the album was released. According to the song credits on Spotify and Berg’s Instagram post, the album was written and produced by Blake Mills, with most songs featuring additional songwriters.
Z Berg has been making music since she was 15. According to AllMusic, her first band, The Like, consisted of three daughters of big music industry names. They were signed to Geffen Records, the label for which Berg’s father, Tony Berg, is a producer and A&R representative. Z Berg was the vocalist and guitarist. After two albums, The Like split.
According to AllMusic, Berg focused her energy on JJAMZ, a supergroup side project consisting of members of many popular alternative acts from California. The group eventually changed its name to Phases after James Valentine of Maroon 5 left the group. The band released one album as JJAMZ and an EP and album as Phases, then broke up according to AllMusic.
Berg hosted a show called “Z Berg and Friends Prom” which featured her and her local LA contemporaries’ music performed in an prom-themed event. Z Berg & Friends became a regular thing in which Berg gathered a changing group of musicians she worked with in a show where they performed each others’ songs together. In 2019, she and a few regulars at Z Berg & Friends shows toured the Southwest as The Dead End Kids Club according to Concert Archives. Most of the songs she performed at these shows were unreleased, and some had existed since the earliest days of her career. As she cultivated her solo career, she began to put the studio recordings out into the world. Her debut album, “Get Z To A Nunnery,” came out on July 10, 2020 according to Spotify.
Two songs on “Aurora” feature Berg’s writing: “Let Me Down Easy” and “The River.” I’d never heard “The River” before its release on “Aurora,” but “Let Me Down Easy” was a favorite of mine. My personal favorite performance of it featured Berg’s smooth vocals swaying through the wave pool of instrumentals that her band creates while she wears a bedazzled blood-soaked gown. She takes lead vocals and usually includes a male back-up vocalist. The song features a violin, guitar, electric bass and piano in various different performances.
Berg and Mills reworked the song for Daisy Jones & The Six according to Erica Gonzales, a writer for Elle magazine. Daisy Jones & The Six’s rendition ditches the mellow majesty of Berg’s performance for a time capsule of 70s rock that fits perfectly with what you’d expect from the soundtrack for a show about a 70s rock band. It picks up the tempo, trades violins and pianos for more prominent guitars, and gives the male vocalist a larger role in the song.
For me, Daisy Jones & The Six’s “Let Me Down Easy” is more than just a time capsule of 70s rock. It’s a time capsule of when I first discovered that song on SierraG’s YouTube channel back in high school, then listened to it on repeat so much that I could pinpoint what the audience cheered when. It reminds me of showing her music to my best friend, then to my parents, and being so certain that she was the greatest currently-active musician. It reminds me of listening to every musician even loosely connected to her, of matching every song in her career to my fluctuating teenage moods. It reminds me of making plans as a freshman to ditch my own senior prom in place for her prom-themed show, then ending up going to my high school’s prom three years later because I’d ended up making incredible friends with whom I wanted to see out that chapter of my life. It reminds me of carefully decorating my face with eyeliner, wearing my old homecoming dress, just to tune into her formal-themed Instagram livestream show during the pandemic, of sitting alone in my bedroom wearing red velvet and heels hoping to death that I’d be the lucky fan she’d randomly choose to duet her livestreams. It reminds me of learning The Like’s songs on my bass guitar and how to this day, when I find myself noodling around in a Katzen practice room, my fingers autopilot to my favorite riff from “(So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting.” It reminds me of seeing an empowered, beautiful woman dressing in blood to perform to an enthusiastic crowd and feeling a little more grounded in my fascination with both music and the macabre.
Hearing the updated version of the song after years of maturity makes me feel like the song has grown up with me. It might have traded violins and pianos for extra guitars and a small LA venue for the small screen on Amazon Prime Video, but it’s still, at its core, a Z Berg song, fit with cutting lyrics and a melody that you can’t quite shake. I feel proud to see her reposting the song’s success to her Instagram story because the happiness she gave me never faded, even though my obsession did. Though I stopped listening to “Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?” on repeat, I still noticed my connection to confident female musicians, my love for all things dark and pretentious and the little mannerisms that I’d picked up from her over the years. I still noticed how through and through, I was a Z Berg fan.
I used to be so obsessed with Z Berg that it felt like she was one of my best friends. I never met her, so, despite the time spent on her Instagram live streams, she doesn’t know who I am, and unfortunately we are not friends. What she did do for me, though, was give me confidence. She is dignified in her talent, and she harnesses her spooky interests that society usually suppresses in women to make her music all the more captivating. As a shy woman, it was beyond inspiring to see someone as talented as her perform authentic, emotional music and feel no shame in saying that it was really, really good. Because it is good, and she deserves to say it is. Now that she’s having her moment in the sun with “Let Me Down Easy,” I hope that her music takes off in a way it never has before. Weird little Kate needed to see someone as real as her dress up as a corpse and pour her heart out over a melancholic piano so that I could feel a little less strange myself.