SHeDAISY – Passenger Seat
In life, it is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In pop music, imitation can also be the fastest road to the top of the charts. Chart success begets copycats and pretenders to the throne, and sometimes these carbon copies, however derivative, can create great hit singles. The Monkees, for example, were formed as a knock-off American version of the Beatles, but the musical results – particularly Last Train to Clarksville and I’m a Believer – are as classic and rank as high in the 1960s pop pantheon as I Want to Hold Your Hand and Ticket to Ride. Similarly, ‘N-Sync was created in a test-tube using DNA taken from the same primordial German pop swamp that birthed the Backstreet Boys, but no true pop fan will argue that Bye Bye Bye and I Want You Back are any less great than Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) or I Want it That Way. Whether by virtue of fortuitous timing, deliberate homage or outright mimicry, these copycat artists and groups have managed to survive and succeed in the pop shadows and sometimes outshine their pre-existing musical prototypes.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the biggest country group in the world was the Dixie Chicks. With harmony-driven songs such as Wide Open Spaces and Goodbye Earl, the semi-sister act ruled the US country and album charts from 1997 until 2002 (when lead singer Natalie Maines torpedoed the group’s career with her alleged anti-Bush comments during a London tour). Country radio programmers, besieged with fan requests for female group vocals like the Chicks, inevitably went searching for the next best thing. Entering at stage left? The beautiful and talented Osborn sisters from Magna, Utah – Kristyn, Kassidy, and Kelsi – more commonly known as SHeDAISY.
Named perhaps to avoid confusion with Ozzy and Sharon, or perhaps also taking a page from Sarah Jessica Parker’s character SanDeE from L.A. Story, (big s, big h, little e, and big daisy), SHeDAISY first burst onto the US country charts in 1999 with three top ten singles, Little Good-Byes, This Woman Needs and the alluring I Will…But from their debut album The Whole SHeBANG. These and other early singles, while not exact Dixie Chicks copies, were reasonably close facsimiles thereof, with poppy hooks and tightly woven group harmonies, and the group was considered by many to be a Chicks knock-off band. When the group’s second album, Knock on the Sky yielded diminishing returns, the group doubled down and retreated into the studio, emerging with its best album to date, Sweet Right Here. The album’s first single, Passenger Seat, is a country-pop masterpiece.
A perfectly constructed uptempo ode to the joys of boys and cars, Passenger Seat takes a page from the Dixie Chicks hits manual with its inventive lyrics and intricate and multi-layered harmonies. Yet the song adds urgent hints of both sexiness and wistfulness to these lyrics and harmonies that elevates it beyond a mere Chicks tribute tune. Just listen to the passion and power in the sisters’ voices throughout the song, particularly at around the 2:22 mark when they crescendo up to the lyric “can’t imagine any moment better than this…then we KISS.” At this point, the voices become one singular strand before moving into group harmony bliss and the final cry of “life’s so so sweet…in the passenger seat!” It sure is, baby.
Accompanied by an incredibly sexy video, where the sisters, dressed in fashionable caps and trendy togs, pick up male models posing as hitchhikers and bikers and take them to a roadside circus featuring dwarves and sword eaters (as one does), Passenger Seat returned the sisters to the upper reaches of the US country charts in 2004. This was followed by a string of equally excellent hits, including the superb and hilarious Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing and the sublime In Terms of Love. Sadly, none of these songs made a dent in the British charts and the group appears not to have released a new recording since 2010. This is too bad, because SHeDAISY provides proof positive that sometimes the knock-offs in pop can create hits that equal or surpass the original models.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? This is going to win me brownie points from my editor: Mutya Keisha & Siobhan could do a great copycat version of this (good luck making that happen – Ed.)