By Peter Elsnab, journalist and Jesper Nykjær Knudsen, music editor og journalist, 2006
‘Kys det nu (det satans liv)’ (Kiss it now (Satan’s life)) a track from TV’2’s epoch-making seventh album. It’s a lyric that says a lot about the four Aarhus artists’ music: they are quartet who can manage to unite fans across the generations like few others. Steffen Brandt’s descriptions of life and society through the lens of his own personal impressions are at once timeless and time-specific, and they are expressed in words that we can all understand: ‘I know I’m probably missing something/and think if I don’t get it all now’ sings the new father (in Danish) standing behind his child’s pram in the song ‘Det mørke Jylland’. Are other people’s lives always more exciting than one’s own? Do we sometimes look so far ahead for happiness that we miss it standing right before our eyes?
This is the theme in Steffen Brandt’s lyrics in the album Nærmest Lykkelig, where TV-2’s other records hit the Danish everyday life bang on the head. The down-to-earth, incisive lyric writing still resonates in many younger Danish songwriters, from Tue West to Juncker. But where can we find the same mixture of sensitivity, disarming self-irony and discussion-forming social criticism? Steffen Brandt gives us Danes something to think about – even though it may not always be pleasant. However, in the interim, we can all join in and holler along to one catchy melody after the other.
The soulless eighties
With Nærmest Lykkelig, TV-2 said goodbye to what many considered to be the soulless eighties. The Aarhus scene, which had long dominated Danish pop and rock, started to get competition from an emerging music scene that in the 90s spread in all directions away from pop and rock’s centrist stance. Danish musicians found inspiration in the emergence of grunge, creativity in the electronic scene, dance, Britpop and the commercial entry of rap into Europe. However, TV-2 is still TV-2, and just as popular. Perhaps because they, with a simple note, a glint in the eye and concise, precise lyrics such as in ‘Det Satans Liv’ or ‘Nærmest Lykkelig’, can portray life so precisely?
Did you know?
After TV-2 released their debut album, they released a 1982 album under the cover name The Beautifuls which they called ‘Om sommeren er alting anderledes’. The album was a reaction to the indignation that the debut album Fantastiske Toyota had caused.
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Music, 2006
The Danish-language pop and rock music of the 1980s could be of varying quality; however, TV-2, after a faltering start, quickly moved towards the better end of the spectrum. Overall, the group produced quintessential intelligent 80s pop with mechanical beats, catchy melodies and Steffen Brandt’s colloquial lyrics which put an ironic slant on what he called the real and internal lives of Danes, for good or ill. With Nærmest Lykkelig (1988), the group said a spiritual farewell to the 80s with an album in which it could be sensed that the otherwise well-oiled TV-2 machine had succumbed to the errant spanners of desperation and depression. Perhaps for that reason, the group reach an artistic climax here, where almost everything rose up to a greater whole.
Certainly, it was not so devil-may-care and charming as the predecessors Beat and Nutidens Unge; it was, however, driven, self-confident and extremely competent in terms of song-writing as well as performance, arrangement and production. Lyrically, irony was still ever-present, but there was now a growing element of pensiveness and wonder at the meaning of life visible in the division between presence and absence, between happiness and indifference. Just like the album cover: Steffen Brandt, dressed in black, standing in a Danish cornfield holding his young son’s hand. His son looks curiously on the photographer; however, Brandt stands with his back to the photographer with his other hand on his face, hopelessly reflecting upon life at the very moment when he should have been living it. Not without reason was one of the songs called ‘Kys det nu (det Satan’s liv)’ – in English, ‘Kiss it now (Satan’s life)’. The English translation of the album title is ‘Close To happiness’ – and you will never get closer than this.