The Best Music Job in TV - Music Supervisor for Deutschland 83? Ya Vull!
I don’t know about you, but TV plays a big role in January. Holidays are over; it’s cold; the days are short; and the next Bank holiday is not for months. So snuggling up with my girlfriend and getting hooked on a TV series or two becomes a highlight of our working weeks.
January has been a decent month for such discoveries, including "Jessica Jones" on Netflix and Channel4’s "Deutschland 83". I recall the trailers, which featured Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes”. Not since that song was used in Channel 4’s NFL results summary section in the mid 80s (see clip following this blog if you want some nostalgia), has that song been placed so effectively. I was hooked on the show before it ever got aired.
Deutschland 83, produced by RTL/Freemantle has gone down well here in the U.K. I’m on Episode 3, yet I’ve already lost count on the number of 80s hits used so far. Nena’s 99 “Red Balloons”, New Order’s “Blue Monday”, Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams”, and The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry”, to name just a few.
Somehow, whilst the history of the cold war is so complex, there is a certain unashamed naivety in the show’s narrative, best illustrated by the portrayal of the leading protagonist, Martin/Moritz, and the show’s soundtrack. Whoever chose the music must have had an absolute ball. I can’t recall a TV show that has featured so many seminal songs in one go. As film directors and TV producers challenge us, music supervisors, with uncovering unheralded gems, Deutschland 83 has gone the opposite direction. What a joy it must have been to work on this show, picking hit after hit, regardless of how familiar they may be or how 'on the nose' they end up being. From the opening titles, you just get a sense, that's the leading role music is going to play throughout.
In the interest of a balanced opinion, and for those who’ve watched episode 2, I didn’t quite get how David Bowie’s “Modern Love” worked in the closing scene. We see Martin in the hotel lobby, and, as he briefly chats to a lady, we hear hotel lobby music in the background. The chemistry and tension are palpable yet, all of sudden, as the conversation ends, “Modern Love” kicks in for 30 seconds. Whilst the choice of music is consistent with the style of the show, it’s strange to hear the song end so abruptly, to allow for the score to the closing credits. Had we continued to hear hotel lobby music bleeding into the credits, that sense of unresolved tension would have been spot on. Alternatively, if we had to have “Modern Love”, then wouldn’t it have been better served flowing into the credits? If there were licensing rights or budget constraints, I can’t help think the scene would have been better served with an unexpected subtle ending.
Still that’s just me nit-picking and that’s also why the work of a music supervisor is so important and complex. Scenes become etched into our memories for better or worse and there’s no right or wrong necessarily. One thing’s for sure though, if you love early 80s music and spy thrillers, you might well enjoy Deutschland 83.
For those of you who love the 80s and American Football, check out C4's results segment presented by Nicky Horn featuring Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes". They don't make shows or music like that anymore :(