I’m of the opinion that there are two different types of 80s music – early 80s and late 80s. The music of the early 80s consists primarily of the new wave stuff that I was vaguely aware of when I was growing up, but the music of the late 80s is the soundtrack of my high school years. Usually they don’t overlap much for me, but a-ha’s “Take On Me” – chosen by my high school friend Ingrid (who also chose last year’s “Groove Is In The Heart”) – is a notable exception.
Released in 1985, it was kinda new wave, but not really. Even though I hadn’t truly started following the charts at the time of its release, I knew it and liked it. How could you have grown up in the 80s and not have “Take On Me” influence you, either for better or for worse? It was everywhere. I’m sure that the fact that the video was truly groundbreaking at the time, and MTV was really starting to come into its own didn’t hurt either. So many songs of this era are inextricably linked with the visuals that their accompanying music videos provided, but few as much as “Take On Me.” What sealed it for me, even then, was the falsetto in the chorus. I’m a huge sucker for falsetto – maybe not as much as I am for spelling in songs – but I still really love it. Part of the reason I love falsetto is because it’s fun to sing in falsetto. Heidi and Anna always say they can tell that I’m feeling good when I’m walking around the house singing in falsetto – it’s true.
“Take On Me” is remembered as a-ha’s only American hit, but they did go on to have quite a long career in Europe and in their native country of Norway. They had their ups and downs over the years, but a-ha is definitely more than just “Take On Me.” Personally, I really liked the follow-up single “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” probably partially for the hipster factor – is it possible to be a pop music hipster? – but primarily because it’s a damn good song. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that I was introduced to some of their later work, and it was from that time period that I found what is perhaps my favorite a-ha song “Slender Frame.”
a-ha called it quits in 2009, with the appropriately titled Ending On A High Note Tour. They remain, to this day, the biggest band that Norway has ever produced. I have no idea what the second biggest band that Norway produced is.
But regardless, let’s watch the video for “Take On Me” and remember a time when MTV played music videos. I know it’s cliched to say so, but I really miss those days.