Friday, November 14, 2014

A-ha, "Take on Me" (1985)

Aug. 24, 1985, #1

Come spinning out of the heights of mid-'80s synth-pop (so-called), Norwegian popmeister trio A-ha scored their only U.S. #1 largely by dint of a soaring epic chorus that sits and climbs mountains right in front of your ears, propelled by an irresistible skippy beat. "Take on me," goes the first glorious line of it, reaching down into the bottom of a scale ("take on me," the backdrop singers agree). "Take me on," goes the second glorious line, ascending, nearly making sense now but not quite ("take on me," the backdrop singers try again, as if confused). "I'll be gone," goes the third glorious line, stretching it out, breaking free, escaping into the stratosphere of a falsetto at the top of a scale and the incoherence of a line that doesn't matter ("In a day or two"), doesn't matter because the song has done its work now, in a matter of some 70 seconds. What a hook—you can't get it out of your head. This little dinger never stops working for me, even 30 years later. Call it sentiment, maybe. I see in Wikipedia that it's much regarded for the video, a comic-book conceit (literally, comic book) romance of interpenetrating realities that is as cute and empty as any teen comedy of the era, complete with big hair and sultry pretty-boy smoldering. But I never knew it that way because I never paid attention to videos. This thing came arcing across the airwaves (at a time when I wasn't paying much attention to that either), cutting across all distractions the moment it surfaced. Beautiful, searing, undeniable, then and now. Pretty good video too, now that I see it.

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