A-ha’s “Take on Me”

Melody, Vocal Compulsion, and Rotoscoping

Authored by: Stan Hawkins , Jon Mikkel Broch Ålvik

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138683112
eBook ISBN: 9781315544700
Adobe ISBN:


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1985 was a very special year in pop history, as much from a Norwegian as a British perspective. The Second British Invasion had commenced. Despite Madonna and Bruce Springsteen rising to stardom and Whitney Houston clinching her first number one single, with “Saving All My Love for You”—oh yes, and Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie pulling together the biggest names in pop music to record “We Are the World” for starving families in Ethiopia—Madonna was the only North American in the US Top Ten; non-Americans scored eight consecutive chart toppers, seven of which were British, the eighth Norwegian. A-ha marked this crucial point in Norwegian popular music history with the release of their song, “Take on Me.” This came out in the same year as the duo, Bobbysocks, won Norway’s first victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. A-ha symbolized an international turn for Norway in 1985. After the local success of a range of Norwegian-language artists at the start of the decade (e.g., Jannicke, The Kids, Beranek, Lars Kilevold), Norway’s popular music scene was predicated upon collaborations with the UK music business. A-ha’s move to London in search of success which they eventually achieved is emblematic of a set of unspoken rules that served to discipline Norwegian artists. 1 Today “Take on Me” is still loved by fans and audiences all over the world, which is borne out by a wealth of readily available covers, remixes and re-arrangements.

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