a-ha is one of those bands who just can’t seem to quit. No, really, They started up in the early 80’s and went until 1994 when they went on hiatus for 4 years. They released an album in 2000 and kept on releasing albums until 2009, and then decided to split up after one last tour (named the Ending On A High Note tour) the following year. But then they reunited in 2015 for another album and 2 more years together.
Scandinavian bands tend to flare in popularity in the US hot and fast. Until I started listening to their other stuff, I had assumed a-ha was just another one hit wonder from the 80’s. Not so, they have released no less than 10 studio albums and have been widely popular pretty much everywhere else in the world. They are even in the Guinness Book for largest paying audience. 198,000 people showed up to listen to them in Rio.
a-ha’s best years are arguably the first decade, when new wave was all the rage. And that’s definitely what they are: new wave. Also a little alt-rock and synth-pop, but I digress.
How many of you know anything by a-ha other than “Take On Me”? To be fair, “Take On Me” is a fabulous song: fun, catchy, sing-able (even if that high note is nearly impossible for most guys), and it can really bring people together. Who doesn’t love that song?! Combined with an iconic music video, it’s a hit for the ages. Here’s a link to the video for it:
That will probably always be one of my favorite music videos of all time. However! We are not here to talk only about the music you already know, but also the music you don’t.
Three was so much more to listen to by a-ha than I anticipated, I had to spread it out over a week or so. Their sound changed a bit over the years, starting out your typical 80’s new wave with a few stand out tracks such as “Cry Wolf” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Crying In The Rain” though that last one reminded me a little of Talking Heads.
One of the defining traits of new wave bands in my opinion is a strong synth keyboard sound. That sound is very apparent in the songs I listed above, but some of a-ha’s later albums (and here I’m talking mostly about the album Cast In Steel) the synth became more understated and the track became more orchestral in it’s arrangement. I was honestly reminded of Keane a number of times throughout that album. To anyone who is a fan of Keane, you should check it out for sure. My favorite from that album is probably the title track.
There is a collection alum on Spotify titled Time and Again: The Ultimate a-ha that had quite a few good tracks on it. Firstly I would mention “Did Anyone Approach You” which was one of the songs that made me think of Keane. Secondly, there were some good remixes there, my favorite being “Summer Moved On.” It is kind of an epic song in the first place but the remix gave it a “2000’s cool” kind of vibe that really worked well.
Moral of the story here is that one hit wonders aren’t really just one hit wonders. I got on board the new wave train for this post and found some good tunes to add to my collection along the way.
‘Til next time!