Culture Wikia
This article is about the song. For the Degrassi: The Next Generation episode of the same name, see Degrassi: The Next Generation (season 3).

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"Take On Me"
File:A-ha take on me-1stcover.jpg
First release (1984)
Song by A-ha
from the album Hunting High and Low
  • "And You Tell Me"
  • "Stop! And Make Your Mind Up"
  • "Love Is Reason"
Released19 October 1984
  • 1984
  • 1985 (re-release)
  • New wave
  • synthpop
  • 3:18 (7" version)
  • 3:54 (long version)
  • 3:49 (single version)
  • 4:48 (extended version)
LabelWarner Bros.
  • Magne Furuholmen
  • Morten Harket
  • Pål Waaktaar
  • John Ratcliff
  • Alan Tarney
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Music video
Take On Me (Original Version) on YouTube
Take On Me on YouTube
Alternative cover
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"Take On Me" is a song by Norwegian synthpop band A-ha. Written by the band members, the original version was produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff. The second version of the song was produced by Alan Tarney for the group's debut studio album Hunting High and Low (1985). The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums.

The original "Take On Me" was recorded in 1984 and it took two versions and three releases to finally chart in the United Kingdom, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart in October 1985. In the United States in October 1985, the song became the only A-ha song to reach the top position of the Billboard Hot 100, due in no small part to the wide exposure on MTV of its innovative music video, directed by Steve Barron. The video features the band in a pencil-sketch animation method called rotoscoping, combined with live action. The video won six awards and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.


Pål Waaktaar and Magne Furuholmen began their music careers playing in a band called Bridges, together with Viggo Bondi and Øystein Jevanord.[1] In 1981, the band produced Fakkeltog (Torch-light parade), an LP for which all of the music was composed by the group themselves, most of it being written by Waaktaar. One of the tracks rehearsed at this time (although not included on the LP) was called "The Juicy Fruit Song". It included elements of the future "Take On Me", including an early version of the central riff.[2][3] Soon after, Bridges disbanded. Waaktaar and Furuholmen relocated to London to try their hand in the music industry there, but after six months of disappointment they returned to Norway.[1]

The duo then decided to try to get Morten Harket to join them as lead singer. At the time, Harket was singing in a band called Souldier Blue, but he felt that his band was stagnating, and decided to join Waaktaar and Furuholmen. They stayed together for six months, writing some songs and working on demo tapes, including "Lesson One", a new song based on "The Juicy Fruit Song" which would in turn evolve into "Take On Me". In January 1983, the trio returned to London in search of a recording contract.[1]

Recording and production[]

The band moved into an apartment in London and began calling on record companies and publishing houses. After a few meetings with various A&R personnel, the band signed with a publishing house called Lionheart. A-ha then returned to Norway to earn some money. When they returned to London, they left Lionheart out of frustration.[4] They decided to record new demos, and chose the studio of musician and producer John Ratcliff, intending to re-record five songs. The band signed with Ratcliff, who in return introduced them to his manager, Terry Slater. With this encouragement, the band managed to complete some songs, including "Take On Me". After a few meetings, Slater signed them with Warner Bros. Records.[4]

The band met with producer Tony Mansfield, an expert in the use of the Fairlight CMI, who mixed the demos with electronic instrumentation. The sound was not what A-ha had hoped to achieve, and the album was remixed again. The band rushed to release "Take On Me" as a single in the United Kingdom but the single only charted at 137, the lowest-charted of all A-ha songs. After this, Warner Brothers' main office in the United States decided to invest in the band, and gave them the opportunity to re-record the song.[4] Terry Slater convinced Alan Tarney to produce the new version. The song was soon completed and re-released in the United Kingdom, but the record label's office in London gave them little support, and the single flopped for the second time.[4]

In the United States, Warner Bros. put the group on high priority, and made the move to invest significant money in a revolutionary video for "Take On Me" using the audio version produced by Tarney. The single was released in the United States a month after the music video, and immediately appeared in the Billboard Hot 100.[4]

Magne played the main melody on a Roland Juno-60 "MIDI'd up" to a Yamaha DX7. The drum machine used on the second and third releases (rotoscoped video version) was a Linn LinnDrum – Paul overdubbed real cymbals and hi-hat using this drum machine. Morten sang "Take On Me" using a Neumann U47 microphone as well as a Neve microphone pre-amp and Neve equaliser.[5]

Allmusic journalist Tim DiGravina described "Take On Me" as being "a new wave classic laced with rushing keyboards, made emotionally resonant thanks to Morten Harket's touching vocal delicacy."[6]


"Take On Me" is a synthpop song that includes acoustic guitars and keyboards.[7][8] It moves at a very quick tempo of 169 beats per minute.[9] The lyrics are a plea for love,[10] and are constructed in a verse-chorus form with a bridge before the third and final chorus. With the chord progression of Bm7-E-A-D--C#m7, the song is written in the key of A major. Harket demonstrates a vocal range of over two and a half octaves.[9] He sings the lowest pitch in the song, A2 (the tonic), at the beginning of the chorus, on the first syllable of the phrase "Take On me".[9]

As the chorus progresses, Harket's voice hits even higher notes, reaching a falsetto[7][11][12] and hitting the song's highest note (E5, the dominant note) at the end.[9] There is a temporary change of markings in the drum pattern in the chorus, where for two bars the drums play in half time, returning to the same rhythm as before for the climax of the vocal line. A mix of a drum machine, the LinnDrum,[13][14] acoustic guitars and electronic instrumentation serves as the song's backing track.[7]

Music videos[]

File:TakeonMe video.png

Lead singer Morten Harket and actress Bunty Bailey in a scene from the music video, which features them in a pencil-sketch animation / live-action combination called rotoscoping.

The first release of "Take On Me" in 1984 includes a completely different recording, and was featured in the first video, which shows the band singing with a blue background.

The second video, directed by Irish-born British film director Steve Barron, is the most recognized video for the song. It was filmed in 1985 at Kim's Café (now called "Savoy" cafe) and on a sound stage in London.[15] The video used a pencil-sketch animation / live-action combination called rotoscoping,[16] in which the live-action footage is traced over frame by frame to give the characters realistic movements.[16][17] Approximately 3,000 frames were rotoscoped, which took 16 weeks to complete.[18][19]

The video's main theme is a romantic fantasy narrative.[20] It begins with a montage of pencil drawings in a comic-book style representing motorcycle sidecar racing, in which the hero, played by Morten Harket, is pursued by two opponents, one of whom is played by English actor Philip Jackson. It then cuts to a scene in a cafe, in which a young woman, played by Bunty Bailey (Harket's girlfriend at the time),[15] is seen drinking coffee and reading the comic book in a coffee shop. As the girl reads, the waitress brings her the bill. The comic's hero, after winning the race, seemingly winks at the girl from the page. His pencil-drawn hand reaches out of the comic book, inviting the girl into it. Once inside, she too appears in the pencil-drawn form, as he sings to her and introduces her to his black-and-white world which features a sort of looking-glass portal where people and objects look real on one side and pencil-drawn on the other.

Meanwhile, back in the restaurant, the waitress returns to find the girl missing. Believing that the girl has left without paying the bill, she angrily crumples and throws the girl's comic book into a bin. This makes the hero's two opposing racers reappear, armed with a large pipe wrench and apparently aggressive. The racers smash the looking glass with the pipe wrench, evidently trapping the girl in the comic book. The hero punches one of the thugs and retreats with the girl into a maze of paper. Arriving at a dead end, he tears a hole in the paper wall so that the girl can escape as the menacing opposing racers close in on him. The girl, now back in the real world and found lying beside the bin to the surprise of restaurant guests and staff, retrieves the comic from the bin and runs home, where she attempts to smooth out the creases to learn what happens next.

The next panel shows the hero lying seemingly lifeless, and the girl begins to cry. But he wakes up and tries to break out of his comic-book frames. At the same time, his image appears in the girl's hallway, seemingly torn between real and comic form, hurling himself repeatedly left-and-right against the walls as he attempts to shatter his two-dimensional barrier. (This scene is largely patterned after a climactic scene in the 1980 film Altered States[15]). He escapes from the comic book by becoming human and stands up. Smiling, the girl runs towards him and he embraces her. The video story is effectively concluded in the intro sequence of its successor, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.".

At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for "Take On Me" won six awards—Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Direction in a Video, Best Special Effects in a Video, and Viewer's Choice—and was nominated for two others, Best Group Video and Video of the Year.[21] It was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards in 1986.[22]

The second music video was produced by Limelight Productions.[18] The crew of the video were director Steve Barron,[18] producer Simon Fields,[18] cinematographer Oliver Stapleton,[23] editor Richard Simpson from Rushes Film Editing,[24] and animators Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger.[24]

Chart performance[]

"Take On Me" was originally released in 1984, and was mixed by Tony Mansfield, but failed to make an impact in the United Kingdom.[4] This release peaked at number three in Norway[25] but failed to reach audiences abroad.[4][26][27] The group re-recorded the song with the help of producer Alan Tarney,[4][15] releasing the new version in 1985.

In the United States, Warner Bros. invested in the revolutionary second video for "Take On Me," which used Tarney's version of the song. The new video was released to dance clubs and television a month before the record was available in stores or played on the radio.[28] Wide exposure on MTV[26] made the song quickly soar to the top position of the Billboard Hot 100 on 19 October 1985.[29] It remained on the chart for twenty-three weeks, and ended up at the tenth position of the 1985 year-end chart.[30] As of June 2014, the song has sold 1,463,000 digital copies in the US after it became available for download in the digital era.[31]

"Take On Me" was released for the third time in the United Kingdom in September 1985.[26] The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number fifty-five, peaked at number two for three consecutive weeks, held off the top spot by Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love", and received a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[32]

In Norway, A-ha's native country, "Take On Me" reentered the VG-lista singles chart, reaching a new peak of number one, a year after it was first released.[33] The single was largely successful elsewhere, reaching the top of the Eurochart Hot 100 for nine weeks, topping the singles charts in 36 countries,[34] including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland,[35][36][37][38][39] and reaching the top three in France and number two in Ireland.[40][41] The success of "Take On Me" lies also in its sales, as the single would go on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide,[42][43] making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Formats and track listings[]

7": Warner Bros. / W 9146 United Kingdom (1984)

  1. "Take On Me" (Original version) – 3:18
  2. "And You Tell Me" – 1:48
  • Track 1 is produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff with A-ha.

12": Warner Bros. / W 9146T United Kingdom (1984)

  1. "Take On Me" (Long version) –  3:46
  2. "And You Tell Me" – 1:48
  3. "Stop! And Make Your Mind Up" – 2:57
  • Track 1 is produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff.

7": Warner Bros. / W 9006 United Kingdom (1985)

  1. "Take On Me" (Single version) – 3:49
  2. "Love Is Reason" – 3:04
  • Track 1 is produced by Alan Tarney.
  • Track 1 is the same version as the album version.

12": Warner Bros. / W 9006T United Kingdom (1985)

  1. "Take On Me" (Extended version) – 4:50
  2. "Love Is Reason" (LP version) – 3:04
  3. "Take On Me" (Single version) – 3:49
  • Track 1 & 3 is produced by Alan Tarney.
  • Track 3 is the same version as the album version.

7": Warner Bros. / 7-29011 United States (1985)

  1. "Take On Me" – 3:46
  2. "Love Is Reason" – 3:04
  • Track 1 is produced by Alan Tarney.
  • Track 2 is produced by John Ratcliff with A-ha.

12": Warner Bros. / PRO-A-2291 (Promo) United States (1985)

  1. "Take On Me" (Long version) –  4:47 (a.k.a. "Extended Version")
  2. "Take On Me" (Single version) – 3:46
  • Track 1 & 2 is produced by Alan Tarney.

Credits and personnel[]

  • Morten Harket – lead vocals
  • Magne Furuholmen – synthesizers, keyboard bass, backing vocals
  • Pål Waaktaar – guitars, drum programming, vocals
  • Neill King – engineering
  • Alan Tarney – production
  • John Ratcliff – production and re-mixing
  • Barry Grint – mastering

Charts and certifications[]

Reel Big Fish version[]

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"Take On Me"
File:Take On Me Reel Big Fish.jpg
Song by Reel Big Fish
from the album BASEketball (soundtrack)
GenreSka punk
  • Magne Furuholmen
  • Morten Harket
  • Pål Waaktaar

In 1998, ska punk band Reel Big Fish covered "Take On Me" for the film BASEketball. The song was later released on the BASEketball soundtrack and the international version of their album Why Do They Rock So Hard?.[80][81] The band also performed the song at concerts.[82] Reel Big Fish released a video clip for "Take On Me", directed by Jeff Moore,[83] and features the band playing the song while walking down an aisle in the stadium, and playing a game of BASEketball interlaced with clips from the film. An alternative video for the song's international release that contained only the stadium aisle footage was also released. Reel Big Fish also included a live version of the song in their live album Our Live Album Is Better than Your Live Album and live DVD's You're All in This Together and Reel Big Fish Live! In Concert!.[84]

This song was released on Billboard and Sirius in 1999–2000.

Track listing[]

  • CD single
  1. "Take On Me" – 3:02
  2. "Alternative Baby" – 2:56
  3. "Why Do All the Girls Think They're Fat?" – 2:22


  • Aaron Barrettcelesta, guitar, lead vocals, synthesizer
  • Grant Barrytrombone
  • Andrew Gonzales – drums
  • Scott Klopfenstein – celesta, keyboards, trumpet, vocals
  • Dan Regan – screams, trombone
  • Tavis Wertsflügelhorn, trumpet
  • Matt Wong – bass guitar, vocals

A1 version[]

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"Take On Me"
File:Take on Me a1.jpg
Song by A1
from the album The A List
B-side"I Got Sunshine"
Released14 August 2000
  • Epic
  • BMG
  • Magne Furuholmen
  • Morten Harket
  • Pål Waaktaar

In August 2000, British-Norwegian boy band A1 released a cover of "Take On Me" for their second studio album The A List.[85] Despite being panned by music critics, who called it a "lame cover version",[86] and a "note for note copy" that seems like "a re-release of the original";[87] it was commercially successful, topping the charts in the United Kingdom and Norway,[88][89]

Music video[]

The music video was directed by Stuart Gosling. It features A1 entering the computer world by putting on virtual reality glasses after finding out about a deadly computer virus. After flying for a distance, they find the virus and destroy it, saving the world.[90] The video was inspired by the 1982 science fiction film Tron.[91]

Formats and track listings[]

  • CD, Maxi-single, Enhanced, CD1
  1. "Take on Me" – 3:31
  2. "Beatles Medley (I Feel Fine / She Loves You)" – 3:20
  3. "I Got Sunshine" – 3:41
  • CD, Maxi-single, Enhanced, Limited Edition, CD2
  1. "Take on Me" (UK 2K Mix) – 3:25
  2. "Take on Me" (Metro Extended Club Mix) – 6:02
  3. "Take on Me" (D-Bop Saturday Night Mix) – 7:52


Chart (2000–01) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[92] 46
Denmark (Tracklisten)[93] 2
Germany (Official German Charts)[94] 61
Ireland (IRMA)[41] 12
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[95] 47
Norway (VG-lista)[96] 1
Scotland (OCC)[97] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[98] 9
UK Singles (OCC)[99] 1

Year-end charts[]

Chart (2000) Peak
Norwegian Singles Chart (Høst Period)[100] 4


Country Certifications Sales/shipments
Norway (IFPI) Gold[101] 5,000
United Kingdom (BPI) Silver[32] 200,000

Kygo remix[]

On August 27, 2015 Norwegian DJ Kygo released a remixed version via iTunes. His version drops the iconic keyboard riffs and features a new one.[102] The style of his version is described as "tropical house".[103]

Sampling songs[]

The melody of "Take On Me" was sampled on American rapper Pitbull's song "Feel This Moment" featuring American singer Christina Aguilera from 2013." The members of A-ha who wrote the song, received writing credits for "Feel This Moment".[104]


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<templatestyles src="Refbegin/styles.css" />

  • Fiske, John (1994). Reading the Popular. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07875-X.
  • Keating, Jody; Pizer, Tom (2002). Inside Flash. New Riders. ISBN 0-7357-1105-4.

External links[]

A-ha Version
Preceded by
"Oh Sheila" by Ready for the World
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
19 October 1985
Succeeded by
"Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston
Preceded by
"Cheerio" by The Monroes
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
23 October 1985 – 6 November 1985
Succeeded by
"Cheri Cheri Lady" by Modern Talking
Preceded by
"Cheri Cheri Lady" by Modern Talking
German Singles Chart number-one single
8 November 1985 – 6 December 1985
Succeeded by
"Nikita" by Elton John
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
10 November 1985 – 1 December 1985
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single
23 November 1985 – 18 January 1986
Preceded by
"(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" by Sandra
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
30 November 1985
Preceded by
"I Got You Babe" by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
11 November 1985 – 18 November 1985
Succeeded by
"The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush
A1 Version
Preceded by
"Music" by Madonna
UK Singles Chart number-one single
3 September 2000 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" by Modjo
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
5 October 2000 – 19 October 2000 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Beautiful Day" by U2

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