It’s 1995. My U-16 soccer team, the Lafreniere Hurricanes, had just lost our second consecutive tournament final. Spirits were low and changes needed to be made. The team was solid, but we needed something to get us over the hump. And I found it. I don’t remember exactly why but I took out my Yellow Walkman, hooked it up to a portable speaker and started blasting, arguably, the greatest pop track of the 80’s, “Take On Me” before every game. Soon the whole team would gather in a ritualistic belting of the song and we started winning just about every tournament from then on. It was one hell of a run fueled by Norwegian synth pop.
5 years later, in Napster mania, I downloaded this full album to my computer because I wanted to make sure I had “Take On Me” in case it was needed to champion another run in some area of my life, perhaps it was intramural fraternity indoor soccer (which we dominated) or maybe it was just a Power Hour. It was then that I gave “The Sun Always Shines on TV” a go and realized there was a little bit more to A-Ha than just “Take On Me.” Hunting High and Low is certainly more than just a one-hit wonder. The album is packed with catchy synthpop tunes that are sure to get stuck in your head.
The lead singer of A-ha, Morten Harket, is known for his distinctive vocals and powerful range. His voice is a key part of the band’s sound, and it’s one of the reasons that their music has such a timeless quality. He’s able to hit high notes with ease, which gives many of A-ha’s songs a sense of drama and excitement. At the same time, he’s also able to convey a sense of intimacy and tenderness in his lower register, which adds depth and complexity to the music.
Through Harket, the album conjures up emotions of Joy (“The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” “Love Is Reason”) and Optimism (“Take On Me”) but also Longing (“Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale” “Hunting High And Low”) and Despair (“Train Of Thought” “The Blue Sky”). The album is true to the human experience which makes it so relatable and popular, at least for me.
But of course, NO discussion of Hunting High and Low would be complete without mentioning the album’s iconic music videos. The video for “Take On Me” is a masterpiece, with its groundbreaking use of rotoscoping animation to create a unique, magical visual experience. Check it out! I still get goosebumps.
Winning tourneys was great but the friendships and the singing of that song before every game…that’s what makes life special. Sometimes we need a nudge to change our defaults that may be holding us back. I doubt a Norwegian Synthpop superstition can always be the answer, but it’s worth a try!
Favorite Tracks: “Take On Me” “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” “Train of Thought”
Pressing: Warner Brothers. 925 300-1. European Original Pressing. 1985