I remember the first time I saw the video for a-ha’s Take On Me. That’s right, like other children of the 80s, my first exposure to the Norwegian pop band was through video. And the video is awesome.
The premise: A young woman is sitting alone in a 50s-style diner reading a graphic novel (read “comic book”) when the hero in the book winks at her and invites her into his comic book world. They fall in love and must overcome the tossing of the comic book into a garbage bin (by an unsuspecting waitress) and the attacks from wrench-wielding race car drivers. In the end, the couple ends up together in reality land.
My film maker friend Chris, whose opinion I trust very much, put it into perspective for me: Under-rated song. Charming video. Best music video ever.
Okay. So here is the criteria for why Take On Me should be covered by bluegrass.
- Billboard Top 100, peaked at #1 in 1985.
- It even made the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at #4 in 1985. That gives Take On Me the unique honor of “The song being simultaneously enjoyed by angsty teenagers as well as by the parents they are rebelling against.”
- The cover (below) is recorded by the Pickin’ On Series, a compelling collection of bluegrass bands under the umbrella company CMH Records, a Los Angeles based independent country and bluegrass label. This is as high quality as you get for bluegrass covers.
- Norwegian pop is a strong contrast for bluegrass.
- The cover works (See Below). I love the vocalist’s voice. He can cover the range of a-ha lead singer Morten Harket and also maintains a folksy, rural quality that is necessarily inherent to good bluegrass. As always, the musicians are supurb.
I maintain that there are only a few songs that get better by going bluegrass. This is one that comes close, although my nostalgia for a-ha prevents me from crossing that line in my mind.