a-ha: Hunt as High or Low as You Want. You Still Have to Confront It

Hunting High and Low is the album that made a-ha famous. "Take on Me" is the song that turned them into radio and video darlings almost overnight. If you are a fan of a-ha, you have to at some point and in some way deal with the fact that for most people "Take on Me" is all there is to a-ha (in the same way that "Whip It" is all there is to Devo and "500 Miles" is all there is to The Proclaimers). I have seen a-ha land on every single "Top 100 One-Hit Wonders" show in the universe because nobody knows they did anything consequential after Hunting High and Low.

In my case, I was introduced to a-ha through East of the Sun West of the Moon, so it wasn't until a year or so later when I was listening to Hunting High and Low for the first time that I became aware of the fact that many people don't know them for anything but "Take on Me." My reaction has been and remains something along the lines of, "Oh well...their loss." I know others who shun "Take on Me" and Hunting High and Low entirely, just because they get sick of talking about it with mouth-breathing know-nothings (It's true. People with anti-Catholic political affiliations tend to know very little about Norwegian pop bands of the 1980s. You can take that one to the bank). I know even more others (when I say "others" I'm actually talking about people in the way a 10th grader writing a big paper might) who embrace "Take on Me" and feel lucky to have something to share with a potentially limitless number of people.

Do with it as you may, but "Take on Me" is a fantastic song and Hunting High and Low is as good an 80s synthpop album as there has ever been. Know it, feel it, deal with it. Aside from the aforementioned best-known song from the album, there are several other noteworthy tunes. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" has always been one of my favorite a-ha songs. It has all the trademarks of a classic 80s song: upbeat tempo, beautiful sunshiney melody, and depressing lyrics. Something about the 80s brought out this awesome juxtaposition of happy melodies with depressing lyrics or depressing melodies with happy lyrics (see also: New Order, Duran Duran). "The Sun Always Shines on TV" can make you just as if not more emotionally confused than just about any other 1980s hit.

If you take Hunting High and Low as a whole, it can be stacked up against any other album by any other synthpop group in existence be it Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics or whoever else you might think of. From start to finish Hunting High and Low is composed of well-written songs backed by pulsing beats, gorgeous vocals and the standard beeps and boops from the keyboard section. On this album Morten Harket hit high notes that wouldn't be matched until "Micro Cuts" by Muse. The whole thing is enjoyable from start to finish. If you are a fan of 80s music and you haven't listened to this album, get off your can. Seriously.

This album is the reason anybody in this universe knows anything about a-ha. That's just a fact of life. If you hear an a-ha song on the radio and you don't live in Europe, there's a 90% chance the song is "Take on Me." If you want to sing an a-ha song at a karaoke club and the club isn't in Europe, there's a 90% chance the only a-ha song they have is "Take on Me." There has been a full two decades of quality a-ha music after Hunting High and Low, but don't count on most people to know that. Just shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh well...their loss."

Follow this link to lastfm to star at pictures and descriptions of the album and wonder why there is no streaming audio.

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