A-ha's stripped down version of ‘Take On Me’ is hauntingly beautiful

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A-ha's stripped down version of ‘Take On Me’ is hauntingly beautiful

Michael Ochs Archives
A-ha during their heyday in the 1980s.

“Take On Me” by A-ha is one of the 1980s’ most remembered songs, not only for its fast-paced beat but also because of that iconic video, which featured a pencil-sketch animation theme (called rotoscoping) and live action featuring lead singer Morten Harket and his then-girlfriend, actress Bunty Bailey.

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It reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in October 1985 and won six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

But take away the fast tempo and the synthesizers and that catchy riff and what do you get? A stripped-down, acoustic version of the hit that the Norwegian-based group played earlier this month on an “MTV Unplugged” show at Giske Harbour Hall in Norway.

On “MTV Unplugged,” the song is slow and performed in a style vaguely reminiscent of the 1960s rock ’n’ roll band Vanilla Fudge, which took fast-paced songs and sang them at an excruciatingly slow tempo. The Ah-ha acoustic version is less psychedelic and is sung quietly -- almost reverently.

Many purists will prefer the version that bubbled through the radio and television during the 1980s, but the new arrangement is certainly haunting.

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