30 years after his iconic “Sunglasses at Night” broke a then-unknown Canadian singer-songwriter onto the Hot 100 and into the collective consciousness of 1980s pop culture, Corey Hart is looking back on his career and the song that started it all. For the first time ever, Hart has authorized a new version of the tune, re-recorded as “Night Visions (Sunglasses)” by Chicago-based duo Papercha$er. Hart spoke with CODE exclusively about why he wanted to revisit his classic hit.
“I’ve been turning down interpolation for about 12-13 years now,” Hart tells Billboard on the phone from his home in Nassau, Bahamas. “I stopped keeping track. Most of the times when I turn them down the artists have gone ahead and actually done a full version of the song and because I’m the songwriter they need my permission on it.”
Of course, some versions have slipped past Hart’s approval. Notably, fellow Quebecer Tiga, whose 2001 version of the song became a minor hit in Europe while kicking off the DJ’s career as a producer. (Hart says he enjoyed meeting Tiga once in Montreal.) More recently, Lennon and Maisy Stella, the sister duo known for their roles on TV show Nashville recorded a version of “Sunglasses” that caught Hart’s attention late last year.
“There’s a whole new generation,” Hart says of the song’s audience. “The song has just become part of the cultural lexicon. As a songwriter, I’m blown away by that. I guess I’m paying respect to the song by trying to do something new with it but also retaining the magic of the song itself.”
Papercha$er, known for remixes of Christina Aguilera, Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson, were introduced to Hart through A&R vet Hosh Gureli of Primary Wave Music. After prevailing upon Hart to record vocals, the track was finished and released through Movement Music, the label helmed by Papercha$er’s Marc Stout.
In addition to the new “Sunglasses,” Hart is focusing on an autobiography – a task he says is made easier thanks to the daily journals he has kept his whole life. The book’s release is planned for next May, when Hart performs at Montreal’s Bell Centre at what he says will be his final concert ever.
One of the stories likely to appear in Hart’s memoir is that of “Sunglasses” itself – a track added to his debut album at Hart’s insistence after the primary recording sessions had been completed.
“Did I know that it was going to have this enduring quality to it and it would have been this massive hit song on so many levels? No, but I didn’t not believe it,” Hart pontificates. “As an artist, there’s a duality to being vulnerable and insecure but confident about what you’re doing. That’s what makes artists stand out. I have that duality. I have the insecurity and vulnerable side and I also have the confidence.”
Hart’s confidence–or rather his ease–is visible in the new video for “Night Visions.” Filmed in South Beach, Florida, the clip features Hart and his teenage daughter Dante, along with the Russian spoken word voice of Dasha Sharapova (cousin of Maria), who Dante and the Hart family know through the junior pro tennis circuit Dante plays in.
The touches of Russian recall the Cold War-era context in which Hart’s hit was originally released. But while this kind of added meaning is fun for Hart, it’s not the central theme of the track. Instead, “Sunglasses” offers a message that seems tailor-made for the EDM generation.
“There’s a section of the song where I say, ‘the universe is trying to tell us something,’” he explains. “I wanted to make a statement. ‘Sunglasses At Night’ is about being an individual and being who you are and celebrating who you are. It’s also about trying to come together. We can be individuals, but we can still come together.”