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Rewinding the Charts: In 1985, A-Ha’s ‘Take on Me’ Hit No. 1, Thanks to MTV

The Norwegian trio's eye-catching video for "Take On Me," a mix of pencil-sketch animation and live action, earned heavy rotation on MTV and shot the song to No. 1 on the Hot 100.

In 1985, MTV, already known for making stars of such visually driven music acts as Duran Duran and Madonna, added another notch to its belt: A-ha’s ascension to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

The Norwegian trio — Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, who were 22, 26 and 24, respectively — released its debut album, Hunting High and Low, in 1985, and shot an eye-catching video for lead single “Take On Me.” Directed by Steve Barron (Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), the clip’s combination of pencil-sketch animation and live action earned it heavy rotation on MTV, and the track reached No. 1 in its 15th week on the chart, making A-ha the first Norwegian group to top the Hot 100.

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The video won six MTV Video Music Awards in 1986 and helped A-ha nab a Grammy nod for best new artist. But A-ha charted only two more singles on the Hot 100, “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” which hit No. 20, and “Cry Wolf,” which reached No. 50. However, the act sold 36 million albums worldwide (according to its official website) and released eight more studio sets before disbanding in 2010.

“Take On Me” returned to the Hot 100 in 2013, as interpolated by Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” featuring Christina Aguilera, which hit No. 8. Harket sang the track with Pitbull and Aguilera at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards and told Billboard backstage, “Take On Me” is “a resilient thing [that] lives its own life.”

As further proof of that resilience, the song returned to the charts two years later, thanks to a remix by producer/DJ Kygo. The new version hit No. 25 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in September 2015.

The song has been reworked once again, as an intimate, acoustic ballad, on A-ha’s new release, MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice, recorded in June in Norway.