Take On Me by a-ha: An In-Depth Exploration of Lyrics, Legacy, and the Luminaries Behind It

by Alex Harris

20th October, 2023

Take On Me by a-ha: An In-Depth Exploration of Lyrics, Legacy, and the Luminaries Behind It

Take On Me is more than a chart-topping hit; it’s a cultural touchstone that encapsulates the spirit of an era. This track by the Norwegian band a-ha is a masterclass in storytelling, both lyrically and visually. Let’s embark on a detailed exploration of this iconic song.

The Lyrical Depth of Take On Me

The lyrics of Take On Me are a poignant portrayal of love, vulnerability, and the yearning for connection:

“So needless to say, I’m odds and ends, but I’ll be stumbling away.” This line is a candid admission of imperfection. It speaks to the universal feeling of being fragmented or incomplete yet continually striving and moving forward. “Take on me (take on me), Take me on (take on me)” is both an invitation and a challenge. It’s a plea for acceptance and understanding, emphasising the deep human desire for connection and intimacy. The song captures the essence of young love’s thrill and uncertainty, making it relatable to listeners across generations.

The lyrics also reveal the meaning and inspiration behind the song. Magne Furuholmen, the keyboardist and co-writer of the song, said in an interview: “We wanted to write something that was uplifting but also had a sense of longing and melancholy. We were inspired by a Juicy Fruit advert and Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.” Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, the guitarist and co-writer of the song, said in an interview with Rolling Stone Germany: “The chorus is very simple, but it has a lot of power. It’s like saying, ‘I’m here; I’m ready; take me as I am.’ It’s a very brave and optimistic statement.” Morten Harket, the lead singer of the band, said in an interview with The Big Issue: “The song is about being willing to take a risk for love. It’s about daring to expose yourself and be vulnerable. It’s about not giving up on your dreams.

The Music Video: A Pioneering Feat in Animation

The music video for Take On Me was nothing short of revolutionary. Its blend of pencil-sketch animation and live-action was a visual treat, telling a story of love transcending the boundaries of reality and fiction. The video’s narrative complements the song’s lyrics, emphasising the theme of love’s transformative power. The scene where the protagonist transitions from the comic world to reality, only to be pulled back, mirrors the song’s theme of love’s challenges and triumphs.

a-ha's Take On Me Video
a-ha’s Take On Me Video

The video was also a pioneering feat in animation. It was directed by Steve Barron, who also directed Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing. The animation technique used was called rotoscoping, which involved tracing over live-action footage frame by frame. The video took 16 weeks to complete and cost $200,000. The video was a huge success, winning six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year. It also entered the Guinness World Records as the most rotated video on MTV. The video has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube as of 2020.

a-ha: Beyond Take On Me

While Take On Me is a-ha’s most recognised track, the band’s journey is rich and varied. Morten Harket’s distinctive vocals, combined with Magne Furuholmen’s keyboard skills and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s guitar prowess, made a-ha a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Their commitment to musical innovation and evocative storytelling has earned them a dedicated fanbase worldwide. Their journey from Oslo’s nightclubs to global stages is a testament to their talent and determination.

The band has also achieved many other milestones beyond their debut album, Hunting High and Low. They have released 10 studio albums, selling over 55 million records worldwide. They have also scored several hits, such as The Sun Always Shines on T.V., Cry Wolf, Stay on These Roads, Crying in the Rain, and Foot of the Mountain. They have also contributed to film soundtracks such as James Bond’s The Living Daylights (1987) and Disney’s Frozen 2 (2019). They have also collaborated with artists such as Coldplay, Pitbull, Kylie Minogue, and Adam Lambert. They have also pursued solo careers and side projects, such as Morten Harket’s Wild Seed (1995), Magne Furuholmen’s Past Perfect Future Tense (2004), and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s Savoy (1996–2007). They have also been involved in various humanitarian and environmental causes, such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and Live 8.

The Historical Context and Legacy

Released in the mid-80s, Take On Me is reflective of the era’s musical landscape. Synthpop was at its zenith, and a-ha’s track, with its blend of acoustic instruments and electronic elements, was both a product and a pioneer of its time.

The song’s legacy is multifaceted. Its innovative music video set new standards for the industry, while its lyrics have resonated with audiences for decades. The track’s numerous covers and adaptations, spanning various genres and languages, attest to its universal appeal.

The song has also influenced and impacted many other artists and media. It has been covered by artists such as Reel Big Fish, A1, Weezer, Pentatonix, and Metallica. It has also been sampled by artists such as Pitbull, Flo Rida, and Kendrick Lamar. It has also been featured in various films, TV shows, video games, and commercials, such as Deadpool 2 (2018), Family Guy (2005), SingStar (2004), and Volkswagen (2010). It has also inspired parodies, tributes, and homages, such as Make Me Smile by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (1986), Barbie Girl by Aqua (1997), Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz (2005), and Take On Mars by Bohemia Interactive (2013).

The Song’s Resounding Impact

Take On Me is more than a song; it’s an emotion. Its lyrics, melody, and visuals come together to create an experience that lingers. The track’s success, both critically and commercially, is a testament to its timeless appeal. With over 7 million copies sold globally, it’s not just a chart-topper but a cultural phenomenon.


Take On Me by a-ha stands tall as a testament to the power of music. Its intricate lyrics, pioneering visuals, and the band’s dedication make it a track that transcends time. As we delve deeper into its layers, we’re reminded of music’s unparalleled ability to touch souls, narrate stories, and bridge divides. Through its lyrics, video, and the journey of the band behind it, Take On Me remains a testament to the magic of music and art.

a-ha Take Me On Lyrics

Verse 1
We’re talkin’ away
I don’t know what I’m to say
I’ll say it anyway
Today’s another day to find you
Shying away
I’ll be comin’ for your love, okay?

Take on me (Take on me)
Take me on (Take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

Verse 2
So, needless to say
I’m odds and ends
But I’ll be stumbling away
Slowly learnin’ that life is okay
Say after me
“It’s no better to be safe than sorry”

Take on me (Take on me)
Take me on (Take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

Verse 3
Oh, things that you say, yeah
Is it life or just to play my worries away?
You’re all the things I’ve got to remember
You’re shying away
I’ll be comin’ for you anyway

Take on me (Take on me)
Take me on (Take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day

Take on me, Take on me
Take me on, Take on me
I’ll be gone  Take on me, Take on me
In a day Take me on, Take on me
Take on me, Take on me
Take me on, Take on me
Take on

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