There’s something so exquisite about a slowed-down, moody cover of an upbeat song you know by heart (see: Antony and the Johnsons covering Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”). But it can be particularly transporting when a band gives the MTV Unplugged treatment to one of their own songs, as in a-ha’s acoustic version of their 1980s synth-pop classic “Take on Me”.
If you’d suggested to me last week that there was any way to improve on the original 1985 version of “Take on Me” (that was 32 years ago, my friends — no you haven’t aged a day), I’d have been sceptical.
The video, a miracle of rotoscoping and Stu-Stu-Studio Line by L’Oréal mousse, is still a revelation — who didn’t dream that the hero of a comic book might reach out of the page and pull them from their drab lives into an animated adventure?
But the acoustic cover is sublime. Now-58-year-old Morten Harket still has the pipes to hit those falsetto high notes in the chorus, the stripped-down instrumentation is the perfect complement to his plaintive wail and watching the audience members wistfully mouth the words along with him is wonderful to behold.
If you need an unobtrusive but still rousing soundtrack to your work day, you’ll do no better than a-ha’s recently released MTV Unplugged: Summer Solstice album, which includes other songs you forgot you love, like “The Sun Always Shines on TV” and — well, that was actually the only other track I knew on the album, but completists will appreciate deeper cuts like “The Living Daylights”, the theme song to the 1987 James Bond film and guest turns by Ian McCulloch and Alison Moyet.