Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Back in the ’80s, there seemed to be a formula for becoming a one-hit-wonder. Write an insanely catchy pop-song, deliver a visually interesting music video and get that video thrown into heavy rotation on MTV. The Norwegian trio A-ha nailed that formula with smash hit “Take On Me.”
The synthpop swing of the tune first made waves overseas before topping the U.S. Billboard charts in 1985. While it’s definitely a perfectly fitting song for the era, the majority of its popularity was due to the cutting-edge music video. The video combined pencil-sketch animation with live-action to create a comic book coming to life. It still stands as one of the iconic videos of early MTV. Check out this recent Family Guy, where they spoof the video by having Chris Griffin get trapped in A-ha’s world.
A one-hit wonder that struck such a chord with the children of the ’80s is bound to inspire some awesome covers. From ska to indie, we’ve got the top five listed below:
- Reel Big Fish amps up the pace, adds a whole mess of horns and makes a skankin’ good ska version with lead singer Aaron Barrett killing it on the high notes.
- Anni B Sweet gives a lovely stripped-down version with hushed vocals and playful xylophone chimes.
- New Pornographers singer A.C. Newman similarly takes “Take on Me” down a notch, delivering a sweet, acoustic guitar-driven cover.
- Pop-punk trio MxPx speed things back up, throwing in some gritty guitar chords and vocal echoes.
- Hello India Calling put their indie-electo twist on the original, pumping it full of gentle beeps and blips for this folk-meets-digital cover.
Bonus! While not a cover, watch Dustin McLean give the iconic video the literal treatment: