“Take On Me” is a song by Norwegian synthpop band A-ha. Written by the band members, the original version was produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff. The second version of the song was produced by Alan Tarney for the group’s debut studio album Hunting High and Low (1985). The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums.
The original “Take On Me” was recorded in 1984 and it took two versions and three releases to finally chart in the United Kingdom, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart in October 1985. In the United States in October 1985, the song became the only A-ha song to reach the top position of the Billboard Hot 100, due in no small part to the wide exposure on MTV of its innovative music video, directed by Steve Barron. The video features the band in a pencil-sketch animation method called rotoscoping, combined with live action. The video won six awards and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.
“Take On Me” is a synthpop song that includes acoustic guitars and keyboards. It moves at a very quick tempo of 169 beats per minute. The lyrics are a plea for love, and are constructed in a verse-chorus form with a bridge before the third and final chorus. With the chord progression of Bm-E-A-D–E, the song is written in the key of A Major. Harket demonstrates a vocal range of over two and a half octaves. He sings the lowest pitch in the song, A2 (the tonic), at the beginning of the chorus, on the first syllable of the phrase “Take On me”.
As the chorus progresses, Harket’s voice hits ever higher notes, reaching a falsetto and hitting the song’s highest note (E5, the dominant note) at the end. There is a temporary change of markings in the drum pattern in the chorus, where for two bars the drums play in half time, returning to the same rhythm as before for the climax of the vocal line. A mix of a drum machine, the LinnDrum, acoustic guitars and electronic instrumentation serves as the song’s backing track.