Radio Creme Bruleea-ha's frontman resurfaces on US television after over 2 decades
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a-ha’s frontman resurfaces on US television after over 2 decades

20 May 2013 12 Comments
This blog belongs to Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

mortenharketA “signature” hit can be a boon and a bane for an artist/band. Its advantage is that the artist or band can instantly be linked to a song that everyone knows. The flipside is that it can eclipse almost any other musical output that follows. No band has experienced this any worse (only in the US) than Norwegian pop/rock trio a-ha. a-ha’s “Take On Me” and its iconic music video remain one of the significant milestones in the history of pop culture. That song and video ensured that the band was never forgotten but it did not lend itself to anything else being heard by the band in the US on a large scale. One can only imagine what a sore point this must be for the a-ha band-members. They churned out 9 high-quality and commercially viable albums (well, in all honesty, the fourth, fifth and sixth albums were not particularly viable) over a span of 25 years.

Sadly, the average American listener continues to ask “What else did a-ha ever do after Take On Me”. This is incredibly sad and some of this sadness resurfaced as I watched Morten Harket (the charismatic frontman of a-ha) make his first live television appearance in the US in over 25 years. He was featured as the special guest on “Feel this moment” – a track performed by Christina Aguilera and the absurdly overexposed Pitbull at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 19, 2013. The song (which has proved to be a hit for Christina Aguilera) heavily samples a-ha’s 80s classic “Take On Me”. Morten Harket made his appearance towards the end of the performance and breaks into the chorus for “Take On Me”. Looking like a fountain of youth, Morten Harket took to the stage with extreme ease and hit those high notes that formed the foundation for his vocal trademark.

Watching Morten Harket on stage is a delight. Hence, one would wonder why there is room for sadness. The sadness stems from a few reasons. First, the fact that he was a featured guest for two artists that have thrived more on over-exposure than merit (although we do admit that Christina Aguilera is indeed a competent vocalist) is somewhat unfortunate. Second, he might have reinforced the notion that it was right for America to think of his band’s legacy as not extending beyond “Take On Me”. Third, he performed on a show that caters to the absolute lowest common denominator of music listeners in the US. The Billboard Music Awards isn’t exactly known for being a glorious showcase of musical diversity. In essence, the show celebrates the narrow segment of music that is played to death on conglomerate-owned terrestrial radio in the US.

The performance could be a blessing for Morten Harket if it encourages viewers to re-visit the a-ha catalog and discover all the brilliance that followed after “Take On Me”. For those reading this article that do not want to go through the motions of several google searches to find out more about a-ha, here are some of the band’s most pivotal moments POST “Take On Me”.

–          The “Hunting High and Low” album (for which “Take On Me”) is hands down one of the most brilliant and perfect albums of the 80s. Its title track epitomizes that brilliance and the music sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1984.

–          “The Sun Always Shines on TV” was a #1 hit for a-ha in the UK – the world’s second biggest consumer market for recorded music.

–          In the early 90s, a-ha played to the largest paying audience (198,000 people) ever at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro for the Rock In Rio festival. They outsold the festival’s hot favorite Guns N Roses and George Michael. Sadly, MTV chose to ignore this monumental feat and it became one of those stories that got lost.

–          In 2000, a-ha returned as a rock band with their album “Minor Earth Major Sky“. The synths that dominated their sound in the 80s were no longer a part of their sonic template. “Summer Moved On” was the album’s highlight and is arguably also a career highlight for the band. For this song, Morten Harket holds a world record for the longest held note (around 20 seconds). This was America’s chance to revisit a-ha. The rest of the world was floored and opened their arms to a-ha all over again. It was one the most celebrated comebacks for a band in Europe. Sadly, between the geocentric and ageist focus of mainstream music media entities in the US, a-ha got overlooked yet again – just like they did in the decade that made them international superstars.

–          In 2006, the band returned to the UK top 10 singles charts with the title track of their album “Analogue”.

–          In 2009, a-ha went “back to basics” and released a synth-heavy album called “Foot Of The Mountain”. It was their last album and undoubtedly one of their finest.

–          In 2010, they took their last bow as a band. Their “Ending on a high note” tour took them across the world (including a few shows in the US). It was undoubtedly a bittersweet moment for the band’s legions of fans across the world.

While it is true that the band has officially retired as a musical entity, hopefully Morten Harket’s performance at the Billboard Music Awards triggers the curiosity of viewers and leads them down a path of discovery of a beautiful and rich music catalog that was overlooked in the US. If this doesn’t happen, the event will be yet another reflection of the injustice that the band faced from the American media in their early years. For those that missed the performance, here is a full-length clip:

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Broadcasting Worldwide

We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of a-ha (both old and new) is a regular staple on our radio station. The music (both old and new) of a-ha is a regular staple on our station – including songs from the “Cast In Steel” album. We also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s. Noteworthy examples include Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.

Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!



12 Responses to "a-ha’s frontman resurfaces on US television after over 2 decades"

  1. Gina says:

    Dear Radio Creme Brûlée,
    Thank you for your nice words. Yes, a-ha is an under appreciated band but there still are also a lot of a-ha fans, from all over the world, who try to reunite once a year in Oslo. We all feel the same because they mean so much to us.
    You’ll just have to LISTEN to their music!
    a-ha is the best, a-ha 4ever!

  2. @Gina: Thank you so much for your comment. a-ha is definitely one of the bigger “lost” opportunities in music in the American scene. It is a shame that media could not move past “Take On Me” (especially since that song is far from being a-ha’s best song). We play a LOT of their music (old and new) everyday. In fact, I would not be exaggerating when I say that we play a-ha almost everyday on our station. Our selection of their music focuses on all albums except “Memorial Beach” (since this album does not really fit our format). Feel free to give us a spin whenever you a chance. Our broadcast can be heard from ANY part of the world. Thanks once again for the comment.

  3. Wow! what a moving article, I was welling up reading it because it was so wonderful to be able to see Morten live on US television. Even though both of the other performers involved (Pitbull and Christina) are a product of their overexposed musical environment, they were responsible for him being there and its very true, you cannot deny greatness. I thought the whole moment was very touching. Who knows, maybe the Grammys next year? One can only hope!

  4. @Rosemarie: So glad you liked the article! I just hope these events go beyond nostalgia and lead to a re-evaluation of material that was overlooked. When Take That reunited in 2006, the solo catalogs of Gary Barlow and Mark Owen got a fair re-evaluation. Something similar needs to happen for a-ha through events like this. If not, acts like Morten Harket will continue to be unfairly treated like relics of a bygone era.

  5. Cleo says:

    What an amazing professional article, props to the author and props to the radio coz i heard you play a-ha rather often, which is simply great! I hope that Morten’s appearence will re-light the fire of interest in the band and i hope that it was a publicity he could use in view of upcoming album. Perso, being a huge fan of him and a-ha/a-ha and him, i was simply thrilled to see Morten again even for a damn 30 seconds which contained more music then the whole USA music industry of these days.

  6. admin says:

    @Cleo: Thank you so much for the comment. Glad you liked the article. These types of appearances serve a good purpose IF they trigger the curiosity of the viewer. If that doesn’t happen, these appearances do not serve any purpose besides momentary euphoria. The US music industry has been on a downward spiral since 1996. While I do hold the conglomerates responsible for the illegal acts that have limited what gets on to the radio, I believe that listeners ought to be a little more discerning and get over the inertia that prevents them from looking for music via comparable radio outlets (we’re not necessarily referring to our station specifically). This inertia empowers the conglomerates that are running music to the ground. Music curation was always meant to the job of DJs – not that of incompetent market researchers. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station?

  7. Cleo says:

    American friends told me about it-your radio:)Myself-am Belgian:)

  8. @Cleo: That is awesome! So glad you discovered us. Not entirely sure how we compare to your local radio alternatives in Belgium but if you have suggestions/ideas for us, please feel free to share with them with us. Thank you once again for your comment.

  9. Calvados Kid says:

    Great article. And it was great to see the clip of Morten Harket performing at The Billboard Music Awards. I wish I was there, if only for that reason.

    I’ll give your radio channel a spin too 🙂

  10. @Calvados Kid: Thank you so much for your kind words! Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station?

  11. Summer says:

    I am from Rio, Brazil, and an A-ha fan. I only found out about the record breaking ofve Rock in Rio’s A-ha concert YEARS after it happened, and why? BECAUSE THE INFORMATION WAS SUPPRESSED! The Brazilian newspapers talked very little about that night, and till this day some people still swear Guns n’Roses were the most successful band during Rock in Rio! Not to mention that MTV interviewed EVERY BAND which played that night BUT A-ha!

    Morten once said the main reason why A-ha didn’t make it in the USA was because they had to move in there to make it really last, but chose to stay back in Europe for family reasons. I didn’t buy it. To me, the real reason is that “the powers that be” from the music industry offered A-ha something that A-ha would never do: sell themselves, their souls, do as “they” say, making money before making good music, etc. I think they’ve been kind of persecuted since, cause they deserve much more recognition, they did so well and it’s shocking to me how America doesn’t know more about their work after Take on Me! Tell me about suppression. Tell me about SABOTAGE!

  12. @Summer: I think there is something to be said about having “media clout” and I just do not think a-ha had it. MTV was happy to typecast these guys at the ones that recorded “take on me” and saw to it that everything that followed was shrouded in obscurity. I know Mags from a-ha saying his heart sank when MTV chose NOT to cover their record-breaking achievement. That was their moment and the mainstream media chose to overlook it since it was not consistent with their view of where a-ha should be in the mainstream.

    Morten’s comment about not being in the USA is not even remotely convincing. U2 spends most of their year outside the US and they are still very successful here. You do not have to live in a country to be successful there at all. I agree that the music industry heavyweights have a lot to do with suppressing this band here – and sadly, the average American does not look beyond the 10 songs played on the radio on the hour every hour. Thank you so much for the comment. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog?

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