|First posted 9/10/2020.|
After 25 years with an astonishingly unchanged lineup, A-ha announced their retirement in 2009. They made their biggest mark with 1985’s “Take on Me,” a #1 song throughout the world, but were far more than the one-hit wonder they were painted to be in the United States. They had nineteen top-ten hits in their native Norway; nine of those songs went to #1. They also landed nine top-ten hits in the UK.
The band released ten studio albums over their 30-year career. The first eight hit #1 in Norway and the last two peaked at #2. In the UK, A-ha’s first three studio albums peaked at #2 and then they returned to the top ten with their last two studio efforts.
Throughout their career, A-ha managed to hold on to their synth-pop sound throughout, managing to consistently sound fresh without abandoning their ‘80s roots.
The Studio Albums:
Under each album snapshot, songs featured on the anthologies are noted. If the song charted, the date of the song’s release or first chart appearance and its chart peaks are noted in parentheses. Click for codes to singles charts.
Hunting High and Low (1985):
Unwitting fans of A-ha in America might think this was all the Norwegian trio did. After “Take on Me” became a #1 hit in the U.S., the group followed up with the top-twenty The Sun Always Shines on T.V., but never hit the Billboard top 40 again. In their native Norway, however, all four of the album’s singles were top-ten hits with “Take on Me” and Train of Thought each going to #1. All four of these songs are featured on all four compilations highlighted on this page with the exception of “Train of Thought,” which was omitted from the 2016 Time and Again collection.
Scoundrel Days (1986):
All three of the album’s singles were top-five hits in Norway with “I’ve Been Losing You” hitting #1. On a personal note, this is my favorite A-ha album.
Stay on These Roads (1988):
Six singles were released to promote the trio’s third album, but only two songs charted in Norway. Those two, however, went all the way to #1 (The Living Daylights and Stay on These Roads).
East of the Sun, West of the Moon (1990):
The band’s cover of the Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain gave the their sixth #1 hit in Norway. I Call Your Name and Early Morning were minor hits in the UK, understandably left off of the Definitive Singles Collection, despite the name of the collection, and Time and Again.
Headlines and Deadlines
While the group still had plenty of years left in the tank, this collection offers a nice sampling of their early years, capturing every single the trio released from 1985 to 1991. Had they waited until after their next studio album, 1993’s Memorial Beach, it could have been the perfect time capsule of their first wave, (They took a hiatus from then until 2000) but this comes pretty close. The collection also offered up a new song, Move to Memphis, which would also be featured in a new version on the aforementioned Memorial Beach album.
Memorial Beach (1993):
This was A-ha’s first album to not land a #1 hit in Norway; Dark Is the Night for All peaked at #4.
Minor Earth, Major Sky (2000):
The band got back to #1 in Norway with Summer Moved On. The title cut and Velvet were also top-40 hits in Norway.
Lead single Forever Not Yours was A-ha’s seventh trip to the top of the charts in Norway. The singles didn’t have much impact anywhere else, but all three are on 25 and Time and Again.
The Definitive Singles Collection
Despite the name of the collection, this doesn’t quite capture all of the singles released by A-ha from 1985 to 2005. It was also confusingly released in two versions. The Singles 1984-2004 bumped the enhanced video of “Take on Me” in favor of the songs Minor Earth, Major Sky and Forever Not Yours. The collection does include the single-only release of Shapes That Go Together from a decade earlier.
A-ha’s eighth album gave them their ninth and final #1 hit (at least as of 2020) in Norway with Celice. The group also made it back to the UK top-ten for the first time since 1988 with Analogue (All I Want).
Foot of the Mountain (2009):
After eight #1 albums in Norway, Foot of the Mountain was A-ha’s first studio effort to stall in the runner-up spot.
When it was released, this was supposed to be the cherry on top of the band’s quarter-century career. The exhaustive double-disc set captured every single the band had released and added new song Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah). The song marked A-ha’s last appearance on the Norway charts, peaking at #13.
Cast in Steel (2015):
None of the band’s three singles released from their final album scraped the charts, but the album did peak at #2 in Norway. The only song recognized on an A-ha anthology was Under the Makeup, the lead single from the album.
Time and Again
If the first disc of this collection were available on its own, it would be a great way for a casual fan to get a career overview of A-ha. However, the second disc of remixes – most of which are already on the first album – makes this a set only diehards would want. It’s unfortunate the two discs aren’t available separately to appease fans on both ends of the scale.
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