The rehabilitation from teen stardom to critical acclaim follows an uneven path. Allowing the passing of time to scuff away at ingrained prejudice does some of the work, and, just occasionally, there’s a latent understanding that the critical dismissal might have been unfair in the first place. Such is the case with a-ha. Catapulted to fame on the back of an era-defining music video and the photogenic appeal of its players, a-ha never served up the lightweight pap packaged to shift singles or copies of Smash Hits magazine. Theirs was a modern, melodic pop – sweeping, ambitious and ever so slightly weird. That’s why artists as revered as Chris Martin and U2’s Adam Clayton credit the Norwegian trio as an influence. The self-proclaimed “reluctant pop stars” eventually settled the critical debate and continue to tour to this day, releasing new material as recently as 2015. Across ten studio albums and more than 40 singles, there’s a wealth of the familiar and plenty of the somewhat surprising among a vindicated and now celebrated catalogue. Here, then, are the 20 best a-ha songs.
Listen to the best of a-ha here, and check out our 20 best a-ha songs, below.
20: Scoundrel Days (1986)
Just 18 months after their breakthrough, Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy were already finding the teen hysteria a bit much. Following their hit debut album, 1985’s Hunting High And Low, was always going to be a challenge, so the decision to (largely) record again with veteran hitmaker Alan Tarney, who had produced Take On Me and The Sun Always Shines On TV, plays it safe. But opening their second album, Scoundrel Days, with this anthemic title track, is anything but – all sweeping drama swirling through an icy synthscape and a confident statement away from the chirpy pop of the song they will forever be remembered for. Not designed to put younger fans off so much, but certainly a confident statement that sticking with them would be a journey to something more challenging than the hits first suggested.