A-ha’s “Take On Me” Lyrics Meaning

A-ha’s “Take On Me” is based on the singer kicking it to a romantic interest, as in trying to convince her to accept him as a lover. And the title is derived from him entreating her to ‘take him on’, as in take a chance with him. And while it can definitely be gleaned that his love for her is true, he is the shy type. Owing to this, he is finding it challenging to express his feelings to this special lady. 

On the other hand, the lady also seems not to be responding in the way he prefers, “shying away” at times herself. However, he is determined to be the recipient of her love while the opportunity is ripe. Thus most of the track, as aforementioned, centers on him entreating her to actually be receptive to the affection he has to offer.

Lyrics of "Take On Me"
In February 2020, the song’s official music video hit a billion views on the popular video-sharing site YouTube!

Song’s inspiration

A-ha’s Paul Waaktaar-Savoy is said to have come up with the idea based on a fresh romance he was experiencing with a woman named Lauren Savoy. Interestingly enough, Paul and Lauren eventually got married in 1991.

Facts about “Take On Me”

The music video we have come to know and love was actually the second A-ha filmed for “Take On Me” (though the first for this particular version of the song).  It went on to receive eight nominations for MTV Video Music Awards in 1986, taking home six of them. One of which was the award for Best Concept Video.  

The “pencil-sketch” animation effects utilized in the video were created by animator Michael Patterson and his wife, Candace Reckinger. It took them 16 weeks and 2000 drawings to complete.

The woman who plays Morten Harket’s (A-ha’s lead singer) love interest in the video is named Bunty Bailey. She and Morten, who met on the video shoot, actually dated for a couple of years afterwards.

 “Take On Me” topped the Billboard Hot 100 (marking the first time a Norwegian band did so). It also topped the charts in A-ha’s native Norway and almost accomplished the same feat (peaking at number two) on the UK Singles Chart.

In 2018, a different version of this song was released. This version featured a 50-piece orchestra  and appeared on the album 80s Symphonic.

The short-lived rock band Lifer (formerly known as Strangers with Candy) won the 2000 edition of MTV’s Ultimate Cover Band Contest. The band achieved this feat with their rendition of “Take On Me”.

Success on the charts

“Take On Me” managed to achieve the rare feat of topping the charts in several countries, including the following:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Who wrote “Take On Me”?

All three members of A-ha (Paul, Morten and Magne) wrote this song.

On which album is “Take On Me”?

It was one of the five singles released from A-ha’s maiden studio album, Hunting High and Low.

Usage in Popular Media

This song has been featured, in various capacities, in other forms of pop media. For instance, it has been parodied on Family Guy (2005). It also made an appearance on a 2005 episode of The Simpsons. The song was also referenced in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 sci-fi film Ready Player One (as well as being played in one of its trailers).

Furthermore it was featured in the 2018 action movie Bumblebee and sung on a 2015 episode of “Glee“. 

A-ha also recorded a live version of “Take On Me” for their 2017 album “MTV Unplugged: Summer Solstice”.  This version was prominently used in the 2018 superhero movie Deadpool 2.

In fact the track is widely regarded as one the most heavily-utilized songs in recent years. For example, in 2018 alone, it scored 10 soundtrack credits.

More about Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and Lauren Savoy (the song’s inspiration)

Norwegian musician and leader of the A-ha band, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and American composer and writer, Lauren Savoy tied the knot in the early 90s. They, together with drummer Frode Unneland, formed the rock trio known as Savoy and have released at least 6 studio albums as of this writing.

Paul wrote the A-ha hit song, Angel In The Snow as a wedding present for Lauren, performing it on their wedding day in December 1991. Apparently, the musician was too shy to deliver a speech, and instead wrote a song. In 1999, they welcomed their first child named True August Waaktaar-Savoy.

As the primary songwriters in the band, Savoy, they received the Best Pop band award during the 1999 and 2001 Norwegian Grammy Awards (Spellemannprisen). Savoy have sold at least 300,000 albums in Norway alone.

33 Responses

  1. Mara says:

    I want to know why they wrote it! how come no one knows??

  2. Kristen says:

    My ex and bff still sent me this the other day and I honestly still love him the way I did when we were together.

  3. Tauney says:

    The Magicians should be credited here too. RIP Quentin Makepeace Coldwater. ?

    • Anonymous says:


    • Jacks S says:

      For sure, it should be listed as well. I recently watched it and have to say the song adds an existentially deep tone to the already somber final moments of the episode, making it a very heartbreaking and heartwarming moment all at the same time.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just saw that episode of Magicians last night. The song was so perfect for the scene and reminded me of how I loved the song all those years ago. Beautiful and timeless.

      • Anonymous says:

        I really thought the song was about loved ones passing after I saw this episode. Reality check. I don’t know why I was suddenly convinced after hearing this song half my life time. It was a really good scene ?

    • Anonymous says:

      My thoughts too!

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh yes. Poor Q. 🙁

    • Holly says:

      I LOVED their rendition! Puts another spin on the love in this song. Let love happen before it is too late.

    • Doc says:

      The first thing I thought was that it had to do with dying “I’ll be gone in a day or two”; probably because my wife died very suddenly, and she loved this song.
      So that scene hurt. A lot.

    • A says:

      That cover is perhaps my favorite version of this song

  4. Dianne Gonzales says:

    This song takes me back to the days in High School when we were carefree and had high hopes. My favorite song, I must say, just have to close my eyes and I am back in those wonderful days.

  5. Nicole says:

    This song, especially now, brings so much to my heart. I was young when it first came out and now with the acoustic version my heart feels full. It is a beautiful song and I am hoping to “walk down the isle” to this….

  6. Leena says:

    This song and its video is beautifully represents. Everything is in harmony and so natural. I’m 23 but I literally feel to experience that era. A ah band are truely Legends and Genius. ?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The song was written way before they became famous. It was written when they were just coming together I think while in school days . But it was a project and they played around with it for a long time before getting it right but never gave up on it. This is according to the Documentary.

  8. Sarah says:

    Who cares about where or when this great and wonderful song was written. It is the best, most infectious song with expressive passion. Thanks to Morten for such a perfect voice who can sing it right. And what a wide range his voice has too. No one can match him. He owns this song! Thank you so much! I love this song!

  9. Carl says:

    This song has been covered by countless other musicians, usually I’d never recommend a cover, but if you want to hear a beautiful version of this song by a young artist, check out youtube and search Chase Eagleson – Take On Me. In my opinion, he did an outstanding job.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This song reminds me of all amazing possibilities that I was too scared to take on.

  11. Carlos says:

    Vincent Vinel rendition is amazingly good too. You should check it out

  12. Anonymous says:

    There’s a great acustic guitar version of the song in game Last of Us part 2. The main character, Ellie, plays the song in for her girlfriend as they stumble across a guiter in abondoned music store in post apocalyptic Seattle. By far the best version of the song I’ve heard.
    Check it our: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKeU1twQYX4

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Deadpool 2 version, the Magicians version, both acoustic without the new wave/Europop keyboards. Not that I don’t enjoy the riff, but it makes it sound entirely different. It threw me off when the played the slower acoustic version, I thought that maybe it was a cover version.

  14. Anonymous says:

    dude Weezer’s rendition is so good!

  15. Anonymous says:

    His Norwegian accent made it hard for me to understand in junior high when I first heard it, but it had such an infectious sound, i didn’t care! Now that I’ve seen the official lyrics, I’m not as impressed; it’s a standard 80s looking-for-love ballad… but with a synth hook that won’t let go! “I’ll say it anyway”: love it!

  16. Sarah reilly, suffolk England says:

    They should send this recording into space..a beautiful example of humanity’s fragile and vulnerable nature amidst our faults. So much respect this is and always has been my favourite song of all time. Thank you for bringing such love into this world and giving me such a feeling of comfort during childhood in the 80s whenever it played on the radio. Much love xx

  17. Du4all says:

    I think everyone is blind to the song it’s just the 5th piece to the puZZle no 1 should Go with out love it takes 2 to make the world right

  18. Március Zenko Veloso says:

    What about Elli’s version in the best game of all time: “The Last of us Part 2”? Thanks for such an awesome article!

  19. Gaye Elleray says:

    The lyrics don’t really make sense in English the way I’m sure they would in Norwegian. Who cares. Brilliant song. Never ever, ever, ever, gets old. And THAT is pure magic. The documentary about the song “A-ha The Movie” is great; find it, watch it, and enjoy those VERY clever boys.

  20. Artturi says:

    Isn’t this song about a not-at-all shy guy wanting to get a girl for a few days and then just dump her like trash? Consider the lines: “I’ll be gone in a day or two” and “it’s NO better to be safe than sorry” (meaning she would likely regret it but it’s “fine”). He does have some doubts about the morality: “Is it life or just playing my worries away”? Here he acknowledges himself a “player” and questions whether this is the kind of life he wants to live, treating people like exposable goods. Furthermore, the track is about toxic masculinity. “I’ll be coming for your ANYWAY” despite the girl being shy (resisting).

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