By Nathan Honest
This article marks the start of our new series The Songs That Made Us, wherein each month we will hand the baton over to one of our writers to discuss that one song that sticks with them through everything. The founder of the idea and the first to take part is our writer Nathan. Here’s what he has to say about his beloved A-ha:
Usually, when I hear a song for the first time, it takes a while to sink in. Maybe I’ll hear it once, then again, then again, and only then will I think: “You know what? I like this one.”
The Swing of Things is not one of those songs.
No. The Swing of Things had me hooked from the very first note and left me in stunned, wide-eyed silence. It’s on a very, very exclusive list of songs that I loved from the moment I first heard them; symphonies that touched my soul.
I know what you’re thinking. “A-ha? The ones that did that funny cartoon music video? For that one song? ”
Well, yes. Nowadays, A-ha are synonymous with their ridiculously catchy 1985 hit Take on Me and its equally memorable music video, featuring lead singer Morten Harket saving a girl from evil wrench-wielding bikers. Unfortunately, this all most people ever seem to remember. At a stretch, those familiar with 80’s music might recall their “other” big hit, The Sun Always Shines on T.V., or even their Bond theme. For the vast majority, however, A-ha is the Take on Me band and nothing else.
Purely subjectively, this a tragedy, because A-ha deserves to be remembered. The Swing of Things represents a different side to the band; sweeping, majestic, melancholic. It’s also quite unusual; whilst most pop songs have a verse-chorus-verse structure, The Swing of Things eschews a chorus altogether and sort of gradually builds in intensity towards a fervent, impassioned conclusion. And then there’s that voice. Most radio-friendly pop stars today have fairly dull, flat singing voices. Think Drake’s droning monotone or Billie Eilish’s hushed whisper. Morten Harket’s voice is about as far away from that as you can possibly get. It’s almost an instrument in itself, an effect that this song showcases particularly well in its final minute.
Finally, I’d like to discuss the lyrics, introspective and brutally vivid in equal measure. Whereas some songwriters dance around the pain of heartbreak, A-ha wants the listener to feel their suffering. How can I sleep with your voice in my head, an ocean between us and room in my bed?, sings Harket. I’ve been there, and this line hits hard.
Impressive stuff, for a bunch of guys in their early twenties who learnt English as a second language.
Cover Image Credit: Tom Parker, Head of Photography