â€¢ Their debut album featured a #1 smash, the video of which won eight MTV Video Awards.
â€¢ It eventually sold eight million copies worldwide, a million of that in the U.S. alone.
â€¢ Their follow-up single hit the Top 20.
â€¢ They held the world record for largest concert (198,000 people in Rio).
â€¢ They are among only 19 artists to have the rare honor of being asked to record a Bond theme.
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you…a-ha.
Yup. Unfairly tagged as one-hit wonders in the States, a-ha continue to sell albums and pack stadiums worldwide, their most recent album, Analogue, released a little over a year ago. But in 1986, the trio had the unenviable task of following up their debut, Hunting High and Low, with its massive single, “Take On Me”. It wasn’t going to be easy. Instead of merely following the synthpop template established by the first album, the group took the bold step to add more guitar-oriented rock into the mix, aggressively pumping up their sound but keeping the sweeping theatricality of songs like “The Sun Always Shines On TV”. But would it work?
The result was Scoundrel Days and in preparation for its release, a-ha issued the single, “I’ve Been Losing You”, again, a bold move since it’s nowhere near as immediate and catchy as “Take On Me”. With its chugging guitar riff and lyrics alluding to murder or suicide, it wasn’t the ideal choice for a lead-off single – but that didn’t make it any less brilliant. The incongruous video that concentrated on making the band look like teen pin-up idols rather than talented musicians didn’t help:
Sadly, “I’ve Been Losing You” gained zero traction and a quick scramble saw the rushed release of a more traditional a-ha single, “Cry Wolf”, but the damage had already been done. “Cry Wolf” stumbled into the outer reaches of the Top 50 and a-ha never charted in the U.S. again (save for a brief appearance on the Adult Contemporary Charts in 1991 with a remake of the Everly Brothers’ “Crying In The Rain”). To its credit, their U.S. label Reprise stood by the band well into the ’90s, issuing their albums domestically until it was no longer feasible. The rest of the world never lost step, though, and a-ha continue to be massively successful in Europe and Brazil.
“I’ve Been Losing You” is still one of my favorite singles from the band, right down to the fake-out ending and little “ah” exhales during the chorus. Great stuff that takes a few spins to fully appreciate. If “Cry Wolf” had been released first, who knows? We might still be seeing the trio on the U.S. charts today.
“I’ve Been Losing You” did not chart.
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