Slow it down, hit it fast with popular songs

Popular songs with a fast beat take on a different feel when slowed down, and listeners love it

Remember that catchy tune, Take On Me, by Norwegian synthpop band A-ha, from the 1980s?

It was one of the biggest hits of the decade, thanks to frontman Morten Harket's soaring falsetto and an innovative music video.

Well, get ready for take two of the song.

A-ha recently took to the stage to sing an acoustic version of the 1985 classic for MTV Unplugged.

And judging from the reaction of netizens who saw the video of the performance on YouTube, the song could become a smash hit all over again.

Since the clip was uploaded on Sept 28, it has already garnered more than 2.4 million views. The rendition is taken from the upcoming album/DVD A-ha: MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice.

When Take On Me was first released off the group's debut studio album, Hunting High And Low (1985), the song went to No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Its music video swept six gongs at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Concept Video and Best Special Effects in a Video.

It featured a combination of pencil-sketch animation and live-action footage, and a romantic fantasy which was concluded in the music video for the band's next single, The Sun Always Shines On TV.

During the recent unplugged session, an intimate performance in Giske, Norway, one-time pin-up idol Harket, now 58, looks like he has aged well, with some white in his hair and sporting a pair of metal-rimmed spectacles.

And he can still hit the high notes. Fans can be seen wiping away tears as he does a moving take of the song that rocketed the band to worldwide popularity.

This is not the first time that hit songs have been slowed down and caused fans to sit up.

The Sunday Times rounds up some other examples.


TAKE ON ME (1985)


Morten Harket of A-ha. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

A-ha

There were actually two recorded versions in the 1980s. The 1985 version with the familiar synth refrain in the opening was a re-recording. The first version released in 1984 had a completely different recording and even a different music video. The reworked track was the Norwegian group's only chart-topper on the American Billboard Hot 100; it also hit No. 2 on the United Kingdom Singles Chart.

Sample lyrics: So needless to say/I'm odds and ends/I'll be stumbling away/Slowly learning that life is okay.

Remake: Search for "Take On Me" and "MTV Unplugged" on YouTube.


SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT (1991)


Members of American rock band Nirvana Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC

Nirvana

The grunge anthem by the American rock band was an attempt by the late Kurt Cobain to "write the ultimate pop song", as he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1994. It was an unexpected hit that crossed over to the mainstream and sent the band's second album, Nevermind (1991), to the top of the charts.

Sample lyrics: Hello hello hello hello/With the lights out it's less dangerous/Here we are now entertain us/I feel stupid and contagious/Here we are now entertain us.

Remake: American singer-songwriter Tori Amos slowed down the tempo and redid the song with an acoustic piano accompaniment for her EP, Crucify (1992).

In the 1993 book, Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana, Cobain called Amos' version, somewhat cryptically, "a great breakfast cereal version".


POKER FACE (2008)


Lady Gaga. PHOTO: AFP

Lady Gaga

The second single from the American singer's debut album, The Fame (2008), was a massive global hit. It was nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammys and won for Best Dance Recording.

Sample lyrics: I wanna hold 'em like they do in Texas plays/Fold 'em, let 'em, hit me, raise it, baby stay with me/Love the game intuition, play the cards with spades to start/And after he's been hooked I'll play the one that's on his heart.

Remake: The song made its way to animated series South Park and The Simpsons, and was covered in the first season of the hit musical drama series Glee in 2010. In the episode titled Theatricality, actresses Lea Michele and Idina Menzel do an acoustic duet - which hit No. 20 on the Billboard singles chart.

Available on Glee: The Music, Volume 3 Showstoppers (2010).


...BABY ONE MORE TIME (1998)


Britney Spears. PHOTO: IME

Britney Spears

The debut single from the American singer is one of the best-selling singles of all time, with more than 10 million copies sold. The music video, in which she was dressed as a schoolgirl, was voted the best of the 1990s in a poll by Billboard in 2011.

Sample lyrics: My loneliness is killing me now (and I)/I must confess I still believe (still believe)/When I'm not with you I lose my mind/Give me a sign/Hit me baby one more time.

Remake: The song, written by Swedish hit-maker Max Martin, has been covered several times. Stripped of the glossy pop veneer, it reveals a darker and more melancholy face.

Scottish band Travis did a live cover and then included it on their 1999 single, Turn.

Frontman Fran Healey said they originally did it for a laugh, but added: "It's a very well-crafted song. It (has) that magic thing."

Search for "Baby One More Time" on Travis' official YouTube channel.


CRAZY IN LOVE (2003)


Beyonce. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Beyonce

The high-octane single from the American singer's solo debut, Dangerously In Love (2003), was dangerously addictive, with its potent brew of R&B, hip-hop, soul and funk. VH1 hailed it as the best song of the 2000s in a 2011 countdown.

Sample lyrics: You got me looking so crazy baby/I'm not myself lately, I'm foolish, I don't do this/I've been playing myself, baby I don't care/Baby, your love's got the best of me.

Remake: The 2014 remix for the dark romantic flick Fifty Shades Of Grey begins with Beyonce doing a languorously sexy reading of "Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no no". Violinist and recording artist Margot, who arranged and played the strings on the slowed-down version, said: "It's almost more vulnerable and beautiful this way, because you do do crazy things when you fall in love. To hear the mood reversed and flipped makes it even more powerful."

Available on Fifty Shades Of Grey (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2015).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Slow it down, hit it fast'. Print Edition | Subscribe