It was a pop song with a new wave twist, breathy, begging vocals, and a totally haunting melody carried out by synthesizer. “Take on Me” was standard fare in 80s music. But the music video for the song was anything but ordinary.
The video tells a story of a girl sitting in a café and flipping through a book of sketches. One of those sketches features a handsome fellow who winks at her. Wait! The sketch just winked? How is that possible? Well, in this video, anything’s possible because next, a hand comes out of the sketchbook and reaches for the girl. So begins her adventure.
80s videos often told stories or included special effects. Artistically, they were more creative and compelling than most modern videos because it was a new art form and people were enthusiastic about experimenting with short-form music videos. Now, they’re just standard fare, mini-commercials for the songs the videos are trying to sell.
In the 80s, music underwent a dramatic change due to the launch of MTV. Countless film techniques were implemented to make each video more exciting and unique than the last. “Take on Me” was a groundbreaker.
There were actually two videos for the song “Take on Me.” The 1984 video used a different recording of the song and clips from this first video were actually used in the second video. You can catch those clips when you see the band singing in front of a blue background in the 1985 video.
The live action footage for the second video was filmed at a café and on a sound stage in London. It incorporated sketch animation combined with live action. A technique called rotoscoping allows the live-action footage to be traced over animation on a frame-by-frame basis. This causes the action to appear natural and realistic. Rotoscoping for the video took two months, which explains why “Take on Me” was one of the only 80s videos to use the technique.
“Take on Me” became one of the most popular 80s videos. In fact, in 1986, it earned six MTV Video Music Awards:
- Best New Artist in a Video
- Best Concept Video
- Most Experimental Vide
- Best Direction
- Best Special Effects
- Viewer’s Choice
The video was also nominated for Best Group Video and Video of the Year. At the American Music Awards that same year, it was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video.
“Take on Me” stands out in a sea of 80s music primarily because of its video. I still remember how often MTV used it play it. The song was pretty good but the video was cutting edge. Take a look and see for yourself:
Which is just perfect because I’m an 80s kid who was also born in the 70s. Let’s just say I totally love 80s music like this.
“Video Killed The Radio Star” is historically recognized as the first music video to play on MTV, and it was an apt choice, for music television did indeed go on to kill the radio star.
Originally released in 1979, the song comes courtesy of British synthpop band The Buggles. The lyrics center on the golden age of radio (“back in ’52″) and tell the story of a radio star whose career is terminated when television becomes a reckoning force in pop culture (“pictures came and broke your heart”).
The video (and MTV) totally set the stage for all 80s videos to come and also told the story of the fate that would soon befall radio stars all across the world.
MTV Debuts 80s Videos
Isn’t it totally awesome that this, of all 80s videos, not only was the first music video that played on MTV, but also that it’s technically a 70s song? Now that’s foresight!
As mentioned, “Video Killed the Radio Star” went down in history as the first music video to air on MTV. However, most people don’t know that the video played again on the music television giant on February 27, 2000. This time, it marked the millionth video to play on MTV.
Thanks to MTV and the death of the radio star, this song (not the video) topped the 80s music charts and was later covered by several other recording artists. It’s even been parodied.
80s Music: A New Era
The Buggles’ Trevor Horn penned the lyrics and of the song. He said that he felt “an era was about to pass.” Maybe he was psychic! His co-writers included the other two members of The Buggles, both Geoffrey Downes and Bruce Woolley.
Horn also took inspiration for the song lyrics from a short story titled “The Sound-Sweep” by J.G. Ballard. In the story, a mute boy who lives in a world without music is tasked with vacuuming up stray music (garbage). The story takes a turn when he meets an opera singer hiding out in the sewers.
Both the lyrics and the music of “Video Killed the Radio Star” are nostalgic, and bring up images of days gone by.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy, the video also features guest singers Debi Doss and Linda Jardim, who provided the female vocals and Hans Zimmer, who appears for a flash on keyboard. As for the song, it was produced on the album Age of Plastic.
Love Those 80s Videos!
We love 80s music but we must remember that what made it so totally wicked were all those awesome 80s videos that were given to us by MTV and groups like The Buggles. Long live the 80s!