A-ha - “True North” album review

Story posted October 31, 2022 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by McKenna Wall

A-ha is labeled as a one-hit wonder in the United States, and its new album “True North” is not going to change that.

“True North'' is A-ha’s 11th studio album. In this new release, the band stays true to its synth pop style.

Just three years after its start, the Norwegian band achieved success in 1985 with the hit song “Take On Me.”

Since 1985, A-ha has been trying to create a song with a similar magnitude of impact as “Take On Me.” The result has been a collection of repetitive synth music, and this 2022 release is more of the same.

The album starts off strong with “I’m In,” a sweet, emotional cry of hopeless devotion.
However, as the album continues, the quality of music goes south.

While an album typically encompasses a unified aesthetic, “True North,” has too much cohesion. This album is essentially the same songs over-and-over in terms of its overall groove and arrangement.

Oddly, the songs themselves independently clash. For example, “Make Me Understand” starts with a slow tempo before suddenly dropping into a fast-paced dance beat. It is a violent surprise to the ears that does not make sense with the lyrical metaphor of the song.

Lyrically, “True North” exudes hopeful inspiration, while still acknowledging dark feelings such as loneliness and heartbreak.

“As If,” the third track on the album, has the capability of getting stuck in listeners’ heads. The atmosphere is similar to “Space Oddity,” by David Bowie. The acoustic guitar accompanied by synth sounds is an eclectic combination. The underlying mood of the song is strange and eerie, “I’ll empty out a lake with a spoon / Buy a plot of land on the moon.”

The 11th song on the album, “Summer Rain,” rejects the phrase “right person, wrong time,” and says, “We will get together, don’t let circumstance decide.” It is a hopeful determination to be with somebody. Although the words flow like a serenade, the actual tone of the song is somber. Notably, the piano riff throughout the song sounds familiar to the music that accompanies Jimmy Fallon’s “Thank You Note” routine on “The Tonight Show.”

The most redeeming song on “True North” is the final track, titled “Oh My Word.” It is the frosting on a cardboard cake, glazing over the songs before it. “Oh My Word,” has a lovely tune, carried along by light guitar strums and piano notes. This song contains a soothing melody as opposed to the haunting atmosphere of the rest of the album.

“True North” places an emphasis on ambient sound, creating a coming-of-age movie feel. The title song on the album, “True North,” has an abundance of instrumental breaks, leading listeners into a dramatic, intense mood.

This album could have been a more popular release for A-ha if it had debuted on the soundtrack of a film. This album was written for Generation X, who can appreciate synth pop because it was especially prevalent in the 1980s. Accompanying a major motion picture, this album had a fighting chance to appeal to a younger audience.

Collaborating to create music for the cinema could be a successful endeavor for the band in the future.

Rating: 3/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Oh My Word” and “I’m In”
Review’s Least Favorite Songs: “Make Me Understand” and “Summer Rain”

McKenna Wall is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email mew6140@psu.edu.