The new a-ha single “Under The Makeup” has now premiered on Norwegian radio a few days early, after the song leaked online on Monday night.
The song features a big, orchestral arrangement, which Lars Horntveth comments on in a video posted by a-ha.com on YouTube: “We tried to do kind of like a big James Bond-ish arrangement on it. It was also inspired by a Bjørk song which is called “Play Dead” from her ‘Debut’ album. It sounds really big and almost like a “wall of sound” [production]”.
“Under The Makeup” has so far been getting mixed receptions from both fans and critics. As one fan put it on the West Of The Moon Forum: “Interestingly it seems to be satisfying neither the guitar rock brigade nor the synth brigade! It’s all about the strings, bass and orchestration. Could be promising however for the live set.”
VG‘s reviewer Stein Østbø gives the song 4/6 and calls it “Dripping with melancholy, majestic and sincere. And impossible to dislike.” But he feels the arrangement is overdone: “This song doesn’t need strings to underscore the drama of the lyrics and melody, this song needs a more sparse arrangement around Morten Harket’s voice.”
The song also gets 4/6 from Dagbladet: “The lyrics could easily be interpreted as confronting the ambivalence that the band has had to struggle with over the years. It’s about breaking up and reuniting. (…) Thanks to Harket’s trademark vocals and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s very distinct melodic signature, it’s hard for a-ha to do much wrong as long as they stick to their basic ingredients. But naturally that also makes them slightly predictable.”
Aftenposten‘s reviewer gives the song 5/6. “Whereas the previous album was leaning towards the modern pop of bands like Coldplay and The Killers, there’s something more genuine about the new single. (…) A bit pompous, but it sounds great, and it doesn’t take many listens before you’re singing along to the chorus.”
Adresseavisen also has a positive 5/6 review: “The song sticks in your head right at the first line and melody change, it only takes eight seconds to realize that this is a really good choice as a single.”
Dagsavisen however isn’t too impressed with the new single, giving it 3/6: “One could always hope, but “Under The Makeup” doesn’t exactly raise expectations ahead of the album Cast In Steel, and a-ha is now more reminiscent of a vanity project than a band with good ideas.”