“Take My Breath Away” is hardly the first soundtrack ballad to get to #1. But even so it feels like the start of something, a harbinger of the soon-come glory age of the film tie-in, when balladosaurus rex bestrode the charts, roaring and beating its chest and weeping for week upon emotional week. Of course the evolution of this sonic megafauna was gradual. Play “Take My Breath Away” next to something later, and functionally similar, like “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”, and “Breath” seems thoughtful, almost delicate.
But the key species characteristics of the titan song are present: the stateliness, the sense of scale, the yearning, most of all the epic abstraction. In the parent films, after all, specific situations – fighter pilots, car racers, asteroid drillers – are just skins for archetypal ideas of Heroism and Love and Sacrifice. So the songs can drop the skins completely and just wallow in those feelings – which means you get guff like “never hesitating to become the fated ones”, but also makes criticising the lyrics feel more beside the point than usual.
What makes “Take My Breath Away” interesting, for all its bombast, is the Giorgio Moroder production. Those four-note keyboard figures, suspended placidly over its synth beds, give the song a calm, weightless feel. It reminds me slightly of Julee Cruise’s “Falling” in its sense that love is a dreamstate, a suspension of time, and for all that the lyrics evaporate on attention, their string of present participles – watching, turning, returning, watching, again and again – reinforce this. The value in “Take My Breath Away” isn’t in its weight but its stillness.