Revisiting the Meaning Behind “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Welcome back to the Danger Zone.

After 36 years, the sequel to the action film Top Gun has finally arrived, and it’s proving to be wildly successful. Top Gun: Maverick (2022) has already grossed $282 million dollars at the box office worldwide and scored the biggest movie opening weekend over Memorial Day.

And to kick it all off are the striking chords of Kenny Loggins singing “Danger Zone” in the opening scene once again. So, in honor of Maverick’s return to the big screen, we’re diving into the meaning and creation of “Danger Zone.” Prepare for takeoff.

The meaning behind the lyrics.

Just like Tom Cruise’s character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the lyrics to “Danger Zone” are focused and packed with a goosebump-inducing amount of exhilaration. Revvin’ up your engine/ Listen to her howlin’ roar, Loggins sings.

The song hones in on overt aviation allusions to provide a runway for not only the movie’s stars but also Loggins vocals. “Danger Zone” highlights the process of a plane or jet taking off, headin’ into twilight, with its pilot pushing the mechanical bird into overload going as high as you can go.

Highway to the Danger Zone
Ride into the Danger Zone

How we got to the “Danger Zone.”

“Danger Zone” was written by composer Giorgio Moroder and songwriter Tom Whitlock in 1986. Moroder was brought in on the project after film producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson rejected hundreds of songs for the opening sequence. And as we now know, Moroder delivered.

“‘Danger Zone’ came from the track that Giorgio cooked up for the opening carrier deck scenes,” Whitlock explained in a 2018 interview. “I wrote the lyrics and Joe Pizzulo sang the demo and they flew it against those opening scenes and it worked. In retrospect, I may have been a bit too clever [or obvious] with all of the allusions but it was fun nevertheless. As with most of the stuff we did in those days, everything was conceived and executed under pressure.”

Loggins was later tapped to sing the track after Toto supposedly passed due to legal complications. At this point, Loggins was already building his legacy as The King of the Movie Soundtrack. (Loggin’s number one hit “Footloose” for the film of the same name debuted just two years earlier.) It was a match made in heaven.

Tina Turner influence

A large part of the “Danger Zone” charm is Loggins’ delivery. It’s direct with soaring amounts of adrenaline. And interestingly enough, Loggins drew a lot of inspiration from rock powerhouse Tina Turner for the track.

“[Turner] had adopted a rock attitude that was so aggressive—the tone and where she was singing in her throat. And her pronunciation of words. I think you can hear it mostly with the way I say ‘danger zone’—that’s the way Tina would’ve pronounced it,” Loggins told The Los Angeles Times. “One of the things that movie songs gave me the freedom to do was to be whoever I wanted to be, because it wasn’t really a Kenny Loggins thing. It was a movie thing. And if the movie flopped, no one would ever hear it. So just go for it. See where you can take it.”

Check out “Danger Zone” sung by Kenny Loggins below.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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