This post of Billy's has been picked up by a Hanson fan site, which has given it a second life. He has clearly tapped into a cultural phenomenon, so I am pleased to bring it to the fore and to "reprint" it on his behalf."
This is the song that single-handedly proved they were different than their contemporaries. They weren't about hair gel and muscle shirts. They were about expressing the gamut of feelings of being young teens.
- With You In Your Dreams
They wrote this song about their recently-deceased grandmother. I'm not too ashamed to admit that it gets me a little misty everytime I hear it.
- Runaway Run
Absolutely has to be one of the catchiest pop songs I've heard this decade. Made all the better because you really don't have any specific clue what the hell they're talking about other than some really hot girl worth obsessing over yet also makes either her or him want to run away. But rock history is resplendent with great songs no one totally understands.
- A Song to Sing
- Penny + Me
If it's a crime that "Runaway Run" was ignored by the mainstream, then no Hanson fan could be surprised that "Penny + Me" fell to the same cruel fate. For a song that feels so exhilerating, there's a bittersweet undercurrent in those superfast lyrics. The way friendships change over time, particularly between boys and girls, can't be explored enough in lyrics to suit me.
- Great Divide
OK. There's nothing groundbreaking about this. It's pure, uncut adult alternative break-up fodder. But these kids are gifted at fodder. And when done right, fodder is good. It's not like vegemite or haggis. It's tasty, like a Wendy's Spicy Chicken Filet or a gut-busting Krystal. Just 'cuz you shouldn't exclusively dine on such junk, ain't nothin' wrong with enjoying them now and then.
- Been There Before
The song where they openly brag about how derivative they are as a band. And the hook is luscious. Finger snaps and everything!
The band Hanson, on the other hand, born of up three hippie-fied teen brothers, are good for one thing: getting constantly stomped by nay-sayers and music snobs.
At a time when the Jonas Brothers ride a wild ride of success as carefully constructed as Space Mountain or any of Disney's other amusement park rides, it's worth paying homage to a band that wasn't created by corporate goons; the Hanson brothers were merely shaped and molded. With the help of a few hand-holding songwriters and the Dust Brothers (whom you can also curse for Avril Lavigne). Another big difference, and a sign of how much more involved and serious Hanson has always been: they've made four albums in 10 years. The Jonas Brothers, on the other hand, have put out three albums in three years. Like the Beatles! Except with more financial backing!
Hanson debuted with their album Middle of Nowhere, which must be one of the most saccharine-sweet paeans to young teenage life ever crafted. However, it's possible to be terribly over-sweetened while also being spot-on -- early teen years can be pretty over-the-top and make you wanna say "Awwwww" in that cute way a lot. The album also contains moments of poignance and insight, not to mention great pop hooks, that suggested Hanson had legs their contemporaries might not.
I listen to Middle of Nowhere for the same exact reason I can't seem to turn off The Goonies whenever I see it on TV, because I love anything that celebrates the joys and miseries of those precious years in a sincere way. Even if it's a little cheesy and has a Cyndi Lauper song in it.
Yes, before Radiohead or Trent Reznor grew the testicular fortitude to, as Fleetwood Mac might say, go their own way, Hanson took that plunge. Rather than milking their "Mmm-Bop" fame by making more albums cut from the same cloth (and in Jonas Brothers-esque double-time), they chose to try and mature right along with Taylor Hanson's voice. They didn't wrap their second (non-Christmas) studio album for three years, basically flipping off anyone and everyone who figured Taylor Hanson would always sound like he was on helium and would milk success from his Young Michael Jackson sound.
Four albums in, Hanson hasn't done anything particularly revolutionary. They just make darn fine pop music heavy on 60s and 70s roots rock. They are the true life version of the Partridge family, except better songwriters and honest-to-God musicians.
No one who sticks with classic country or believes Metallica is king of the music hill could reasonably be expected to listen to Hanson songs and have a Road to Damascus-like conversion. If you don't enjoy pop, there's nothing in their collection that will raise your antannae. But it's a shame to me that this band, a real band that takes their craft seriously and are in it because they love music and always have, somehow got lumped in with all the others of their first album heyday. And the Jonas Brothers serve as a reminder of what Hanson could have been if they'd really wanted to, as Bob's last post discusses, Sell Out.
They're sugary-sweet pop, but all of us should find it in us to enjoy a Twinkie every once in a while. So quit hatin'. Enjoy some delicious pop goodness!
The four main Hanson albums as well as others can be purchased through both iTunes and Amazon.com.