Here is another “legacy” post from my old online journal. Dated: July 26, 2004. Alternate title: “THEY ARE NOT A BOY BAND!”
I spend maybe 3% of my waking hours defending one of my favorite rock-and-roll groups (Note that I don’t say “pop” groups). All the arguments below – and then some – still hold water. Each year, I try to get one more person to attend a show with me, and they become converted. If I can ever get Mr. Glib to accompany me, then all will be at equilibrium.
“Nobody figured that maybe – just maybe – rock’s savior would be Hanson.” —Details Magazine, March 2004
Ever since “MMMBop,” well, bopped onto our nation’s airwaves in the spring of 1997, Isaac, Taylor, and Zachary Hanson have been the subject of much ridicule and consternation. Dare I say the subject of misunderstanding. It is a truth universally acknowledged (around my condo) that all of this stems only from the following facts:
1. The brothers were extremely young (16, 14, and 11, respectively) when they first broke. Blonde floppy hair plus baby faces plus prepubescent voices equals grist for the derision mill.
2. Hanson emerged at or near the same time as the Backstreet Boys, *NSync, 98 Degrees, 5ive, LFO, C-Note, Take That, BBMak, O-Town and the like. (I could go on with this list. I won’t.)
3. Because of reasons one and two, their fan base consisted of a thundering herd of young girls. This factor never commands respect even if and when the music might. (See: Duran Duran, early Beatles).
4. Onomatopoeic songs, such as Hanson’s flagship single, are never appreciated in their time. Just ask the Crash Test Dummies.
For years, one of my minor missions in life, along with the goal to have everyone I know read and enjoy Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, is to defend Hanson for the prodigious talent that they are. Keep in mind that:
1. Unlike bands of the Backstreet Boys ilk (heretofore referred to as “BSBs”), Hanson writes their own songs, music and lyrics. Yes, this was even true in 1997 at their aforementioned young ages). Full disclousre: I also love the BSBs, but am completely accepting of their synthetic nature.
2. Unlike the BSBs, the Hanson three play their own instruments. Skillfully. In fact, they all play ALL instruments and throughout a concert will rotate between guitar, drums, and keys. And take turns lead singing, although Taylor is clearly the front man.
3. Unlike the BSBs, the Hansons do not engage in lip-synching or Svengali dance maneuvering during their performances.
4. Together with the Spice Girls (yes … the female, British, BSBs), Hanson dragged the musical landscape of the late 1990s out of a quagmire of gangster rap and mopey Chris Cornell wannabes and re-introduced good old-fashioned pop.
5. In late 2003, the brothers launched their own record label, 3CG records. When Underneath was released in the Spring of 2004, it debuted at number-one on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart. Add savvy business skills to their dossier.
And added since July 2004 …
6. Through their philanthropy, the have donated millions to five causes in Africa that fight HIV/AIDS, hunger, and poverty. In every city they visit (rain or shine, regardless of temperature), they host a barefoot walk. Fans come and join them (shoes allowed for fans) and for everyone who shows up, and every mile that is walked, more money is donated.
7. Between this philanthropic work, recording new music with his (literal) bros, and raising four damned kids, Taylor did a side project, Tinted Windows. This was a supergroup of sorts, featuring also guitarist James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins, bassist Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, and Bun E. Carlos, Cheap Trick’s drummer. Would these guys team with a “boy bander?” Correction: A non-Timberlake boy-bander? Likely not. Cred.
It is my firm belief that, had they waited several years and been marketed a la Maroon 5, Lifehouse, or The Calling, the world’s attitude toward their music would have been different. I’m not suggesting this should have been their strategy. And perhaps the trio prefers a life of infamy and scorn versus a three-year period (or less) of apathetic quasi-awareness from the masses.
I also believe, as outlined above, they were judged unfairly, and for the wrong reasons. Don’t hate Kelly LeBrock because she’s beautiful (or was once), and don’t hate Hanson because they are young and pretty.
If you want to explore further, check out the following tracks. Feel-good rock and roll that will put a spring in your step. You’re welcome.
Kind of a Girl (Tinted Windows)