One of the multiple upsides of watching Hanson’s re-broadcast of their 5 of 5 concert series (during which they played their way, chronologically, through their five studio albums, from 1997’s Middle of Nowhere to Shout It Out, released this week), was that I got a chance to think about what it is I love about this band. Some perceptions were altered – relatively bland Underneath tracks like Broken Angel and When You’re Gone really came alive for me, and so did Hand In Hand from This Time Around and Blue Sky from The Walk – while other previous assessments held up pretty well. For instance, much as it pains me to say this, the live show of The Walk confirmed my suspicion that it is by far Hanson’s weakest album, while I’ll continue to tout the quality of Middle of Nowhere. The concert performance was flawless, and it gave new life to some of the songs that where either written off (Lucy, a breakup song in which drummer Zac Hanson’s pre-pubescent voice once sounded like an odd fit for the lyrics), or didn’t seem to fit the overall tone of the album, like Look At You. The only real disappoinment of the mega-gig was the This Time Around night, an absolute favorite of mine. Here, the normally flawless Taylor Hanson’s vocals regularly faltered, but even that meant that other songs and performers had the chance to grab the spotlight instead. Hand in Hand was Ike Hanson’s definitive moment to shine, and he seized it.
It was a remarkable five-night experience not because Hanson have been stingy with documenting their live performances before – from the early tour documentaries The Road to Albertane and Tulsa, Tokyo and the Middle of Nowhere to the Underneath Acoustic Live and Live at Filmore DVDs, over the Live from Albertane album to the Live & Electric and the Middle of Nowhere Acoustic fanclub exclusive, they have in fact been very generous – but because it was a chance to share it with Hanson fans all over the world. The international audience was regularly addressed by Taylor on camera, and I could follow the reception on Twitter livestream. For a moment, it felt like the Hanson concert I have long wanted to attend.
Still, I noticed that you could basically divide hardcore Hanson fans (of whom I consider myself one) into two camps. Not to mock fellow Fansons here, but you had those who thought every tune was pitch-perfect, and who took it as an insult, both personally and on the band’s behalf, when someone suggested that the This Time Around performance sounded a little off, or that there were some weak links on The Walk. They are dedicated fans, no doubt, but they seem to suggest that to be a real fan, you have to remain euphoric about absolutely everything they Hanson has ever released or performed. Perhaps not surprisingly, I consider myself part of the other large camp; those who were just as thrilled with the experience, but who came into it with a more open mind about our favorites and the respective strengths and weaknesses of the individual albums. It was a spirited, at times ecstatic debate, and a couple of nights in, I actually started to feel like I mastered the very specific Fansonite cultural code.
That said, there will always be something of a gulf between people like me and another group of fans. The most flashily decicated ones are also those who are most concerned about letting you know that they have been with the band all along. I admire them for their stamina, and I sometimes try to claim the same (in the sense that I did like them back in ’97, I just never said so publicly, and I did want to buy This Time Around in 2000, I was just too wary of my reputation to do so), but I wasn’t. As I’ve written about repeatedly, I fell for Hanson (and for Zac, in particular) back in the Middle of Nowhere days, and I didn’t really come back out swinging for them until they returned with Penny & Me (again, Zac played an important part). I want to be taken seriously as just as dedicated a fan as these incredibly loyal founding mothers and fathers of Fansonism, but in a sense, it’s already too late.
My long absence from the world of Hanson between This Time Around and Underneath, has also shaped how I assess their discography. Underneath, and Penny & Me in particular, has a very special place in my understanding of the band, although song by song, I think both Middle of Nowhere and This Time Around are better pop records. Underneath was an early coming out album, in more than one sense, and a defining moment for me. Allowing myself to embrace that album also meant that I could, at least gradually, embrace not only the feelings I had for Zac, but the general affinity I had for music that was otherwise in danger of being labeled gay-by-association. I’m glad Underneath was my return to Hanson, although I doubt lost out on some great Hanson moments while I was away.
Incidentally, if read in a certain way, the song Voice In The Chorus from the new record can be read as being about those fans who only showed up when all the troubles were behind the band, although it’s really a story of someone who doesn’t was his old girlfriend back (“You passed me by when I was barely hanging on/but you where there when I was doing just fine/(…) You’ll be there waiting when I’m back on top/(…) Tell where you have been all this time”). It’s silly, I know, but kind of entertaining, nonetheless.
The perhaps single best thing I got out of the 5 of 5 concerts, however, was an urge to sit down and make a list of my favorite Hanson songs. The real crossroad in Hanson history may have been the split from Island Def Jam after This Time Around, or the new musical direction the band took on Underneath and The Walk, but in a way, Shout It Out feels like a defining moment, too. In some ways, it marks the return to the joyous aspects of rock music, and more importantly, a successful merger of these two most prominent threads running through their entire catalogue. Therefore, this is as good a time as any to size up their career so far. Agree/disagree? Please sound off in the comments section. This is the list at this very moment:
- Penny & Me
- A Minute Without You
- Runaway Run
- If Only
- Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’
- Sure About It
- Me Myself And I
- I Will Come To You
- Been There Before
- River (Underneath Acoustic Live version, first released on 3 Car Garage, 1997)
- Man From Milwaukee
- In A Way (unreleased)
- Musical Ride
- Every Word I Say (b-side, Penny & Me, included on Live & Electric)
- Strong Enough To Break
- The Walk
- Voice In The Chorus
- A Song To Sing
- I Almost Care (iTunes exclusive)
- Lost Without Each Other
- With You In Your Dreams
- Wish I Was There
- Waiting For This
you forgot Crazy Beautiful! That’s my favorite Hanson song T_T
I was debating myself long and hard about those final three or so spots, and Crazy Beautiful was one of those that was cut in the final round of voting, Great songs, and particularly in its various live outings.
it’s Broken Angel. :p Anyway, nice thoughts.
Of course. Must have been thinking about the John Travolta/Christian Slater movie when I wrote that ;) (Have no idea why), Thanks for your comment. I really liked the Broken Angel version on 5of5. In some ways, Zac is now the most interesting Hanson, even musically.
I like being a fan of all kinds of artists but the fans who think their star can do no wrong really do irk me after a while. Reminds me of parents on crime shows who say, “My child would never have committed that crime” even though they acknowledge that the same child was regularly say drunk and disorderly…*sigh*
I’m planning on writing another piece on this. It really hurts when my favorites don’t live up to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t acknowledge. Most recent major letdown was Springsteen’s ‘Working On A Dream’. I loved ‘Magic’, but WOAD may have been his weakest album to date.
Great list! I have been a Hanson fan since MON came out and, like you, didnt buy This Time Around as i was worried of others perceptions. But its now my favourite record so far! Its amazing to realise so many of those songs on your list were written when the guys were either teens or just barely adults. Hanson capture emotion in an obvious, yet insightful and touching way…songs i lovd that arent imckuded in your list include Believe, Never Let Go, Lay Me Down, Georgia and Give A Little. Its hard to choose, but i guess the best ones are the ones that all fansons can agree on, as well as having a special place in each of ourheartspersonally. Im ordering the 5 of 5 DVD set from http://www.hanson.net tomorrow. All 5 nights, special bonus features and the amazing music to watch and listen to whenever you need some Hanson to make your day that bit brighter!
I think a lot of people who became fans of the band early on can easily understand what you are saying. While I was in love with Middle of Nowhere and Taylor Hanson, I still felt concerned about my ‘reputation’ as well and so I lost track of what Hanson was up to after the public’s rather lukewarm response to This Time Around. When Penny & Me came out, I was really excited but was immediately disappointed to find that not another single reached the mainstream radio despite the single’s relative success… So I assumed I would never hear of Hanson being ‘successful’ again.
Needless to say, I was highly amazed when I learned about their gutsy split with Island Def Jam and realized how incredibly staunch they are about their music. And as if this isn’t enough to impress a returning fan, I learned about their activism through the barefoot walks and their trip to Africa.
Now, I don’t mean to be cheesy (though I probably already am anyway) but I’ve also come to appreciate how genuinely nice all of them are. From what I see in photos and videos of them with their wives and children, they seem to be living with a lot of love and everyone just looks healthy and happy. A lot of people also say that they are honest and funny during interviews and are friendly towards their fans — be it during performances or when they’re spotted on the road.
Previously, I would most likely squeal or faint if I come face-to-face with Hanson. However, after learning about their wonderful endeavors, I’d very much want to just shake their hand instead and tell them what amazing people they are.
My Top 20 Hanson Songs:
2. Been There Before
4. Watch Over Me
5. Give a Little
6. Great Divide
7. A Song to Sing
8. One More
9. Wasting Time
10. My Own Sweet Time
11. World’s On Fire
12. With You in Your Dreams
13. Need You Now
14. Penny & Me
15. Thinking ‘Bout Something
16. Musical Ride
17. Yearbook (still can’t believe they were mature enough to do this in 1997)
18. I Will Come to You (more because of the melody, less because of the lyrics except the title itself)
19. If Only
20. Waiting for This | The Walk
I am also a fan that went away for awhile and came back later on. I did buy This Time Around and I LOVED it. I can remember when Underneath and The Walk were both released, but I was too punk or hardcore to bother to buy them. That being said, I have never been a more devoted fan. Yes, I get shit all the time for listening to them and have mmmbop sung at me constantly, but that doesn’t stop me. It is a true connection thaty I have with their lyrics and with them as human beings. I agree The Walk is not their best work, but there are some gems on that album such as Georgia, Great Divide and Go for me. I rotate between This Time Around and Underneath as my favorite album as they both mean a lot to me. My top 10 songs as of this moment in my life would be:
1. A Song to Sing
2. When You’re Gone
4. Dying to be Alive
5. If Only
7. A Minute Without You
10. And I Waited
I loved reading this, although I know I’m a bit late… :) I’ve been a fan since ’97, and it has been a journey for me following them consistently during the time since then. I’m one of those that didn’t drop out during the low time. But I’m not one of the fanatical ones who says “Hanson can do no wrong.” :) Actually, after meeting them briefly a few years ago, I was sorely disappointed that Taylor was not as nice as I had hoped (I called it my “Hanson reality check”). They became human beings to me that day, and I realized that I could still love their music and I could still enjoy every second of every concert while viewing them as people – rock star gods who can do no wrong. I’m glad to hear other’s stories of fandom, and I LOVED reading your list as well as those of other posters.
I’m so glad that there are other followers out there, so hopefully Hanson will stick around for a loooong time!
thanks for your comment. The comments on this post have continued to trickle in over the last few years, and I actually wrote a follow-up earlier this year (https://welcometoallthat.com/2012/05/06/hanson-day-reflections)
I love the stories of how people’s relationships with the band have changed and strengthened over the years. To me that’s a fundamental part of true fandom. This is why (their) music is so important to us; it’s been there for us for so long.
I’d love to see your own list of favorites!
I think I have some similarities with you…I bought all their albums from MON to underneath. I really didn’t care about other people’s perception but I did lost them for several years simply because I didn’t know how to get their new music. After underneath, the last Hanson album that’s being sold in Indonesia was the best of Hanson: live & electric. It’s just in early 2012 that I found out that I can actually buy their albums through Hanson.net. So here I am, back to the Fanson land :-p
actually, I bought all their albums from MON to live and electric (I found it at a CD store in early 2007),
Great blog :) I’m shocked no-one has ‘save me’ in their lists! I would say that song is easily in my top 5! Also love crazy beautiful, but not the album version…
I think The Walk is their strongest record haha. Its a little less “produced” than the others, but its the one i always end up still playing start to end. Then MON, then SIO, then Underneath. It’s the one that seems to convince doubters quickest too, The Walk. I thought TTA was great but probably their weakest, if only (no pun intended) by comparison. Only heard half of Anthem. Juliet is probably one of my all time faves, Cut Right Through Me is awful, worst thing they have put out. We get hanson albums a year late nowadays in Australia. The Walk never properly came out here actually.
Wow! Can’t believe Iove song isn’t on this list. It’s one of their best and it’s really beautiful.