As May 6 is drawing to a close here in Norway, I just wanted to wish everybody a happy Hanson Day, and, while I’m at it, try to address some comments that have kept on tricklinf in over the years as I have continued to post semi-regularly about the band. From my Shout It Out (2010) review to the list of my 25 favorite Hanson songs, it seems the topic still inspires some readers to share their opinons. I’m sorry about the extremely late reply, but here are some of the things I’ve learned by reading comments on my previous Hanson posts.
Feedback on writing about the Tulsa trio, who celebrate not only the fifteen year anniversary of Middle of Nowhere today, but also their 20th anniversary as a band, I have come to realize that, barring the gay component, my story of secret Middle of Nowhere (1997) fandom, follow by a period of adoration from afar (This Time Around, 2000), until coming around completely in time for Underneath (2004-05), is not such an unusal one. Also, people, like the commenter Sue B., who commented on one of my earliest Hanson posts and the came back to comment on my personal favorites, are more welcoming to wavering fans and late-comers than I sensed when I viewed the 50f5 re-stream a couple of years ago.
My experience in many ways mirrors that of Melissa, who commented on the list of favorites, and also of Thea, who, like me, felt concerned about her reputation for wanting to embrace the band by the time This Time Around came out. And their personal ways, they allude to what I think is important for Fansons everywhere: First, you don’t have to love everything Hanson has ever put out to be a true fan, and second, that the magic of music in general, and of Hanson’s music in particular is something that is highly subjective to each individual fan. No matter how much we may love to share our stories of how our relationships with the band formed and has since evolved, we cannot escape that it was and continues to be shaped by our age, our environment, our tastes and everything else that mark us as individuals.
On August 23, 2010, Sue B. challenged me to flesh out a little more why I picked the songs I did for the top 25. She wrote: “(…) did the melodies rock your soul,the lyrics move you or what?” While I won’t go into all the twenty-five songs, I can, unsurprisingly, say that it was a bit of both, and a lot more, at different times. As a guiding principle, though, I’d stipulate that melody predates lyrics in my conception of whether a song is great and has staying power or not, particularly if it’s one of those upbeat pop-rock songs that Hanson are so good at. My two prime examples here, as I’m sure I’ve said before, are MMMBop and A Minute Without You, both prominently placed on my list – a list, I should add, that would not have changed all that much if I was to revise it today. If the melodies are this catchy, it’s almost like the lyrics don’t matter. It could have been mmmbop or another invented word; nothing could have ruined a song that addictive. That said, it didn’t hurt that mmmbop in a sense became separated from the song, allowing us to chew on such burning questions as what, precisely, an mmmbop is, and if we agree that it’s an amount of time (“In an mmmbop they’re gone”), how much time, etc. In the case of A Minute Without You, or Man From Milwaukee, for that matter, the silliness of the lyrics – the “one-thousand-four-hundred-forty hours in my day”, or the alien fantasy of Milwaukee – they serve a double purpose, both as metaphors for the obsessions of falling in love/the free-flowing fantasy or youngsters – and as charming lyrical expressions of the inherently sunny melodies that accompany them.
In other instances, the lyrics were the most important factor. Sure, Been There Before is a foot-stomping good time, but the clincher for me was the nostalgic bent of “does it move you?/does it soothe you?/does it fill your heart and soul/with the roots of rock & roll?” Or it could the fate of the apparently suicidal “pregnant flamenco dancer” in the unreleased In A Way. In this case, that character became so alive to me that I was drawn into the song from that angle. It was only in the next phase that I realized that I really liked its musical realization as well. A third example of this is the break-up ballad Me Myself and I. Nothing about it screams original, earth-shattering insights, but in a quietly defiant tone that is at the same time oddly discomforting, lines like “It must be the end of you and I/and forever, too” and “I don’t wanna get used to ‘it’s over'” take on some unexcpected emotional poignancy. There are countless other examples, and none of them can be completely separated from my personal experiences and temperament as an individual listener and Hanson fan.
Some songs on the list are included on the basis of a particular version, like the Underneath Acoustic Live DVD performance of River, which I much prefer compared to the 3 Car Garage version, or for reasons related to their place in the Hanson discography. Here, the whole Underneath album is something of a weird case. On the one hand, re-engaging with Hanson through this album, and Penny & Me, felt almost like a liberation, like I’ve tried to explain before. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an all-dominant force on the top 25. Lost Without Each Other is on there, yes, but when it comes to Strong Enough To Break, I in fact associate that song more with the similarly-titled documentary than with Underneath as an album. Which, I guess, only goes to show, once again, that there are a million different reasons why Hanson’s music continues to impact me so strongly at every level, and that any attempt to make a rigid formula to explain why a Hanson song from a particular era in their musical development (or mine) should appeal to me more than others, is likely to fall far short of being satisfactory. It’s the mystery of fandom, I guess.
For reference, here’s the list of my 25 favorite Hanson songs, as initially published on June 11, 2010:
- 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