I’ll be honest. I am a huge Hanson fan (yes, “Mmmbop” Hanson). Don’t judge me. To this day, I can still remember being a 7-year-old, skating around a roller rink in rural Oklahoma (there was not much else to do in this town but roller skate) and hearing “Mmmbop” for the first time. I found out what the song was, went home, and told my mom I needed to go to our local Hastings immediately.
I bought their first album, Middle of Nowhere, and was instantly hooked. Their music was catchy, and I loved seeing music wholly created by boys that were only a few years older than I was. Because we were so close in age, I felt I could relate to their songs in a way I couldn’t to music coming from an older generation. Before long, I bought magazines with Hanson on the cover, Hanson books, even their Live From Albertane tour VHS. And then, as quickly as I found them, my friends at my new school in Texas had moved on to boy bands like N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. In the latter years of elementary into early middle school, people began laugh at my Hanson posters, and I realized my favorite band had drifted into the teenage purgatory of uncool.
But this did not deter me in the slightest; in fact, I took their lag in popularity as an opportunity to hunt down formerly rare Hanson memorabilia including their much-coveted first demo CD, Boomerang, my white whale (an ultimately fruitless quest, sadly). I wasn’t about to give up on my favorite band just because they weren’t popular anymore. However, after their album This Time Around released in 2000, the group didn’t put out new music for several years. In that time I moved to a new state, started a new school, and ultimately started high school. I was a very different person from that little girl in Oklahoma, and after years without hearing anything new from my favorite group, I figured that Hanson was moving on, so I did too.
Then, in 2004, Hanson released the album Underneath. I remember seeing the CD in a Wal-Mart, and I audibly gasped in the store: my boys were back, and I was ready. They had signed to a new label, 3CG, which they’ve been issuing full-lengths and EPs ever since. If you’ve never heard modern Hanson, it’s tempting to think they sound exactly like they did back in their “Mmmbop” era. However, throughout their career, the Hanson brothers have consistently drawn inspiration from classic rock & roll and blues, and their newer songs mix that with acoustic soul. If that’s hard to imagine, you should check out the music video for their song “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin.” The music video not only features a great song, but a spot-on Blues Brothers homage, and Weird Al, because why the hell not?
The group has managed to evolve into a band that continues to make music with a beautiful, unique sound and meaningful lyrics, and so it’s been easy to stay a fan all these years. When the band announced their 25th anniversary tour, The Middle of Everywhere Tour, I scooped up my tickets the moment they went on sale after a mild time crisis–how has it already been 25 years? Turns out buying my tickets quickly was a good call, because shows are selling out all over the world. Those middle school classmates who mocked my Hanson-decorated locker would be shocked to learn how many Fansons there are today.
I’ve been to about five Hanson concerts, and each time the line to get in wraps around the building like a slap-on bracelet. Usually it’s filled with women in their mid-twenties to thirties. You’ll likely spot a few older or younger folks, but mostly the audience is made up of people, who first heard “Mmmbop” way back in the nineties. But regardless of the demographic, the group is always incredibly kind. You can’t leave a Hanson concert without making a new friend, and since the band usually tours with a variety of unique but amazing independent bands and singers like Sherwood, Meiko, and Steel Train, you can’t leave without finding a new musical obsession. Since the group has been around for decades at this point, they have a ton of material to play, so every show feels fresh and different; they even do some covers of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and “Furry Walls” from the film Get Him To the Greek.
Of course, they have to play “Mmmbop.” It’s inescapably nostalgic, for better or worse. Even though Hanson fans spend a lot of time explaining that Hanson is much more than just the “Mmmbop” guys, we all still fight off tears when they close their show with lines like “hold on to the ones who really care, in the end they’ll be the only ones there.” Lines like that really speak to us–even though “plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose, you can plant any one of those” still doesn’t make any sense at all. None that doesn’t matter. All that matters is standing in a crowd of old and new friends, sipping on a cup of Hanson’s personal brew, Mmmhops, and feeling like a kid again. But it isn’t all about the warm cuddle of nostalgia.
They’re a band that loves their fans and tours constantly, but they also care about using their cult fame for good. Before many of the shows, you can participate in a “walk” with the band, where you all walk one mile without shoes. In addition to raising awareness to under-developed nations, the band donates ticket proceeds to provide communities in need with vital things like shoes, water, schools, and food. They’ve partnered with TOMS shoes and other organizations to bring resources to those in need, and have even empowered fans to host their own walks and do their own fundraising.
This year, Hanson will turn 25 years old, and will likely perform in a city near you. While they may have attained initial notoriety with a kitschy song that still takes me back to that skating rink in Oklahoma, they’re much more than “Mmmbop.” Hanson makes great music, love their fans, highlight other indie artists, foster a welcoming community at their concerts, use their sliver of spotlight for philanthropy, and empower their fans to make positive change too. So yeah, it’s 2017 and I’m still a proud Hanson fan, and maybe you should be, too.
Are you a Hanson fan? What’s your favorite Hanson song? Tell us in the comments!
Feature Image: Jiro Schneider/Big Hassle Media
Gif Credit: Giphy