October 19, 2016

Play On Replay: EP Review

One of the things I really like about the Play EP is that it only has one traditional love song. I know love is probably the single most inspirational factor in the history of music, but I often find myself wishing for more songs focusing on other topics. I’m used to loving melodies and instrumentals and sometimes ignoring the fact that the killer guitar riff I’m nodding along with is accompanying some pretty mushy lyrics. I really like that I can connect with most of the songs on Play with or without having somebody to love, and I think that is something that Hanson also did well with Loud.

 I'm all for a bunch of "love" songs when the object of affection is music and happiness.

"Do You Believe In Love
I LOVE the sound of this song. Those stacked acapella harmonies in the beginning are simply delicious. I have always liked Queen, and I’m not the slightest bit upset to see Hanson try a song in their style. My original reaction stands: It sounds like Queen and Hanson and birthday cake and money raining from the sky. I know the obvious Queen sound has been off-putting to some and may even feel like a rip-off, but as someone who could not even come close to ripping off Queen if I tried, I’ll stay impressed. Besides, Freddie Mercury wrote “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as a tribute to Elvis and you can definitely hear the influence, so I doubt they’d mind.


What would make me love it more?
#UnpopularOpinion alert: I’d like it more if we didn’t get the full song as an early download. I was so excited to listen to Play on October 10th, and I can just imagine how much more excited I would have been if this song was part of that moment as well.

"Freak Out"
I think this song is the main source of my procrastination for finishing this review. I don't have anything particularly good or bad to say about it. I'm hoping it's one of those songs I fall in love with when I hear it live or at random three years later, but only time will tell. One thing I will say is that as a fan blogger, I never let myself read other fans' reviews before I write my own because I don't want to influence my own opinion before I can figure out how I feel first. Since I don't actually have much of an opinion in this situation, I'm happy to be influenced and I pretty much can't wait to read what other fans had to say about this song.

"Man On Top"
I want to like "Man On Top," but I feel like I need more context or more of a background story to really enjoy it. Something about the lyrics just feels out of place to me. Why is there a song about a guy thinking he's awesome in the middle of an album about great music and feeling joyful? If "Do You Believe In Love" is in homage to Queen, "Man On Top" feels like an ode to Kanye West.

It's similar to "You Can't Stop Us," but where that song feels like exerting confidence and proving your worth to someone trying to keep you down, this one just feels cocky and over the top. And maybe cocky and over the top is the exact vibe they were going for with this song, but I need someone to connect the dots for me and explain how that fits in on Play before I can embrace it. I'm happy to say it sounds way less Clarissa Explains it All than I originally thought when we were recording the background "na na" part, but it also sounds way more Zapp Brannigan meets Ron Burgundy than I thought, too.

"Joyful Noise"

Those catchy little "la las" in the chorus have been on loop in my head since we first sang them in May. A few weeks after we heard Play when my memories began fading to a feeling rather than a sound, this is the tune that still stuck. The whole song is this idealistic concept of healing the world with joyful music, and while that may not be achievable on a global scale, I think it can totally work at the individual level if you let it. Between the upbeat piano and the "la la" part, I think "joyful" is the perfect word to describe this song, and I think Hanson did a pretty great job at capturing that feeling of joy in song form.

A fan friend of mine (other Holly) mentioned that it reminded her of a Coke commercial. I was picturing the animated ones from recent years with dancing animals and super happy music and fountains of Coke spraying joyful little streams of happiness because obviously Coke makes everything better, and I totally agreed that the vibe was similar. Turns out she was actually talking about this one, and that I somehow missed the memo that "I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing" originated as a Coke jingle. To her point, "Joyful Noise" has very similar lyrics but with their own unique Hanson sound.

I don't think of this song as a Christian song at all, but I can't quite ignore the phrasing and the fact that "Make a joyful noise" is a verbatim quote from Psalm 100. I touched on a little bit of potential Biblical influence in my rambling analysis of "Feeling Alive" as well last week, but I think in both cases the Biblical wording was chosen to reflect a general feeling of joy and thanksgiving and community more than it was meant to make any sort of religious statement.

"Feeling Alive"
I'll keep this one short because I've already exhausted any reasonable word count when it comes to this song. Suffice it to say "Feeling Alive" is a definite standout to me and I think has the potential to be my new favorite Hanson song, but I'm not allowed to make that call until the newness has worn off some. The lyrics feel meaningful and genuine and I'm proud of the final product they were able to create here. There isn't a single line that leaves me wondering what it means or wishing they had tweaked it just a little bit. The message is clear and confident and that fact is perhaps reflected in Taylor's uncharacteristically perfect enunciation throughout the song. All the gold stars. I had no idea so many people would agree.

If you've somehow managed to escape my full praise report on this song, you can check it out here.

Now it's time for you to tell me an opinion of your own.

(There's been a reported mouse/thumb mishap where someone accidentally voted for Freak Out instead of Do You Believe In Love. So for accuracy purposes, consider DYBIL having one more vote and Freak Out having one less.)

October 12, 2016

Feeling Alive: An Analysis

The first time I heard “Feeling Alive,” I was at the Brady Theatre back in May at Hanson Day. It got to me in a way I couldn’t explain at the time, and I found myself standing there with happy tears forming just loving this song. I left feeling excited and restored in some way, but also confused by why it had such a strong effect on me. It wasn’t until I was talking with another fan a few days later that it hit me why this song felt so strangely familiar and important—it felt like a continuation of “Tonight.”

If you haven’t read my analysis of “Tonight” from a few years ago, you’ll probably get the most out of this post if you pause here for a moment and go check it out. To sum it up, “Tonight” has been my favorite Hanson song since Anthem’s release because it reminds me of exactly how much I have to lose and how much I have to be thankful for when it comes to this band. To me, "Tonight" had a note of finality and gave me a glimpse of just how close Hanson was to walking away from their music. It sounded like the story of a last hurrah before an end. And "Feeling Alive" sounded like the morning after "Tonight" where we all managed to make it to "tomorrow's daylight." Cue the happy tears. (And the lesson plans.)

"Feeling Alive" vs. "Tonight"
Both songs use fighting metaphors to talk about what I presume to be the same topic: creating music. “Tonight” uses boxing—“box to the ropes,” “your heavyweight knees buckle under a ton,” and “don’t give up without a fight.” “Feeling Alive” uses battle/war imagery. We’ve got cannons firing, talk of winning or losing, and being “on both sides of the barrel” of a gun. Even the drums sound like a battle march. So why does this matter? Because there's one big difference:

Boxers fight each other; soldiers fight together.

It's the secret to making it through to that next morning, working together as a team instead of isolating yourself and feeling cornered.

The other obvious similarity is the theme of raised hands. There’s “Throw your hands up” in “Tonight,” and “Lift your hands up high/reach up to the sky” in “Feeling Alive.” This is where I go back to my English teacher roots because the wording totally matters. As I said in my previous post, the particular wording used in “Tonight” has a more negative connotation. In every day use, you “throw up your hands” in frustration or to signify giving up. But the image of lifting your hands up to the sky? It’s a celebratory action found in several places throughout the Bible. Lifting one’s hands is common in an act of worship or praise. Am I arguing that this is a Christian song? Not at all. I just can't ignore the word choice and the fact that lifting one's hands to the sky is a historically positive thing showing joy and gratitude.

Because I actually do want you to make it to the end of this post without falling asleep, I'm cutting the paragraph I had here about the subtle differences in the first person perspective and the use of implied "you" subjects in "Tonight." Just know that it totally exists and you have been spared. There's a handy TL;DR graphic below, anyway.

"Feeling Alive"
Despite the strong connection I see between these two songs, I do think "Feeling Alive" is an incredible song on its own. It's vague enough for the meaning to fit a lot of different situations, but I see it as a metaphor for my favorite musicians joining together in the fight to continue putting out great music. The song acknowledges a struggle and still leaves room for doubt and uncertainty ("Even if we don't survive," "If we've lost or won"), but as a whole the message is positive. It's the story of a fighter who would be cautious and insecure under normal conditions, but has been tasked with a cause and a passion that he simply can't ignore.

In the beginning of the song he depicts himself as directionless. He claims that he isn't a leader, yet he goes on to flawlessly command a full choir, and you can hear the evidence of his success in the background "oohs". His growing confidence is mirrored by the sound of building drums as the song progresses, and there's a moment in the last verse where his voice seems to reach a final, desperate peak as well. You can hear the desperation and urgency when he sings "I've fallen on my face while just standing in place," and I think it's this revelation that ultimately leads him to action and to our chorus of "Tonight I won't stand still." It's 2016's version of "And we won't go down."

(Don't worry, there won't be a follow up post comparing "Feeling Alive" to "This Time Around" even though it's full of war imagery too.)

The line "I'm humble by your side" is also an important one. It may sound hypocritical at first to see someone referring to themselves as humble, but it's the rest of that sentence that matters. He's not saying "I'm a humble guy;" he's saying "I'm humble by your side." The best definition of "humble" that I found says it means "showing deferential or submissive respect." He's showing respect and appreciation for the ones fighting with him, whether that means the other members in the band, a congregation of fans, or both. And that joyful choir? I like to think that's their representation of us in their battle, and proof of what they can achieve when they work together.

I think some will read a little too much into the part at the end that says "There's just one act left in this play" and take it as proof of some impending end, but you can't isolate that line and ignore the rest of the song.

I've said
Just about
All I can say
There's just one act
Left in this play

There's a subtle shift between "say" and "act" where this hesitant speaker finally admits he needs to stop talking about feeling directionless and actually DO something about it. The final act here is literally just to act (instead of "standing in place"), and the play metaphor is a play on words with the EP's title. It's the very end of the last song on the EP; it's the final act of the play, or "Play." 
And with a title like "Feeling Alive"? I have to take it at face value and say it feels like the band is in a really good place to me.  I'll be readily anticipating the next production.

Not bored yet? Here are the notes I made before I started writing this post. There are a few things that didn't make the cut here, like what I think the "señorita" line is referring to. I'd love to hear your interpretations of the song, too!

(Too small to read? Open in a new tab or click here.)

October 4, 2016

10 Totally Avoidable Travel Regrets

Let one woman's misfortunes be another's crisis averted.

1. Not bringing enough small bills or change.
If you're sticking to the beaten path, you can usually run to an ATM if you fail to bring enough cash, but that won’t help when you need smaller bills or coins. There’s always tipping, tolls, cab fares, and laundry services to consider. Splitting costs in a car full of people also gets complicated fast when nobody remembered to bring anything smaller than a $20. (Side note—as someone with retail experience, I promise no cashier has ever wanted to break that $100 bill into your preferred combination of $5’s, $1’s, and quarters with your purchase of a pack of gum, either.)

2. Assuming the weather reports are accurate.
I have packed a suitcase full of the wrong clothes more than once because I based my choices solely on weather reports. Always opt for that one jacket, pair of long pants, pair of shorts, or umbrella that you don't think you'll need. Otherwise you may wind up miserable or on an unplanned shopping spree.

3. Overpacking.
Just because you have extra space doesn’t mean you should fill it. There was a time for me when going to a show in a car automatically meant packing a camping chair and a cooler. I’m not saying those things are never worth the space—for some people, they are. But if you’re like me and you wind up not even using the cooler and being angry you have to keep up with a chair, just save yourself the trouble and don’t bring it in the first place. One time I accidentally packed my medium sized suitcase instead of the carry on size. It fit in the car just fine, but I had to lug that thing around for a month. I dragged it around uneven city sidewalks, down narrow hallways, and at my lowest moment, up 5 flights of stairs in NYC. I came home with some newly impressive muscles, at least. Never again.

4. Not taking the time to print electronic tickets and itineraries in advance.
This one is my tragic flaw. I know most people love traditional hard copy mailed tickets for the souvenir factor, but I am in love with e-tickets. They’re usually cheaper because you don’t have to pay for shipping, and you can lose them 37 times and just reprint them the day before the trip if you need to. Until you can’t, because it’s 3 am, your flight leaves in 4 hours, and you just realized your printer is out of ink. I did this to myself last fall. Three months later, I traveled to Jamaica without printing my flight itinerary because I knew I could just print my boarding passes at the airport. That plan worked out fine until the travel agency wanted my return flight information before putting me on a bus to the resort, and “Let me just pull up my email confirmation” isn’t really an option when you're out of the country and there’s no wi-fi. Save yourself the hassle and have all of your tickets, flight information, and hotel confirmation numbers on paper in one place before the trip, just in case.

5. Traveling domestically without a passport.
Obviously you don’t need a passport to travel in your home country, but if you already have one, take it with you. You never know when something might come up to make you glad you had it. A friend of mine had a canceled flight once and the only route that would get her back home the same day had a layover in Canada. She was able to take that flight and avoid being stranded overnight because she had her passport on her, even though her original trip was only in the United States. There was also a tour one year where an unexpected opportunity came up for my friend and I to continue on to the last two shows that happened to be in Canada after our planned east coast run. We had to go back home instead because guess which one of us didn’t bring a passport? Lesson learned.

6. Not reading ticket and reservation details before clicking “purchase.”
If you’re a regular concert ticket buyer, then you know the adrenaline rush that accompanies the moment tickets go on sale. Being too slow to buy can mean the difference between front row and the nosebleeds or missing out on a ticket altogether. But that adrenaline rush can make you do stupid, stupid things, my friends. Stop and read the details once you've got it in your cart.

I had a “Spring Awakening” phase back in 2008. If you're not familiar, it's a play with a pretty neat setup that allows 26 audience members to sit directly on stage mixed in with the actors. When I managed to snag one of the coveted and impossibly hard to get stage tickets, I jumped at the chance to buy it. I had planned to go to the showing in Tampa because it was the closest show to me that hadn't gone on sale yet. I was on cloud 9 after my purchase right up until the moment I finally read the word “Broadway” in the confirmation and realized I had bought myself a ticket to the Broadway showing in New York City instead of the tour version of the show in Tampa. In my moment of excitement I had clicked the wrong ticket link and failed to read the details before completing my purchase. As a result, I got stuck with an expensive ticket I couldn’t use, and to add to my fail, the Tampa on stage seating was sold out by the time I finally figured out what I had done eight hours later. Thankfully, having an extra front row stage ticket made for a pretty easy sale, but not every mistake ends in an easy fix. (In the end, I wound up with stage tickets to two showings in Cleveland because yes, I’m that person that tries to buy a ticket to Florida, accidentally gets one to New York, and actually winds up in Ohio).

7. Not double checking GPS travel routes.
Because the "unexpected beautiful" you find might turn out to be Lake Tahoe when you meant to be at Yosemite.

8. Traveling without a cushion.

Of money, that is. I love saving money and whittling down my travel costs to the bare minimum, but I know it would be irresponsible and dangerous to go without having extra money in my account for emergency situations. Be prepared for the moment your tire blows out or your suitcase gets lost. Once over the course of a month long roadtrip, I had to replace windshield wipers, a headlight, a turn signal, and TWO GPSs. That same trip, a week of the tour got canceled and we found ourselves with no place to go for a week where we had planned out free places to stay in advance. Luckily, we had a friend in the area that we were able to crash with, but that could have easily been a week's worth of unexpected hotel fees.

9. Not knowing how to work your new camera in advance.
I went to Niagara Falls and took the most gorgeous pictures...in 640x480 resolution. They make for some really high quality thumbnails. #NiagaraFails

And finally,

10. Don't pack toy guns if you're traveling out of the country.
Because the Jamaican customs form categorizes them under "traveling with firearms," and that is one box you do not want to have to check "yes" because they're already in your checked luggage. I laughed at the situation, but the customs worker was not amused by me and my colorful squirt guns that had to be confiscated. Or maybe the lesson here is don't check "yes" next to the firearms box just because you have tiny plastic water guns in your bag.

What are some of your travel regrets?

July 29, 2016

My Top 25 Hanson (song) Performances

This week, Hanson asked fan club members to vote on their top 25 Hanson songs. We were given a list of about 90 songs and the instructions to “Pick the songs you think both represent our greatest, but also the way you would share our music with the world.” We weren’t given any information about how the winning songs will be used, only that our votes might have a lasting effect. No pressure.

In true #travelingfanproblems form, I sat staring at the list and realized I had a variety of types of favorites. I could give you a list of top songs I like to hear live, top songs that are meaningful to me personally, and top songs I’d choose for non-fans to hear, and there might not be a lot of overlap on those lists. It was definitely a challenge to try to pick an ultimate top 25 that somehow combined all of those qualities. (These were my picks, if you’re curious. I already regret cutting "Runaway Run.")

All this to say I thought it might be fun to make my own completely biased top 25 list. Every once in a while at a show, a specific performance of a song just stands out as special. It might be a song that has never been performed live, or it might be a song I’ve heard a dozen times or more that Hanson just completely nailed in that moment. Keep in mind it’s biased, limited to my own experiences, and totally subjective. They're kind of in order, but I'm sure I forgot something, and the only one I'd stick to under pressure is my #1. I linked a few videos, none of which belong to me, and none of which really portray what it was like to be there. You understand. Here are 25 times Hanson blew my mind.

My Top 25 Hanson Performances

1. On & On Vancouver, BC, CA 10/2/13
This one got half a blog post all to itself. Acapella Hanson singing one of my favorite songs in my face is ALWAYS welcome.

2. Roller Coaster Love Tulsa, OK 5/5/13
Zac & Taylor both played drums. At the same time on mirrored drum kits.

3. Use Me Up Tulsa, OK 5/16/09 (Stand Up Stand Up recording, 3rd session)
None of us had ever heard the song before, and the emotion in it took me off guard. It was the first time I ever felt like crying at a Hanson show, but in a good way.

4. Chain of Fools Los Angeles, CA 11/1/15
Really, I could have picked any city this song was performed in because Zac has consistently blown me away every time I’ve heard it.

5. Being Me Albuquerque, NM 9/17/13
This has to be the best performance of anything I have ever seen Isaac give. It wasn't the first or only time I'd heard this song live, but Isaac was just 120% on that night.

6. Go Falls Church, VA 11/14/10
Zac taught the crowd to sing backup to his solo, and it was kind of impressive. The look on his face when everyone sang it back to him was pretty unforgettable.

7. Feeling Alive Tulsa, OK 5/20/16
This one gets on the list less for epic performance quality and more for its ability to make me completely emotional with no warning the first time it was performed. I can't wait to hear the finished recording.

8. Sunny Day/Cecilia Tulsa, OK 5/14/11
Neither song will ever be as good without the other. The stomp claps in that room were just perfect and can never be replicated.

9. Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade Durham, NC 5/7/08
It was the end of the last show of the tour, and it was my birthday. I remember Zac pulling his hair out of his ponytail and headbanging. The crowd was nuts. I jumped the entire song and could barely move when it was over.

10. Happy Together Albuquerque, NM 9/17/13
It just happened to be my first show of the tour and the first night they chose to play a new cover. "Happy Together" is an incredibly accurate statement for how we all felt, and it was just a really fun performance.

11. The Walk Atlanta, GA 10/26/11
To quote my own blog: "Something about that song that night though was so perfect that I want to use sappy words like "flawless," "captivating," and dare I say "moving" to describe it. I just stood there and listened and almost forgot where I was until it ended, and I could tell by the looks on the familiar faces around me that I wasn't the only one that felt that way. It's moments like those that keep me coming back."

12. Leave the Light On Atlanta, GA 10/16/07
We didn't know this song existed at the time; it first appeared on a membership kit a year later. Isaac walked out on stage alone with a guitar and started talking about how it had been too long since they played Atlanta. He said "As a token of my gratitude, I'd like to play a song that has never been played before." And then we all died.

13. Lost Without You Tulsa, OK 5/16/15
If you were there or you had the pleasure of seeing the livestream, you know exactly how amazing this solo performance was. It left everyone wondering "Why doesn't he play this more often?"

14. Kiss Me When You Come Home Seattle, WA 9/30/13
I never thought much about this song one way or another until I heard it as a Taylor solo and fell in love with the piano.

15. Superfreak/Can't Touch This with Meiko, Chicago, IL 9/28/11
Points for spontaneity and Isaac's courage to rap. You get two videos for this one because sound quality vs. facial expressions.

16. The National Anthem Tulsa, OK
I’m going to be completely honest. I don’t remember what year this happened, just that it was some time between 2011-2013. A guy raised his hand during the Q&A session and when Hanson chose him, his question turned out to be “Will you sing the National Anthem?” The whole thing was super random, but Hanson did it acapella with zero preparation, and they still nailed it.

17. Voice in the Chorus St. Petersburg, FL 11/5/10
If you didn't experience "Voice in the Chorus" on the Shout it Out tour, you missed out. Isaac did a lot of headbanging and it was impossible to stand still.

18. A Song For You Atlanta, GA 10/19/16
Despite the fact that this song isn't a Hanson song, it feels made for Taylor's voice.

19. I Want You to Want Me w/Cheap Trick, Chicago, IL 10/11/09
The sound quality wasn't amazing. There's not a good youtube video out there where you can hear a thing that's going on. To be honest, we were all probably screaming more over the spectacle of it all than the vocals, But Cheap Trick as a surprise guest couldn’t not make the list.

20. If Only (w/Let's Get it On) Asheville, NC 5/5/08
"If Only" is always amazing live. It's even better from the front row when Isaac breaks out a verse of "Let's Get it On" for the second time ever, and you all thought you missed out on the first time.

21. You Can't Stop Us Negril, Jamaica 1/14/13
This was before Anthem and before they decided to make it a shared lead. Zac sang lead on the whole song, and it felt far more like Queen than in any more recent performances.

22. In a Way Negril, Jamaica 1/11/14
This was the opening song to one of the best Hanson shows I've ever seen. The drums stood out to me in a way they never did on the studio version.

23. Give a Little Asheville, NC 7/30/10
When you unexpectedly become part of the performance, you have to include it in your list.

24. MMMBop New York,  NY 10/22/11
If you've ever seen me jumping oddly during MMMBop, this is why. Hanson played a VH1 Saves the Music event at an elementary school. Isaac started jumping to show the kids how to jump in time to the music. They loved it. He loved it. I loved it. And we left calling it the "MMMHop" before the beer ever existed.

25. Crazy Beautiful- Charlotte, NC 11/20/13
I asked for this song as a solo on multiple occasions and finally got it. And then it went from solo to full band and morphed into one of my favorite songs from that tour, "Happy Together."

And an honorable mention for Oh! Darling because it's always flawless and on point, so it's impossible to pick just one performance of it.

What moments would make your list? Do we have any in common?

July 8, 2016

#TenTweets: ABC's Greatest Hits

Confession: I have a not-so-guilty pleasure of scrolling the #Hanson tag on twitter any time the guys are on primetime TV or play a big festival for more than existing fans. I love seeing the variety of reactions, particularly from people who haven't heard from Hanson in years. There's always a range of the predictable ("These guys grew up!"), the pleasantly surprised ("Wait, do I like Hanson now?"), and the out-of-left-field ("One of them grew up to look like a mini Billy Ray Cyrus"). So I decided, why not take you guys on the entertainment journey with me and make a blog series out of it? Here we go. Ten of my favorite tweets sparked by Hanson's performance on ABC's Greatest Hits.

First, a factual account. Also, water is wet and the captain is obvious.

This is actually a really valid point that didn't occur to me during the "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin" performance.


Also firmly in the "left field" category.

If this is true, kindly direct me to your PTA sign-up sheet.

Words of actual wisdom.


Okay, we'll start AND end with #facts.

June 5, 2016

Get Loud: 2016 EP Review

There’s something special about the Loud EP that felt a bit missing on the last EP or two. If you don’t have it yet or aren’t sure if you plan to renew, it’s good, guys. It’s REALLY good. If you don't like spoilers and haven't heard the songs for yourself to form your own opinions, I suggest you stop now.


I guess it was only a matter of time before we got another song with a nonsense title and chorus. “Ooh La La La” is the 2016 version of “Dance Like You Don’t Care.” It’s the fun but superficial track complete with food imagery:  “You’re reckless with your spice/I would happily not share/Love what you’re cooking/Damn good looking”. (I might prefer last year’s “Have it sautéed, grilled or filleted.” If you're going to go cheesy, go all the way.) My friend that works at Perkins pointed out that there is a menu item called the “Ooh La La French Toast Platter,” and I can’t help but laugh because of the food imagery in the song. That toast is pretty darn good looking, and I probably wouldn’t share.

If I had to pick a least favorite on Loud, it’s probably this one. I know, probably not the best way to lead a review of something I’m claiming is really good, but “least favorite” doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It’s kind of like saying vanilla is my least favorite cake flavor; it’s still cake.

Favorite part: It sounds fun? I don't really have one. It's probably why this one didn't rank higher.


I love this one. It easily ranks 2nd for me if not tied for first. It sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of an 80s movie and I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t have much to say about this one because my love for it comes 100% from the sound. I could talk about lyrics all day, but I always fall short when it comes to describing the technical side of music. You’ll have to listen and judge it for yourself, and be prepared for your brain to put it on repeat whether or not it's actually playing.

Favorite part: The entire bridge (“I don’t want to wake up dead inside…”). Hanson is always at their best when there is a harmony-driven breakdown.


This song is anything but filler material between albums and wins the first place spot for me. It has this super catchy “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” kind of sound, but it’s the lyrics that take it to the next level. It tells the story of the underdog that managed to keep his confidence in spite of life’s obstacles, or maybe because of them. The narrator is stubborn and headstrong in the best way possible and speaks as someone who has experience being told no and then relishing the moment of proving everyone wrong (“Brother, don’t waste my time/I’ve already made up my mind”). He outlines all of the flaws that make up who he is, but he’s not offering an apology for any of them.  It comes off as “this is who I am, deal with it,” and you kind of have to love him for it.

Hanson is always quick to say that their songs are rarely autobiographical, but I think this one has a lot of truth in it for them. I absolutely love the line “Cause my feet can’t move/to where my heart just ain’t.” I think it perfectly sums up a band of guys that took the road less traveled and found their success by sticking to their guns and not compromising their values just for the sake of doing what’s safe and profitable. They’re not afraid to eat the occasional hat or lose a case if they’re doing it for the right reasons.

The one line that threw me off at first was “Cause I take my cue from a condemned man” because I couldn’t figure out who the man would be. After a few listens I thought about how Jesus was condemned. His followers would certainly fall into the category of “the weary” and understand the struggles of the underdog (and there's Matthew 11:28: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."). I don’t know if that interpretation is right, but it fits and I like it. Feel free to tell me in the comments if you have an alternative explanation for the identity of the “condemned man.”

Favorite part: “And I can’t resist/ When I hear proclaimed/That it can’t be done/Boy that’ll never be changed.” Amen, guys. Keep proving people wrong.


 My interpretation of this song was influenced a lot by Isaac’s choice to discuss his belief in God during his lecture and the fact that I share in those beliefs. I’m a little hesitant to put such a specific interpretation out there that I know might change the way some people look at the song, but this is my take and I’d be happy to hear other perspectives.

The song makes several references to the “River of Live.” The first line sets it up as though it could be the name of a bar, but “River of Life” is a Biblical reference symbolic of the offer of eternal life.  The opening line “I go down to the River of Life/Every night for a cure/To my worrying mind” reads to me like a man who regularly looks to God for guidance and answers. Even the image of going “down” to the River of life makes me think of someone getting on their knees to pray. The whole song feels like a metaphor of someone in search of “something stronger” than the drinks you can find in just any bar and praying for something more, “something loud.” In the second verse, it says “If you’re a regular here/You’re probably drinking alone/For a stiff drink, you’re out of luck/Every pull from the draft/you’ll say ‘Give me something stronger…’.”

I’m going to quote the Bible to wind up my point here. In John 4:13-14, Jesus (speaking about regular well water) said: "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Until the guy in the song starts looking for that kind of drink from the River of Life, he's always going to feel thirsty like he still needs something stronger.

Favorite part: The sound of this song live. Isaac nails it in a way that doesn't quite come across in the recording.


In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures that would use their gift of beauty and song to lure sailors off course and ultimately crash to a rocky death.  I think in this song, the siren call isn’t music itself, but is symbolic of the dangers of letting yourself lose sight of your goals and getting off course. The first verse is all about living with stress and hardships. The lyrics say “No straighter path than to struggle/’Cause when we rest we fear/And it draws them near.” It’s saying that the straightest path is always going to be a struggle, but the minute you stop pushing towards your goal and let yourself rest is when you’ll fall victim to more dangerous obstacles, whether that’s some outside distraction or maybe even your own mindset.

Favorite part: The “woo oows” are just the right amount of eerie to complement a song about falling victim to a siren call. I also like the line “Before the music stops,” because it’s obviously referring to the siren song, but I think being told from the perspective of a musician, it could also refer to the fact that a musician falling victim to a metaphorical siren could stop them on their journey to create music.

Also, I’m pretty sure Hanson is made up of the best sirens in the business. God knows we’ve all gone down some crazy paths to follow that music, though the rock we get is hardly deadly. I hope it never stops.

May 29, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 2: Play

title photo provided by @vdarkbeauty

Hanson Day 2016 was so jam-packed with events that I don't even know where to begin. I attended karaoke, the dance party, lectures, State of the Band, group photos, parts of the Mayfest and Blue Dome festivals, and the third annual Hop Jam in addition to the Hanson show. Honestly, this two part series probably could have been a three part series with part 1: Music, part 2: Isaac's lecture, and part 3: Everything else. If you missed part 1, you can check out the music review HERE.

Karaoke & Dance Party

I really wasn't sure what to expect for this first trial of Karaoke. I knew it could be a disaster if nobody had the guts to get up and sing, but it turned out that was an unfounded worry. There were so many brave entries (enough that not everyone got to participate, unfortunately), and a few lucky ladies had the unexpected pleasure of singing with Isaac. One even got to perform with both Isaac and Taylor! I'm sure nobody came to karaoke expecting to round out the 3rd space in Hanson and fill in for Zac.

I planned to offer my moral support but had no interest in putting myself in the spotlight for this one. (At one point I ran into Isaac and he asked if I planned to sing. My word-for-word response was "Not if you paid me.") But then my friends signed up for one of the few songs I actually knew all the words to, and we were all in matching shirts, and the power of friendly peer pressure and a lot of begging won me over. I was so, so close to sitting it out, but in the end I'm glad I joined in. It's definitely one for this year's anti-bucket list and not something I EVER thought I'd do (also now on the list--directly lying to Isaac's face. It was accidental karaoke, I swear!). I wasn't even that nervous when I got up there, which I think was due to the super supportive crowd and the fact that we made Emily hold the microphone. It was fun to watch all of the other performers and I hope they'll keep the event going for another year. I also really want to spell it "Karaokie" because Oklahoma.

The dance party served as sort of a bachelorette party for one of my friends that I hadn't seen in a while, so we all had a blast together. The venue was much more crowded than Cain's which was good and bad in my opinion. It felt more active and fun than past years from where we were standing, but it was almost too crowded at times. Taylor didn't get drunk or play "Another One Bites the Dust," to the dismay of many, I'm sure.

Afterwards we stood around outside and met a random guy who kept asking why we were standing in line even though (for once) we weren't. We got to talking for a while and he ended up climbing the face of the violin shop next door for us. I don't know. Good times.

The standout event outside of the music for me had to be Isaac's lecture. I think the message that he shared with us took a lot of courage and came from a place of sincere conviction. He had the kind of passion where you can tell someone really cares about what they're saying, and I couldn't help but listen intently. It felt intimate in a way that is difficult to accomplish in a room full of hundreds of people.

The lecture was called "You Matter," and he started by talking about how each one of us has a place in the world and how he believed that us being in that room together was no accident. I tend to agree. He encouraged us to feel good about ourselves and our self worth and to trust our instincts. I wish it could have been streamed for everyone or posted for us to all hear again later, because it was so inspiring and had a great message about believing in yourself and doing good for other people that I think everyone needs to hear once in a while.

He  even got into the scientific side of emotions and talked about the effects of endorphins and seratonin and oxytocin in different social situations and how the effects essentially mean that love is a drug and that doing good for others can be one too because of the chemical reaction it creates in the body. He hit on the fact that social media/notifications/etc. can trigger a dopamine release that feels good for a moment but is the same chemical that is related to addictions and is ultimately a negative thing because it's an empty positive feeling. The irony of seeing a few people using their cell phones through the entire lecture wasn't lost on me in this moment.

He ended by talking about the chain reaction of doing a good deed for someone and how it makes that person want to go on to do good for someone else, and the whole chain of positivity that it creates as a result. This really hit me on my flight home when I wound up seated in a row with a single mother traveling with a two year old and a two month old. I was already in my seat when she showed up with a baby strapped to her chest and a toddler in a wheeled car seat. She was clearly struggling and I wasn't sure how to help since I was a stranger and these were her babies. A woman in the next aisle asked if she needed help, and the mother let out a grateful "Yes!" and began to unstrap her two month old. She handed the baby over to this complete stranger and I was shocked, but then completely inspired by how willing this lady was to help and how gently she held and rocked the baby. I helped the mother lift the car seat with her two year old and together we buckled it into the plane. I put his cute little frog headphones over his head and helped brush his hair out of his face so that he could watch Little Einsteins, and the mother turned to me and said "If it weren't for the kindness of strangers, I wouldn't have survived this trip." I couldn't help but smile and think of Isaac's lecture.

A few direct quotes I jotted down in the "Embrace a Courageous Future" notebook they handed out:
"Music is innately a spiritual thing." -I
"Take the road less traveled and don't be afraid. You were born for right now." -I
"Generosity is the cure to loneliness." -I
"I believe that there is a God, and that is why I believe all of these things."-I
"Twitter is not love."-I
"Thou shalt watch What About Bob."-I
(yes, that happened)

Books Isaac suggested:
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Taylor's lecture was about not leaving songs unwritten and being brave enough to do what you feel passionate about and seeing it through. He told a fun anecdote about how he was inspired to write "Dying to Be Alive" in some situation where he didn't have his regular music equipment with him, so he wrote it on a keyboard propped up on a broken ironing board that kept involuntarily lowering while he was playing. He mentioning people vomiting in the background but I missed how that fit into the whole story. That's dedication to your craft, though! He also discussed and played part of "With You In Your Dreams" again, I sobbed again, and this is me putting in an official request to leave it out of the lecture lineup next year, please and thank you.

The only note I made during Taylor's lecture:
"Don't leave the song unwritten"- T. He said not just literal songs, but in any profession, even if you're a plumber. Which I interpret as...don't leave the drain unclogged?

Zac's lecture was called "Choo Choo Trains of Thought" in true before and after Jeopardy form. Every little boy likes to build trains, right? We basically watched Zac built one with his voice. One of the weirder lyrics on his thought train was "Trying not to freak out from the bodies floating in my bubble bath." He explained that we were the crazy ones because while we were picturing dead bodies, he was just picturing taking a bubble bath with G.I. Joes. There were some lines about going down to the river with the postman, and nature's divide. It's definitely a train of thought style song, and you can interpret where you think that train is going. I'm not entirely sure, but I enjoyed it more than his previous Hanson Day songs.

A few notes:
"I believe in you. It's just the song doesn't." -Z, on our apparently bad rhythm
"You can call me Sir Topham Hat." -Z

During State of the Band there was talk of a world tour in 2017 and a new Christmas album for next year as well for the 20th aniversary of Snowed In, working title Wintry Mix (full pun approval here). I can't wait to see what else is in store and maybe do a bit of world travel myself in my 10th year of following this band.

Until then, up next?

May 24, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 1: Loud

When I started this blog, I just wanted a place to keep track of all of my show memories so I wouldn’t forget them. I never consciously decided to weave in any specific theme or overarching message, but over time I think one naturally appeared anyway. Ask any fan that has ever traveled for this band, and they’ll tell you that Hanson has given us all so much more than mp3 tracks and an autograph collection. The theme is that music is this wonderful catalyst and the byproduct is friendship and genuine human connection. It’s a topic I seem to talk about more and more frequently as those friendships continue to build and grow within the fan community.

This year, I want to go back to ground zero: the music. For me, a truly great show is rarely ever isolated to just the music; it’s a combination of the performance and plenty of other variables like the company, location, or some specific interaction. This particular show didn’t fit that mold for me. Don’t get me wrong, the friendships and all of those other variables were great as usual, but something about the new music just firmly planted this one in the “other” category in the best way possible. It's great to be able to get something more than auditory satisfaction from music, but I think at the core it's still important to be able to connect to the music on an individual level and not get completely taken away by the wonderful byproducts we value so much. Something about this show felt more personal and internal than communal to me and fit well with Isaac's discussion of music and spirituality having a place together. This one was all about the music for me.

The songs they debuted blew me away in a way that I haven’t felt before at any of my 100+ shows (the closest was hearing Use Me Up for the first time live at the MOE in 2009). That probably sounds like a huge exaggeration, and maybe I got caught up in the moment a bit, but that's my honest first reaction. The music felt fresh and inspired and enthusiastic in a way that I didn’t get from the last few EPs (or maybe ever, if I’m being honest).  I’ve made the comment here before that going to a Hanson show is not a religious experience for me, but I have to say this is the closest I’ve come so far to revoking that statement. The music from Play in particular was just outstanding to me. There was one song called “Feeling Alive” that made me feel like I wanted to cry because it was so good and so right. It made me emotional for no good reason that I could identify other than pure satisfaction of a song well done.  I don’t even remember how it went, but I remember how I felt. Maybe the feelings I had were facilitated by the vaulted ceilings and the crowd of raised arms below me at the Brady, but it felt like a Hanson revival of sorts. I hope the recording can capture even a fraction of what it felt like to be in that room for me.

If you watched the Making of Loud live streams at all, there was one that started with a short clip of Zac playing a song on the piano that had the line “Do you believe that somebody’s made for you.” It was really pretty and I was worried that it was going to be another great segment that would go into the Hanson vault for years to come, so I was surprised and delighted to hear it at the show. It went from what sounded like a ballad in the stream to this epic pop song that Zac said has the biggest vocal range out of any Hanson song yet, and is probably only second in speed to “White Collar Crimes.” It sounds like Queen and Hanson and birthday cake and money raining from the sky. I am not leaving disappointed.

I don't remember much about "Joyful Noise" or "Man on Top" except that I liked both of those a lot too, and "Man on Top" had a "na na" part that I swear was just a few syllables shy of being the Clarissa Explains it All theme song. Sorry if you'll never unhear that now.

The songs from Loud are all catchy and earworm worthy and my brain can't seem to decide which one it wants to put on a permanent loop. I think it's a toss up between "No Rest for the Weary" and "Stop Me in My Tracks" so far. They ended up removing the kazoo parts, and I have to confess I think it was a good call because it sounded great without it. I'm not sure the world was ready for the sound of a swarm of bumblebees humming along to Hanson music. I've just read through all of the lyrics and I can't even tell you how excited they make me, especially "No Rest for the Weary." I'll cut the Loud commentary short because I'll do a full review of the EP later since I already have it in hand.

I've mostly avoided reading other fans' opinions and commentary on the weekend so I could figure out where I stood first without second guessing myself, so I don't know if I'm the lone crazy that absolutely loved it all or if I'm speaking for the class again. Maybe people will read this and go "OMG, were we even at the same show?" and think I'm being sappy as usual, but I hope there's a pretty big group of "OMG, me too!" I can honestly say I have so much confidence in the sound of this new music, and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for Hanson and for us.

Part 2: Play (Hanson Day Events)

March 27, 2016

MMMStop: A Fan’s Reaction to Hanson in the Media

We’ve seen an unexpected spike in Hanson mentions lately, and it’s kind of ironic when you think about it. In the last ten years, Hanson has had multiple new albums and tours, started a non-profit charity organization, and hosted a music and beer festival with over 30,000 attendees, all while most media outlets were busy covering things like the next seasonal Starbucks flavor or which muffin looks the most like a Chihuahua. Meanwhile, all it takes is someone getting a little bit confused about the release date of “MMMBop,” and suddenly an article about singing the wrong words to a ~20-year-old song goes viral. As a die-hard fan, it’s a little annoying, but we’re used to the MMMBop commentary by now. I’ll hit the “share” button and smile knowing that maybe a handful of people will be reintroduced to a forgotten talent, because this is the internet, and I know all too well that sometimes you click a random link and find yourself 47 Youtube videos deep three hours later.

Right after these MMMBop articles made the rounds, I spotted a new article with the title "Reminder: The Men from Hanson Are All Grown Up Now" while scrolling through Facebook on a break at work. I spent the rest of the day thinking “Good for them. Here’s someone that actually wants to focus on Hanson’s current music.” I sat down at my computer to read it as soon as I got home, ready to applaud whatever forward thinker took the time to see past the apparent blinding success of “MMMBop.”

Maybe I should have anticipated that the entire article would be one big Buzzfeed slobberfest over Hanson’s appearances. It turns out grown-up Hanson is “hot enough to just melt the pants right off ya” and not much else these days. Somewhere around the gif of Isaac’s hair flip, it occurred to me that I can either continue to be annoyed by shallow articles, or I can stop hoping to click on that perfectly enlightened piece that doesn’t exist and write it myself. It won't go viral and I offer no sweaty gifs to lure you in, but here’s the truth every Hanson fan wants you to know every time you see an “MMMBop” article.

1. First of all, MMMBop rocks, okay?
It’s not the embarrassing Pokemon shirt you refused to take off in 3rd grade that your friends still won’t let you live down; it’s a Grammy-nominated song that hit #1 in 27 countries. You’re doing pretty well if that’s the one moment from your childhood that people choose to dwell on.

2. Who cares if they're pretty?
I’m not about to argue with the fact that the members of Hanson are attractive, but that fact is so irrelevant to their talent and their craft that it shouldn’t even rank in the conversation. It’s like writing an article about a presidential candidate and mentioning the fact that they have feet. Who cares, unless we’re looking for a candidate that can run a marathon in addition to a country? Nobody in Hanson is trying to be a model or a pinup, and I’m pretty sure Zac’s face isn’t going to surprise us with a killer drum solo any time soon.

3. The Hanson I know melts faces, not pants.
If you go to a show, yea, they’ll probably play “MMMBop.” They’ll also play songs from their other five albums, and the whole crowd will know every word. The energy is intense, so you’ll probably get your feet trampled if you try to stand still during “If Only” or “In the City.” You’ll involuntarily stomp during “You Can’t Stop Us;” I don’t care who you are. If you're lucky, you'll get to experience their cover of the Beatles’ “Oh Darling,” and you’ll have to swear to yourself that you’ll never tell another soul that Hanson did it better. Their harmonies will SLAY you. I dare you to go to a show and not enjoy or at least respect some aspect of it.

4. They continue to grow and change, just like everyone else.
And if you must judge them on qualities beyond their music, remember that they’re philanthropists and goofballs and genuinely good people. They aren’t afraid of hard work or criticism, and they’ve had lots of experience with both. I hope we never forget MMMBop, and I hope their faces will stick around for a long time, but my God, do I hope they keep making music more than anything. You guys can keep your nostalgia; I can't wait to see what they do next.

March 23, 2016

I'm (Not) With the Band

If you're going to follow a band, someone somewhere is inevitably going to call you a "groupie." The definition varies depending on where you look, but a quick Google search reveals the connotation most people connect to the term as "a particular kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in relationships with rockstars than in their music."

It's a harsh term that doesn't describe me in the slightest, but I have to admit I'm a little intrigued by anyone that would actually fit the description and claim that title. As an avid reader (and scourer of Goodreads recommendations), I've come across the book I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres on multiple occasions. It's an account of one of rock's "original" groupies coming of age during the 60's and into the early 70's, and it tells of her encounters with a slew of rockstars like Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, just to name a few of the most recognizable on the list. When I found out that Pamela was part of the inspiration behind the notorious Penny Lane in Almost Famous, I was further intrigued. After years of telling myself that it sounded interesting and that I would read it one day, I finally sat down and read her story.

I felt a little more than just morbid curiosity before I opened the pages. Here was a real girl that loved music and grew up idolizing her favorite musicians, and who also loved writing about it. To be completely honest, I think I was a little bit afraid that if you cut out the sordid affairs and some of the pages of star-studded objectification, I might be left holding some warped mirror in my hands. Maybe deep down my hesitancy to read this book comes from a strange jealousy, because I know that if I ever chose to write a book about traveling for a band, there are only so many people that would care to read about my clean, goody-two-shoes idea of a good time on the road. I didn't want to find myself in those pages, but I kind of had to know if there would be some kinship between a girl that follows the music and a girl that follows the musician.

I was a little bit relieved to realize that I didn't find myself going "OMG, me too!" at any point during the book, which falls right in line with my feelings on the fictional Penny Lane. (Like my fellow bloggers Miranda and Danielle have said, I'd choose to be William > Penny Lane any day).

In Penny Lane fashion, she explains early on: "I tried not to think of myself as being cheap or easy or any of those other terms that were used to describe loose, free, peace-loving girls; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music." (p. 57)

It's not a fear I'll ever have to worry about, but the second half of that sentence is something we can all relate to. The first half is practically a blank waiting to be filled in with whatever crazy behavior you're willing to carry out in the name of music.

"[Insert crazy thing you did here, followed by this excuse]; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music."

Maybe it's just a matter of your own personal circumstances and values to find out what you might put in that scary little blank. I'm sure I could fill it several times over with my own version of crazy.

"I camped out on a sidewalk all night; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."
"I drove for 20 hours without stopping to sleep to get to the show; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."

The list could go on for all of us.

By the end of the book, I found that I had grown to respect Miss Pamela more than I expected. Not because of her list of rockstar conquests or for her own growing claim to fame, but for showing no remorse or regret for any of it. If there's one message in this book that I can agree with, it's this: don't ever apologize for doing what you love. As she ends in her prelude: "I'm honored to have spent time with some of the finest and brightest that rock 'n' roll had to offer. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat."

As for other similarities, well...we chose the same blog title font?