Ten years ago yesterday, Hanson released their third studio album, Underneath. It was their first independent album, and their first risk at taking complete control of their music career. Ten years and three independent albums later, I think it's safe to say it was a smart decision. Underneath debuted at #1 on the Billboard Independent chart and had a handful of other bragging rights, but you're welcome to visit Wikipedia for a more thorough lesson (or better yet, watch their documentary Strong Enough to Break).
Believe it or not, I'm not writing this to tell you a list of accolades Underneath has achieved in the last decade or how the songs have stood the test of time. This is a more personal story. Most of my posts here are related to traveling and seeing recent Hanson shows. For once, I want to rewind--not to 2004 when Underneath was released--but to 2006, the first time I heard it.
Maybe I should start by coming out of the closet. Hi, I'm Holly! And I haven't been a Hanson fan since 1997 like a lot of the hardcore fans in this fan base. Sure, I heard "MMMBop" in 1997, and I loved it. I had Middle of Nowhere on cassette, and I listened to it every day for hours on end. And then one day, I just didn't anymore. In fact I pretty much forgot about Hanson until 2006. Curiosity struck and one day I found myself Googling Hanson, wondering what in the world had happened to those three long-haired brothers that sang "MMMBop" and defined the summer before 4th grade.
What I found was that they were still making music, and their most recent album was called Underneath. I ended up at Wikipedia, the very same page linked up there in the first paragraph. I planned to skim the track listing and search a few of the titles on Youtube to get an idea of their new sound. So at 18 I sat there in my little dorm room, rediscovering this band that means so much to me now, and this was the very first thing that I read:
1. Strong Enough to Break WindI'm not even kidding; that's how I got reacquainted with Hanson. All I could think was "Have they really gone that far downhill and taken some strange, uncharacteristic Weird Al turn?" (no offense to Weird Al, who is a lyrical genius as far as I'm concerned--but not just anyone can pull that off!) I almost closed the page and left Hanson right there in that 4th grade vault, but after a moment of harsh judgment, I kept reading to see what other ludicrous titles might accompany such an absurd first track. When I reread the list and realized my mistake, I stopped and laughed so hard that I cried. My eyes had somehow merged together "Strong Enough to Break" and "Dancing in the Wind," and to this day I think it's the best reading mistake I've ever made.
After I finished crying over my own stupidity, I eventually made it over to Youtube and heard "Broken Angel" and "Crazy Beautiful" for the first time, and that was it for me. If you ask a Hanson fan about the moment they became a fan, you'll get a lot of stories about the first time someone heard "MMMBop," a few mentions of Oprah and MTV, and some laughs about mistaking them for girls the first time. Truthfully, I don't remember how I discovered Hanson in 1997, but if there was a "moment" for me, it's this one, made up of Youtube and accidental fart jokes and an album called Underneath. What a love story.