May 30, 2021

Hanson Day 2021

I don’t know about you guys, but I was really impressed with all of the digital content that Hanson created for Hanson Day 2021. members got exclusive live streams every day for a full week, and much like “real” Hanson Day, there were so many side events going on that I could barely keep up. It was a nice compromise for all of the fans that normally would have traveled to Tulsa for the event and couldn’t come this year, but it also felt pretty groundbreaking for an even larger number of fans who have never been able to visit Oklahoma to finally be able to celebrate from home. I’m anxiously awaiting the day I show up to a packed Cain’s and an overly-full in-person HDay schedule, but I also hope that this year’s forced virtual ingenuity will carry over to a more inclusive Hanson Day for all hnet members in the future. If you haven't seen all of the content, it is still available to view at the link above, and trust me, the TTA Acoustic show alone is worth this year's membership fee if you haven't joined yet.

TTA Acoustic Concert

I want to start by sharing that I completely missed the original TTA era as a fan. I didn't hear this album at all until 2006, and by then, the record scratches and the late 90s/early 2000s sounding bells and whistles sounded dated and borderline cheesy to adult me. Getting to hear TTA acoustically removed all of those things and allowed me to appreciate the foundation of music that has always been under those added layers. I’m grateful that I got to hear the songs in this stripped down format, and I can honestly say that I appreciate TTA more now.

Spoiler: this is my second attempt at writing this review. I name dropped so many songs in a row in my first try that it was starting to get confusing. Every time I tried to label a song as a “highlight for me,” I’d remember another and then another. They piled on top of each other and vied for rankings. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of my favorite TTA moments, with the added disclaimer that seriously every last song was great.

1. Runaway Run. I thought this song peaked for me when I heard it stripped down as a Taylor solo, but then they had to go and play it full band with a slowed down tempo that turned it into a ballad. It was absolutely phenomenal, and dare I say, a total “game changer.” Excuse me while I further spiral into a heap of Masked Singer judge praises like “AMAZING!!” and “End game material!!” while gushing about my goosebumps, but I mean every single one of them.

2. In The City. Even without the electric guitars, I couldn’t not jump to this one. This song was acoustic rock, pure and simple. It was so fun getting to hear it this way, even if I do still love the electric version best.

3. Hand In Hand. They reworked the intro, and it really, really works. I might even like it more than the original, but I'm not making that claim on one listen. I had to laugh watching the stream afterwards because you can totally see me and my friend in the background scrambling to switch our light up masks to green in support of the magic happening on stage.

4. If Only. It’s better in its original state, but it sounded like a completely different song with an acoustic guitar replacing the harmonica parts. Unlike “In The City,” jumping didn’t feel quite right here, but it was really fun getting to hear it in a new way.

5. The encores. The show might have been short at just 15 songs, but it already felt perfect before they added two TTA era B-sides, “Lonely Again,” and “Smile.” It was a great way to end an already killer set.

6. The songs I was looking forward to before the trip: “Sure About It,” “Dying To Be Alive,” “Wish That I Was There.” With live shows, sometimes the songs you walk away loving the most aren’t the ones that you showed up to see; they’re the ones that sneak up on you and demand your attention, the ones that you don’t think twice about until their undeniable greatness is hitting you in the face. I showed up ready to swoon over “Sure About It” and “Wish That I Was There,” but I left completely blown away by “Run Away Run,” “In The City,” and “Hand In Hand.” Thank you, Hanson, for blowing up my expectations in the best way.

7. Can’t Stop. This one is probably the biggest culprit for the cringey bells and whistles I was talking about before. It’s always better live, but they got rid of the “tick tock, tick tock” for the first time. It might have sounded less cheesy that way, but it felt like something was missing.

In conclusion, TTA acoustic was the album I never knew I needed to hear. I did need to hear it. In fact, I kind of need to hear it again, preferably as a live album release from this exact show as soon as possible. Please?

Hanson Day Concert

I have a lot less to say about this one, but I’ve already written enough for a full post on TTA alone, so I’m giving myself a pass. The HDay show was not groundbreaking or full of new arrangements. It didn’t make me gasp or stand in awe or feel the need to give you a song-by-song breakdown like I did above. It did, however, make me cry, dance, sing, and hug my friends. It was the perfect upbeat counterpart to a mellow first show, and unpopular as the opinion may be, I am always happiest to hear jump-worthy singles over rare ballads. I’ll forgive Taylor for making me sob during WYIYD, but only because he immediately went into a super random country version after it ended, and then Zac ran with it in what I can only describe as the worst country rendition of WYIYD I could ever imagine. I can count on these guys to make me cry once in a while, but I can also count on them to put the smile right back on my face again, so thanks for that little bit of nonsense that broke up my pity party. I will say that for all the effort I was putting into ignoring WYIYD while it was happening, I can't deny that it was gorgeous and that I was not the only person affected.

It was fun getting to hear all the new songs from Crossroads, and the live setting helped me to appreciate “Muscle Shoals” more. I still stand by “Come Over” as my favorite of the bunch so far, even if I’m not 100% sure what it means yet (I’m developing a theory, but I’ll save that for a future post). I don't think Hanson prompted us to clap and fans don't always collectively have the best rhythm, but somehow we all got on board with a double clap and it just worked. I'm considering this song move canon from here on out like the Where's The Love arm spin. I don't know who pioneered it; I just know it's right.

They wrapped things up with a short acapella chorus of "Man in the Mirror" and even had five little Russian Doll figurines lined up on the piano as a cute nod to their time on The Masked Singer. I hope this won't be the last we ever hear of those covers, but I get that they would have to learn to play the full songs in addition to the abbreviated vocal parts they learned for the TV show.

Hop Jam Iron Man

We might not have had Hop Jam this time, but the Iron Man triathlon ending right outside of our hotel filled in some of the missing festival and "how are we supposed to drive anywhere with all the streets shut down?" vibes that I'm used to.

I am the least sporty person you can imagine and know nothing whatsoever about triathlons and races, but it was fascinating to be able to see people come from all over to compete. We stood near the finish line and cheered people on, and it was amazing getting to see these people who had trained incredibly hard accomplish something that meant so much to them. I even teared up the first time I saw one man round the corner towards the finish line, and his family spotted him and took off running alongside him just outside of the barricade, all the way to the end. The love and support was so obvious on their faces, and it felt like witnessing an intimate moment even though we were in a crowd. It reminded me that we might not all have the same goals and accomplishments—his finish line with his family is my front row with my friends—but it’s a powerful feeling to be surrounded by people that care about you while doing the thing you love.

On a much lighter note, spending the night next to an Iron Man event also meant that we couldn't leave to get food, and it took three failed orders and a solid two hours to successfully retrieve a Doordash order. I had to meet our dasher two blocks away and fend off a group of teenage boys in the elevator who saw the giant Chipotle bag and thought I was delivering it to them. I guarded our hard-earned burritos and wished them luck in their own food journey. Note to future self or anyone in the same city as Iron Man: stockpile food.

And We Keep Coming Back

It might not have felt like a “real” Hanson Day, but it sure beats last year’s “I didn’t go to Hanson Day 2020” theme. It’s a sign that things are looking up, and while I’m having to adjust my comfort zone and relearn how to be in larger groups of people even with my own big group of friends, I’m excited at the prospect and happy to be in a time and place where that seems possible in the near future. I’ve had a fun run in my light-up mask, but I can’t wait to see the light on everyone’s faces again soon.

May 12, 2021

So You've Just Found Out That The Russian Dolls Were Hanson...Now What?

If you've been watching The Masked Singer season five, then you now know what many of us have known since that very first delicious note in the season preview of "Shallow": The Russian Doll mask has been hiding the members of Hanson. Now that the secret is out, this is a post for those who didn't know all along. This is for anyone whose mind is blown, who had no idea Hanson was still making music, and who may be suddenly having an identity crisis over how they could have left Hanson behind in the 90s when they are clearly still SO GOOD. Maybe you never heard of them before the show and are now searching the internet for answers.You can relax, because I am here for you. 

Here's what you need to know:

1. Hanson has consistently been a band since 1992 and had their first big hit in 1997. They write all of their own music and play their own instruments, and any long-time fan will argue against labeling them as a "boyband." There have been years between albums and tours at times, but they have never broken up or stopped making music.

2. They went independent and formed their own record label in 2003 after their original label, Mercury Records, became Island Def Jam and didn't leave Hanson a lot of control over the type of music they wanted to make. Rather than continue to clash with their label while giving up full creative control, they broke free and created 3CG Records. Their first indie record, "Underneath," went on to debut at number one on Billboard's Independent Albums chart. If their journey from giant commercial success to underdog indie band intrigues you, the whole thing was captured in a documentary called "Strong Enough to Break," which you can watch for free in 13 episodes on Youtube or purchase in full on DVD here.

3. They have released six studio albums, gone on ~16 different tours, and released dozens more EPs, Christmas albums, and compilations. Every year since 2003, their fan club members get an EP with roughly five exclusive tracks. They have a double album called String Theory consisting of songs backed by an orchestra. Taylor even had a side project as lead singer in a band with Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, and the late Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. There is an incredible wealth of music to catch up on if you are just now learning about them and want to dig deeper than singles. (Trust me, you want to dig deeper than singles.)

4. Their fan base is pretty intense and is full of dedicated fans that travel to multiple shows per tour like modern day Deadheads. Many have been fans for over 20 years since MMMBop came out in 1997, but plenty have joined more recently. We're all over the globe and are a fairly diverse group full of unique personalities and interests outside of loving Hanson. Dive in and find your people. We're out there somewhere, both in line and online.

5. They have an active fan club. For roughly $40/year, you get: a member's only EP with exclusive music, access to a streaming platform of the entire Hanson music catalog, exclusive videos and podcasts dating back to 2003, access to forums, occasional livestreams, free entry to members only events, and the opportunity to win M&Gs or gain early entry into shows. The media library is exhaustively full of behind the scenes footage that is a mix of making-of videos, live performance recordings, and even a collection called "Hanson Does Stupid Stuff On Video" just in case you need to watch Hanson learn to ride a Segway or hold a koala in Australia in between those killer harmonies.

I'd personally join every year for the EP alone because the idea of not having access to some of their best work doesn't sit well with me, but there are certainly other reasons to join if the EP isn't enough to sell you. If you want a sneak peak of fan club music without the $40 price tag, check out Perennial, which is a compilation of 21 past fan club songs released publicly in late 2020. 

6. If you loved their covers on TMS, buckle up, because there's more where that came from. Here are a few of their best cover performances that you didn't get to hear on the show, mask-free:

Chain of Fools
Too Much Heaven
Oh! Darling
A Song For You
Change In My Life
Rip It Up
I Believe In A Thing Called Love

And an honorable mention for Taylor's cover of "Love Me" by Elvis, which is absolutely gorgeous and served zero justice by all of the noisy youtube videos I found. (Welcome to the moment of realization that I miss concerts, but not concert talkers!)

They also have a five song EP called Roots & Rock 'N' Roll with studio versions of several great covers.

7. There were some mega-obscure clues on the show, even for dedicated fans. The New Jersey sign from episode one was in reference to Hanson's first public appearance after MMMBop, which took place at Paramus Park Mall in NJ. Nobody anticipated the mass turnout that would happen and Hanson basically had to evacuate due to way too many screaming girls and not nearly enough security or space to hold them all. Lots of people thought the health-scare clues referred to Zac's motorcycle accident in 2019, but his injuries weren't life-threatening and I personally think they were referring to Isaac's pulmonary embolism that happened during a show in 2007.

Nicole Scherzinger was right about the "What goes around comes around" shirt referring to their first pre-fame album called Boomerang, but I call BS on her knowing that all on her own when only a few hundred copies even exist (but hey, maybe she's a closet megafan?) "The seal of approval from the King herself" = Hanson co-wrote a song with the legendary Carole King. Cluedle Doo practically gave it all away when he pointed out the significance in the spelling of "MisfITZ toys." ITZ = Isaac, Taylor, and Zac, and old school fans could identify which brother was in which doll the entire time thanks to plenty of Teen Beat style Q&A articles and those trusty green, red, and blue microphones color coordinated to each brother's favorite color circa 1997 (Green = Isaac, Red = Taylor, Blue = Zac).

But my personal favorite--the most clever, hit you in the face it's so easy I didn't even get it at first--were the three mugs that said "Eat," "Pray," and "?" begging the only logical question: Where's the Love? 

8. And finally, you're just in time to jump on this bandwagon with the release of their brand new single "Annalie," available now.  It's the first of seven singles from their latest collection called Against The World. Keep an eye out for a new single + music video every month through November. You can also attend an accompanying "tour" consisting of eight shows live streamed from Cain's Ballroom in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are limited in-person seats to each show as well as streaming options, and each show is a different theme based on a previous albums plus Against The World. Click here for all the details!