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!

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