July 15, 2021

Against The World: Only Love

Lyrically, "Only Love" is my favorite single yet from Against The World. I swear I fell in love with it a little more every time I looked over the lyrics while trying to write this post. That's not to say I don't also love the sound, but the word nerd in me can't get enough of how much is packed into these lyrics. Each verse tells a different story but follows the same general format: a struggling character desperate to run away from something on a self-destructive streak.

In the first verse, we meet a "lost soul" that the speaker describes as "just another proud man still hiding from the vow on his hand." He leaves his three children and his wife to chase another woman and feels no guilt for leaving his family.

The second verse describes a different scenario and presented me with a grammatical crisis that is unfortunately going to lead to the following tangent before I get on with an explanation. As someone with a very literary/grammatical brain, I sometimes stumble over a set of words if they're not spelled or punctuated correctly. Throw a comma in the wrong place, and I will read that sentence exactly as you wrote it and not necessarily as you meant it, for better or for worse. So when I audibly heard that first line sans any visible grammatical cues, and with the knowledge that sometimes songs emphasize sentences differently for the sake of sound, I struggled with how to mentally punctuate the thing and make sense of it.

First, I couldn't tell if the line was:

I have weakness as she sings as her heart beats to the rhythm of the saints.


I have weaknesses she sings as her heart beats to the rhythm of the saints

Neither one quite made sense to me, but then I saw someone point out that "The Rhythm of the Saints" is the title of a Paul Simon album and song, and after Googling lyrics, everything fell into place:

"I have weaknesses," she sings, as her heart beats to "The Rhythm of the Saints." 

God bless well-placed quotation marks. Sometimes they're totally neccessary.

Grammatically induced tangent aside, "I have weaknesses" is the first lyric in "The Rhythm of the Saints," meaning the scene in verse two opens up with a woman singing along to Paul Simon, assumedly in a car on the run from some kind of "darkness" (another "The Rhythm of the Saints" lyric). She stops, robs a cashier at gunpoint, and keeps on running "without a care." 

The third verse is where we see an obvious change. We do get a new character, but it's not the same format anymore. The song progression goes from "he" in the first verse to "she" in the second verse to "I" in the third verse. Up until this point, the speaker has been telling us stories of other people, but this time he's getting more personal. He starts out with an admission of flaws similar to the previous two characters, admitting he is aware of his "demons and broken dreams and running headlong into false plans." But unlike the first two verses, this one doesn't end in a line describing how he kept running without feeling remorse. Instead, we get the best two lines in the song:

So whether hipsters or holy rollers, we find ourselves holding court on our knees./
But "broken" won't define you, 'cause love can always find you.

Instead of continuing his self-destructive string of bad decisions, he acknowledges them and stops to "hold court on [his] knees," a position that implies prayer. If you'd prefer to skip the religious context, I think you could also choose to interpret it as a man in a position to beg someone for forgiveness after owning up to his mistakes. 

Whether you choose to interpret his relationship as one with God or one with a spouse, family member, or friend, the answer is the same: only love (and its implied counterpart: forgiveness) can save him. 

Personally, I can't ignore 1. The church imagery from the music video, 2. Hanson's occasional tendency to include religious references in their music, and 3. The fact that just plain seeing Isaac in that collared white shirt in the promo images screamed "Preacher!" before I ever heard the song. When I think about Preacher!Isaac, I can't help but think about growing up in my own Southern Baptist church and how incredibly similar the entire message in this song sounds to some of the sermons I've heard. It's got parables, references to lost souls, and an uplifting encouragement to accept love and be saved from your past sins. It starts with a couple of cautionary tales, gives a personal testimony, and ends with a call to you personally. That's sermon formula 101.

And while that may be my personal takeaway from this song, "love" as a theme is such a big universal concept that leaves us open to make our own personal connections. No matter your perspective, it's a rock-solid song about how love and forgiveness are tied together. It's about looking for redemption and letting love save you from a self-destructive path, and that's true whether it's God's love, romantic love, familial love, or simply learning to love yourself. ❤

Disclaimer: Hanson has not released official lyrics for this song, so this analysis is based on my best take after listening and comparing what I heard to what other fans have heard. Sorry if there are any inaccuracies!

June 30, 2021

And We Won't Go Down: Doswell, VA

Photo Credit: kingsdominion.com

On The Road Again

On paper, this trip to see Hanson in Virginia should have been so easy and perfect it was a no-brainer for me to attend. It's a five hour drive, we had great seats and no need to wait in line, and we decided to spend the first half of the day at a theme park literally a mile from the venue. What's not perfect about a summer show close enough to drive to, especially when the opener is a couple of roller coasters?

Well, it turns out a lot of things. This trip was the epitome of the "just roll with it" mentality necessary for any frequent traveler. Our plan A was pretty simple: I drive up to Richmond from South Carolina and stop to pick up my friend from the Raleigh airport (the halfway point) on the way up. It was a plan that died almost immediately when her first flight was delayed enough to miss that connection to Raleigh. All of the options the airline gave her would get her in to Raleigh the next day--the day of the show--which would be pushing it to get us to the show on time and would definitely kill our plan to visit King's Dominion. I was determined to get those thrill rides.

So while she was in the air to Dallas with no idea how she was getting to the east coast, I was frantically searching flight times into every major city on my driving route (hi, it's the Carolinas. I passed four tractors on the way. Raleigh WAS the major city.) "Find something on the way that gets us there tonight" quickly turned into "how far out of the way am I willing to drive to get us there tonight." The answer was Norfolk, which added an hour and a half to the drive and meant I was going to do most of it alone. Still better than having to skip King's Dominion entirely. By some absolute miracle, I was able to get her flight changed while she was flying and get her one of the last seats on that plane.

But then I started driving, and things quickly went downhill for my travel day, too. My phone wouldn't connect to my android auto, so I was stuck holding it in my hand for the first hour. Then it started downpouring while I was holding the map and navigating a narrow two-lane road between tobacco fields. Thankfully, I finally got it connected before I had to get on the interstate, but the rain was freak Jumanji monsoon levels of absurd. It rained off and on the entire way and ended up adding another hour and a half to the drive. My five hour drive creeped up into the 10 hour range, and I've never been more grateful that we chose to come in a day early.

Welcome to the Roller Coaster Ride

Things finally started looking up when the weather cleared and we found ourselves at King's Dominion the morning of the show. Our first ride on The Dominator coaster was amazing, and I was so, so happy to be back at a theme park for the first time since 2019. Then we got on our second coaster, Intimidator 305, and at the first turn, my vision got fuzzy and started to black out. I have never experienced anything like it at the dozens of parks and countless thrill rides I've done. I was telling myself "Don't pass out. Don't pass out." It only lasted a few seconds, and I was worried something might be wrong until we got off and my friend turned to me and beat me to the sentence: "I started blacking out on that first curve." It was a weird relief to realize it had happened to both of us, and Google tells us that apparently this is totally a thing that can happen on that ride, and that they already added extra brakes to it to try to stop it from happening. No thanks, never getting on that one again.

We went on a few more, I got queasy because apparently I'm old now, and I had to sit one out that I knew would make things worse. I finally decided to join in again when we made it to the Drop Tower and reasoned that at least it would be so quick I wouldn't have time to feel worse. The young employee running it had a microphone and was being goofy singing "ring around the rosy" when we made it to the top. He got to the "ashes, ashes, we all fall down" part...and then nothing happened. We sat in silence for a few seconds and I was sure he was building the anticipation of not quite knowing when we would drop, but then more time passed, and still nothing. Then several people talked over each other at the same time on the speaker and we finally heard "Don't panic. There is a maintenance issue and maintenance is on their way. We'll get you down. Just don't panic. Also you may drop at any time." He would be quiet for several seconds and then start talking again, each time emphasizing "Don't panic," and very much sounding like HE was panicking.

I wasn't worried about being hurt, but I was beginning to worry that 1) we'd be stuck up there in direct sunlight in 90 degree heat and 2) I was actually going to miss a Hanson concert due to being stuck on a ride a mile away, and we literally could have seen the concert from that spot if we had just been sitting on the other side of the ride. After several more panicked announcements including a promise of free water and passes to skip a line of our choice once they got us down, we finally dropped about 10 minutes after we got stuck. The whole thing was pretty anti-climactic after a lot of buildup from the guy with the microphone who kept emphasizing that he didn't know how long we'd be stuck while also reminding us in a frantic voice to stay calm. Dude needs some serious crisis training. I got my free pass and walked away thinking "Too bad I can't use this to skip a future Hanson line of my choice."

Every Single Time I See You, I Start To Feel This Way

The show took place on the fairgrounds in Doswell, VA. We're talking a big open field with porta-potties, food tents, and everyone shamelessly getting ready in their cars. The openers were from Nashville and talked about how wild it felt to drive for 20 hours for just one show but that it was a great experience and felt worth it. As I looked around and recognized dozens of faces from all over the country--none of which were from Virginia--I couldn't help but think "You're preaching to the choir here." At the end of their set, the sky exploded into several minutes worth of that Jumanji rain, and none of us had any rain gear. The whole crowd got completely drenched, and all we could do was laugh and be grateful for a little cool-off in the heat.

I didn't think I'd have some big emotional response to seeing Hanson for the first "normal" show since I was fortunate enough to see every one they've played since January 2020. But then they were climbing the stairs to get on the stage, and I could see them grinning, and suddenly my stomach was full of butterflies and anticipation, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. It felt like coming home in the same way most shows feel to me, but this one felt a little extra special. "Waiting For This" was the perfect song to open with, and the crowd went wild when it started. The setlist was your standard one-off set of singles and fan-favorites just as I expected, but the excitement never died down and the crowd was living for it.

One different thing about this show was the presence of a short catwalk, which I had personally never seen at a Hanson show. Isaac came forward to do guitar solos on it several times, and Taylor was all over it any time he wasn't glued to the piano, grabbing hands, shaking the tambourine, and generally having a great time being back in a crowd. The band seemed to be having just as good of a time as we were and really thriving off of the crowd. It was an interesting experience being in the front row for it because it meant sometimes Taylor was technically behind me, and I'd have to turn around to see him jumping at the edge of 4th row. I wish I had anything more specific to share with you, but honestly the whole thing just felt good and right and gave me the best concert high I've felt in a while. 

"And We Won't Go Down" feels like an appropriate title in so many ways. We made it through the rain, the flight delays, the ride malfunctions, and on a bigger scale, the last 16 months since Hanson played their last full capacity show. It's kind of like being stuck up at the top of the Drop Tower. While I was up there, I was going "Yeah we're leaving after this. I may be done with theme parks," but as soon as it was over and I had time to process that I was safe, I was taking my pass to the nearest roller coaster for my next adrenaline fix. All the crazy hours driving in the rain, the detours, the months and months in masks could leave me feeling like I want off the ride for good and that the hassle and risk aren't worth it. But all it takes is that one moment at the top--that one moment in the crowd--to remind me that it's worth the unexpected twists and turns that get us there, that sometimes you just have to trust the safety nets and the science, and that I'll always be stepping off the ride, fast pass in hand for the next one, going "Again!"

June 7, 2021

Against the World: Don't Ever Change

The first time I heard "Don't Ever Change" wasn't earlier this week on RollingStone.com or at midnight on Spotify, it was at a concert in Denver in 2019. The show opened with "Finally It's Christmas," "Don't Ever Change," "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade," and "Lost Without Each Other." Four songs in, I turned to my friend and asked her "What kind of Benjamin Button setlist is this?!" Hanson had chosen to start the set with the type of adrenaline-inducing songs I had come to expect at the end of a show rather than the beginning, and there was no question that newbie "Don't Ever Change" belonged in that designated rock segment of the setlist.

Now that I have the official studio recording in hand and after a few (dozen?) video watches, I can honestly say for what feels like the first time in my history as a fan, I like the studio version better than when I heard it live. That's not to discredit basically every studio version of a Hanson song ever, but I mean it as a testament to just how much I normally love the feeling of a great rock song going straight to my ears from the stage without the filter of a computer or inferior car stereo. I LOVE this band live, and I love the rush of experiencing a killer rock song in person. To realize I liked this one better on my computer was a bit jarring and out of character. It's a very weird feeling to watch the music video, go "This rocks, I can't wait to hear it live!" then go oh wait, I already did. Four times.

My friend who attended the Wintry Mix tour with me even tried to tell me that she had never heard "Don't Ever Change" before. I had to show her video evidence on Youtube that we had, in fact, stood in a room with that song at least once. In our defense, it was really hard to make out the lyrics, none of the venues we went to had the best sound equipment, and it's challenging to fully appreciate any new song when it's accompanied by a cacophony of shouting and concert talkers. I've been to plenty of gigs with questionable sound quality where my brain effortlessly fills in the gaps for missing words or blundered guitar riffs-- mcuh in teh wya yuor brian cna sitll raed jmulbed wrods--but that's just not something you can do with a song you've never heard before. I hope I get to write another blog in a month or two and recall this moment and just how wrong I was after hearing it live again. 

As for a song analysis? I'm not sure I can give you the type I had in mind for this series of blogs. The lyrics (now that I've properly heard and read them) are straight-forward. If there's any hidden meaning in there, it's deep and my shovel is broken. "Don't Ever Change" is a song celebrating the qualities of a loved one who seems strong, independent, and unafraid to be themselves. It sounds like a vaguely British Tinted Windows song birthed in the early 80s, perhaps in one of the cars in Disney's Rock 'n' Rollercoaster ride. I mean all of that as an overly-specific compliment.

The bridge is phenomenally addictive, easily the Queen-iest part, and I would love to hear an entire song in that style. It also has my favorite lyric: "You're my first day's thought and my last night's prayer." The first time I played it in my car, I caught myself raving in my head thinking "I am LIVING for this bridge!" Then I did some kind of unintentional word association and suddenly found myself making troll puns (see notes below). Welcome to my stream of consciousness; at least there were no raisins this time.

I intended to share my hand-written notes on this one too, but I started doodling on it, and if you think you've had secondhand embarrassment from my dancing skills, just wait until you see the blob that is me drawing a candle. Thank God for free graphic design programs and that I write better than I draw...most of the time.

June 1, 2021

Against The World: ANNALIE

Against The World

Let's have an honest talk about Against The World for a moment. Since its official announcement, fan reactions have been varied somewhere between excited, disappointed, upset, and totally shocked. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, I think it's safe to say that none of us were expecting to be told that ATW would consist of seven songs released one at a time over seven months. I won't lie, I fell solidly in the shocked category at first, and if I had to choose my own three letter acronym the day of the announcement, I'd swap out the "A" for an "F" and reverse the order. Since then, I've thought a lot about how it made me feel and whether I had the right to feel anything at all apart from acceptance. To give you yet another unnecessary food analogy because it's what I do, here's the one I've landed on for an accurate description of my expectations vs. reality regarding Against The World:

Finding out the specifics about Against The World was kind of like having your aunt tell you that she’s bringing her famous sweet potato casserole to Thanksgiving. It’s your favorite dish and you’ve eaten it every year since you were a kid, but this year she shows up and it has raisins in it. Technically she did exactly what she said she was going to do—she brought the casserole—but you weren’t expecting raisins because you didn’t know raisins were even on the table as a possibility. Historically, there’s never been raisins, so you’re disappointed because you made what you thought was a safe assumption based on the information you were given. Basically, Hanson brought the raisins to Thanksgiving, and we weren’t prepared.

It's been a few weeks now, and after having time to digest the announcement--raisins and all--I've accepted the fine print and am excited and ready to hear the rest of the songs. But that still leaves me with a big question as a blogger: how does one properly review an album released in this way? Do I wait until November when we have the whole thing? Do I go song by song? Should I stop at the halfway point and review the first four? Since the announcement, Hanson has made it clear that they are proud of each song from ATW and that they want to give each one the proper attention it deserves. Taking that into consideration, it only seems fair that I try to do the same. I've done a few nerdy analytical posts about single songs in depth in the past, but I normally like to review a full album all at once. Since I also normally like to receive a full album all at once, we're going to try this Hanson's way: a blog post per song, per month, right up until the end.


I loved "Annalie" the first time I heard it previewed at the Wintry Mix tour in 2019. I came home with it stuck in my head for weeks, and I can vaguely remember telling Hanson at some point that they better not scrap it from the Against The World track list. I gushed in my blog and said it was "destined to go down in Hanson history as a classic earworm of a Hanson song."

Now that we have the studio version and the music video, the thing that stands out to me the most is the train imagery. The initial teaser for the release was a cryptic invitation to RSVP with a photo of a train, and the confirmation email included a round-trip "ticket" to Memphis.

The music video followed shortly after and includes similar shots of trains and fields. 

But the most interesting part about the trains is that the lyrics themselves don't actually refer to trains, tracks, railroads, or anything of the sort, just lots of descriptions about traveling through Memphis. So how do I still come away from this song feeling like there were trains hidden in there anyway?

It's all in the sound. The drums, for lack of a better term, have that sort of "chug-a-chug-a" train rhythm where you can practically hear the wheels clicking on the tracks. And the background "ooohs" in the verses? Those are reminiscent of some impressively harmonic train whistles (Think "choo choo," but where the "ch" is silent). I'm a little surprised that they did this all without a single verbal train mention, but I'm also kind of impressed because the image still comes across so clearly that it can't possibly be anything but intentional.

As for the lyrics, if you take it at face value, it's a pretty straight-forward song about a guy searching for this girl, presumably having "lost" her and wanting her back in his life ("Annalie, come home"). He paints her this image of how they could be happy traveling around iconic places in Memphis, emphasizing that it's not really about what they're doing as long as they're together ("I don’t really care where we stop/Just as long as I get to go").

My favorite line is "empty pockets filling our hearts," which reminds me a lot of the feeling I get listening to Simon & Garfunkel's "Looking For America." The sound of the two songs is nothing alike, but there's this similar vibe of two people aimlessly wandering, enjoying their time together, but with a melancholy undertone of still being a bit lost. The difference is in "Annalie," she's not actually with him on the journey; he's romanticizing the idea of what could be if she came back.

Which leads me to the most ironic plot twist of this song that I did not notice until I sat down to write this post and made myself close-read the lyrics. Here's the TL;DR recap of "Annalie" in a single sentence, the bad book summary, if you will: Guy begs girl to come home, cites extensive examples of running away from home as support to get her there.

He's begging her to come home, but then immediately tells her they can run away, "try on someone else's clothes," and disappear in a new city. What? 

I know, I know, I'm reading too much into it. "Home" is simply by his side, and anywhere can be home as long as they're together. I still find it hilarious. "Annalie, come home. JK, here's a list of places I'll take you in Memphis."

Alternate interpretation? Zac has told us that they chose the name "Annalie" because it translates to "God's grace." Given that detail, you could probably argue that the song is about a guy who has lost touch with God and is wandering around trying to find his way again. I'm more inclined to believe that if the name is significant, then the girl--Annalie--IS the grace that God put in his life, and he messed up and lost her and is trying to win her back.

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. Hanson.net 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!

January 14, 2021

And The Winner Is...: Listener's Choice

Confession #1: I don't like setlist voting. This is probably old news if you know me personally or have kept up with this blog, but I feel like it's an admission that needs to happen before I can talk openly about a series of shows with a "Listener's Choice" theme.

Confession #2: The "Listener's Choice" setlists were my favorite of all four themes (if we can look past my wildly festive love for all things Christmas). I know, I know, this feels kind of incongruous with confession #1. In my defense, all of my favorite parts of these shows were the surprise songs HANSON threw in, not necessarily the songs fans voted on, so I still stick by my dislike of voting in general. However, if voting on half of the setlist is how we motivate Hanson into one-upping our votes with killer picks of their own, sign me up. Direct me to voter registration. Send me the campaign materials and the unsolicited texts and consider me a supporter of this party. 

The energy at these shows was high from the beginning I think partly because the setlists were amazing and partly because they were the last shows for the foreseeable future. The first night, people lost it at "Georgia." People lost it again at "Save Me." But the moment we collectively lost it and COULD. NOT. GET. IT. BACK?

"Kind of a Girl."

First off, as someone who hates setlist voting mostly due to ruining the element of surprise, consider me surprised. Delighted. Fired up. Dead, buried, and brought back to life because this random left-field performance was THAT GOOD. Everything about it was tight--the drums, Isaac's guitar solo, and Taylor seemed very much in his element throughout the song.

While I never had the pleasure of seeing it performed by the original band, I'd say Hanson's "cover" did it justice and I was thrilled to see it played at all three shows. I fully regret not taking the one opportunity I had to see Tinted Windows live, and it makes me sad to think that the talented group behind this song has suffered the loss of one of their own. I'm glad Taylor chose to play it, and I think it was a nice way to honor his bandmate and friend.

At the first two shows, "Kind of a Girl" was followed by "Voice in the Chorus." This one seems to be under the radar of most fans and feels all but forgotten by even the band, but I like it. Everything about this song screams SIO tour to me. Maybe my appreciation for it is biased and based more on memories than music, but "Voice in the Chorus" works for me the way a certain scent might bright you back to a specific place or moment. Hearing it live puts me right back into a crammed front row of some hole in the wall venue with Isaac headbanging and that one piece of otherwise perfectly styled hair that would fly free while the whole room is losing it because there is so much energy on stage. It's definitely one of those songs that thrived in a specific moment of time, and I think maybe that time is over unless Hanson chooses to revive it, but even then it wouldn't be the same. It's still nice to hear it once in a while and remember how fun it can be.

I thought that nothing could top "Kind of a Girl," but then the second show made a "Kind of a Girl" sandwich on "Troublemaker" and "Don't Stop Believing" bread with a side of "Stories" and then "Dream Girl" for dessert. You can stop reading right here and just imagine mindblown emojis for the rest of the post, if you want.

So let's talk about "Troublemaker." Back in 2011, Hanson did a proper recorded version of it for Billboard's Mashup Mondays. You can add Weezer to the list of bands I loved before I rediscovered Hanson, so I was excited for this cover and remember watching that video over and over. About a month later I got to see it performed live at the Boston HOB and I remember being ecstatic and thinking "YES! Now it's going to be a tour staple at the rest of the shows and I'll get to hear it more!" Naturally, they never played it again. Fast forward almost 10 years, and they finally broke it out of the vault only for the 2nd show of the Listener's Choice series. It was kind of great getting to hear Taylor sing the line "Having seven kids" now that it's true, and I'm not even sad that he didn't get all the lyrics right because he practically had a novel in 20pt font taped to the floor, and I sure didn't know all the ones I used to know either. It was still an epic surprise and one I really did not mind being front row for. I won't drag you down "Don't Stop Believing" memory lane too, but it's a great crowd song that lets Zac roam the stage, and it made an already great setlist combination even better.

The final show had a similar setlist to the first two with the added bonus of "Sunny Day" at the end, though I was a little too distracted to fully enjoy it watching security try to contain a very happy drunk girl to her increasingly distant table as well as some guy who wandered up to sip his beer and head nod front row Isaac. This definitely fell into the category of "not my table, not my problem," but it was just close enough that I couldn't entirely ignore it, either.  Predictably, my favorite part of the third show was "Thinking Bout Something" because luck dealt my friends and I three side by side tables in the center, and it felt like a giant line dance going on. Over the years it seems like less and less people participate in the dance, but after hearing TBS six times over the course of these streaming shows, it feels like it's making a little comeback. Feel free to join us next time! The best part is laughing when you trip over your own feet, or in some cases, your friend's.

One of my favorite parts of writing these reviews is often retelling the random outtakes that happen along the way, but there's really not much to tell when the only places I went were Cain's and my hotel room. The most exciting thing I did outside of the shows this time was spend more money on Cheesecake Factory delivery than the hotel, and that awkward moment I got literally stuck in an elevator because my backpack strap got caught on the handrail. One moment I was walking out behind my friends, and the next they turned around and I had disappeared to ride back down to the first floor while crying laughing. At least one of the three stayed behind to free me. You're the real MVP. 😂

It's hard to believe this series of livestreamed shows has come to an end, but here we are in January 2021 with one heck of a year behind us and still plenty of obstacles to get through before we can enjoy "real" concerts again. While I know there was a certain amount of risk involved in choosing to go to any of these shows, I am confident in my own safety precautions, and I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be in the room with these songs, these musicians, and a few of my friends. Even in the months between when I was stuck at home, planning table decorations, having mild panic attacks about buying tickets, talking about the best (and occasionally worst) parts of the shows, and just generally having something to be excited about again lifted my spirits in a way I don't think anything else could have.

Thank you to Hanson, to Cain's, and to the fans who made this experience not only possible, but relatively safe and incredibly enjoyable during a time when we all needed some good days (and no thanks to the lady in seat 13D, who provided me neither safety nor enjoyment, just ranty blog post material). I'm going to miss this like crazy and look forward to "seeing" you all on the island, even if that island is digital and it takes us another year to trade the stream for the ocean in real life. It'll be worth the wait.

Credit to Yelena for the photo on the right side of the title graphic. Thanks!

January 12, 2021

Fight or Flight: Traveling Fan Problems

Last week I flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the final installment of Hanson's monthly livestream series. I had every intention of making this anecdote just an introductory paragraph, then moving onto reviewing the show. Then I started writing and found out I had a lot more to say and really didn't want half of the review to be an angry rant about someone that had absolutely nothing to do with Hanson. Consider this one a #travelingfanproblems outtake and keep an eye out for the actual review over the next few days.

I've made a lot of conscious choices throughout the course of the pandemic not to police other people's safety behaviors outside of my own and to instead try to keep myself out of situations that are beyond my control and my comfort level. Turns out I finally found my breaking point on an airplane. My initial flight out of my hometown ended up being half empty, and I had a window seat with an empty middle seat and a lady sitting at the aisle. I was a little surprised she didn't get up and move to give us both more distance when it became clear that there were empty rows around us, but figured it wasn't worth the hassle of making her get up and moving my bags so I could have my own row for such a short flight.

Right before we took off, she started eating a candy bar. I told myself it's fine, she's totally allowed to eat, and if she eats the whole time to prolong her time without a mask, I'll just get up and move after it's safe to get out of my seat once we're airborne. We taxied for a while. She put the small remainder of her candy bar in the seatback pocket (ew?) and started working a crossword puzzle with her mask under her nose and barely over her mouth. I gave her a few minutes before I said anything, because yeah, eating is allowed and her candy bar was still out. After a solid five minutes or more when she hadn't touched her food, I decided to speak up. I leaned forward and politely asked, "Could you please put your mask over your nose?"

Her reaction was to stare at me and immediately pull the mask not over her nose, but entirely under her chin. For what it's worth, I work in retail and have seen a wide range of anger, confusion, and some people who don't get out much and are just plain unaccustomed to mask etiquette. I've had several older customers who have trouble hearing pull their masks down in an attempt to hear me better as if that will somehow help (I suppose it might be a subconscious cue to get me to pull my own mask down so they can hear me better.) I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and kindly repeat my question thinking maybe she just didn't hear me and wasn't thinking when she pulled it down. So I repeated: "I'd be happy to move to a new seat once we take off, but for now I'd feel a lot better if you would put your mask over your nose."

She immediately leaned closer to me and shouted (mask still entirely under her chin leaning over the empty seat between us) "I'M EATING!!!" Then continued to rant loudly about how she has "the antibodies" and therefore can't possibly make me sick, and oh, by the way, she's going to take it off again later to take some pills so I better be prepared to deal with it, and also, as it turns out, I need to chill. 

There was a lot packed into this rant and so, so many things I wanted to argue back as there was something wrong with literally everything that came out of her mouth (and I'm not talking about the germs). In the end I knew that saying anything at all would just prolong the time I would spend with her maskless yelling and I didn't actually want to be part of one of those viral news videos, so instead I waved over the closest FA and interrupted the safety demonstration, asked her to please let me move, and got myself the heck out of that row. I felt a little crazy interrupting, but as a friend later pointed out, I interrupted a safety demonstration to actually demonstrate real safety.

Since I never got to tell her any of the things I wanted to say, I decided to write her an open letter:

To the lady in seat 13D, 

I hope you and your antibodies are doing well. A close friend of mine has contracted covid twice in the last two months, so I was unaware that you have a superior kind of defense that means neither of us can get sick in your presence. This is rather impressive and I sincerely hope you have alerted someone in the medical field to do testing on your singular immunity. 

You seemed a little confused during our brief interaction, so I thought you might be interested to know that I'm very familiar with dictionaries, basic functions of the digestive tract, and have an aptitude for following directions. I've double checked with Webster just to be sure and have confirmed my previous understanding that eating is the act of "putting food into the mouth, chewing, and swallowing it." I've done a bit of further research and can find no source that includes the act of sitting adjacent to a piece of chocolate under the term "eating." (I know some people claim they can gain 10 lbs just by looking at a cupcake, but I'm fairly certain that this is just a figure of speech and not an actual mode of digestion recognized by American Airlines.) Urban Dictionary provided some less common and more colorful definitions, but mere proximity to a food item was still not listed. I hope this helps.

Your confusion is nothing to be ashamed of. I, too, was confused by something you said. I know you tried to explain to me how you would need to remove your mask again to take your medications later in the flight, but I'm not following the process of removal for something you haven't put on in the first place. I'm a visual learner and can't quite picture this scenario based on the information provided, so I would love to hear your insight into how that works. 

I realize my last point may be a bit sensitive, but you seemed pretty comfortable getting close to me during our brief encounter, so I hope you won't find this overstepping. I've heard rumors of some women going years without taking the time to get to know their own bodies and certain parts going largely ignored due to lack of proper education. I know it must be embarrassing to ask especially at your age having gone so long without proper awareness, so I thought I might spare you the trouble by providing a brief educational video on the topic for your benefit (you may find the :12-18 second mark most useful). 

Best of luck,


P.S. I hope that your super antibodies protect against more than just Covid if you trust eating opened food out of seatback pockets. 


December 23, 2020

Hanson.net EP Ranking: An H-Bomb Show Response

I didn't actually mean to write this one, but last night on my way home from work, I listened to the most recent episode of The H-Bomb Show. In this episode, host Nick and guest Nev work to rank each hanson.net member EP in order from best to worst. I found myself agreeing with a lot, disagreeing with some, and inadvertently forming my own list in my head as the drive went on. About halfway through, I caught myself really engrossed in the conversation and couldn't help but grin thinking how nerdy and niche it is to be so invested in music that most of the world doesn't even know exists. Being a big fan of something can be a lonely thing if you don't know anyone who understands, so it's really nice to know people who "get it" while also realizing that it's totally foreign to someone from the outside. So thanks, Nick, for helping bring a voice to this little niche I call home.

If this sounds like your idea of a good music conversation and you haven't listened yet, I'd encourage you to 1) make your own list ranking your favorite EPs, and then 2) listen to the podcast and see how they match up. You can check out the most recent episode of the H-Bomb Show HERE if you haven't already.

Here's my own attempt at ranking the EPs from favorite to least favorite. I won't say best to worst because there is something I like about all of them, and even some of my overall favorites have a skip song or two. I also have to say that it is REALLY hard for me to refer to these with titles that didn't exist until this year when I've spent a solid decade referring to some of these by the year they were created.

1. Watershed (2007)

I didn't realize how hard it would be to order my top four picks. All of my top choices have some songs I feel really strongly about, and some of my favorite songs do not come from Watershed. I ultimately gave it the number one spot, though, because it has the most songs I love all in one place. I'd categorize even the "worst" songs on this EP as better than some of the best from other years. "I've Been Down," "Got A Hold On Me," "I Am," AND "In A Way" are all really strong songs to me. I love "On The Rocks" slightly less, but I do still love it, and "Take Our Chances" feels like a snapshot in time that I'm still happy to look at. There might be a little nostalgia at play here too since this was my first year as a fan club member, but you can see why I kept renewing when this was my first taste of what a membership would get me.

2. Loud (2016)

Loud wins the number two spot for being a home to "No Rest For The Weary," which I would argue might be the best fan club song of all time. It's not my own personal favorite (which I will get to later), but it's close, and I think it might be the best song overall. I didn't fully appreciate "Siren Call" until I heard it on String Theory, but I'm definitely a fan of it now. "Oh La La La" is probably the closest thing to a skip song for me, but I do enjoy it live.

3. Facing The Blank Page (2011)

This one ranks third for having two really solid songs that I love- "Sunny Day" and "Sonny Get Your Gun." One of the first live streams Hanson ever did was an actual live stream of them writing "Sonny Get Your Gun." There were technical difficulties and it was never saved or recorded, so you either saw it live, or you didn't see it. I got lucky and watched it and absolutely loved hearing them discuss word choice and finalizing lyrics. I remember Taylor argued not to use the word "peephole" and Zac argued to keep it (you can see who won that one in the final product). That should probably not factor into ranking these, but it helped me to love the songs on it even more. Also, "Sunny Day" is forgotten way too often by both fans and Hanson.

4. Sound of Light (2013)

There was a time when this was my number one pick, but looking back, it drops a bit because I don't find myself still listening to "Call Out My Name", "Best of Times," or "Roller Coaster Love" unless they get played live. "Sound of Light" is a really good song, and I know plenty of people would call "On and On" overplayed at this point, but it was and still is one of my favorite EP songs, so I'll fight for it.

5. In Color (2017)

"I Don't Want To Go Home" is another song that could compete for best fan club song period, and I don't think anyone will argue against me saying that "Somebody That Wants To Love You" is also particularly good. My unpopular opinion that bumps this EP up a bit higher for me is that I will go to bat for "I Lift You Up." Do I want to listen to it on a regular basis? Not even a little bit. It's one of the saddest, most emotional Hanson songs I think they've ever written, and I mostly keep it wrapped up in a little box I don't open. I still think it's really good and a totally unique song that's underrated.

6. Music Made For Humans (2014)

This is where I start getting more into skip song territory. I could take or leave "Show Me The Way" and "What's Your Name" (though I do appreciate how different this song is with Isaac's falsetto), but the other three songs on this EP are good. Sorry Nick, I love "White Collar Crime" even if it feels like a "best of" Digital Pants song. I also like "Panic in the Streets," though I often forget it's not on No Sleep For Banditos because something about the image of riding through town on a horse just fits that theme. "On The Road" is the best one of this bunch, hands down, and could've held its own on a studio album.

7. In Real Life (2019)

This is where my personal opinion overshadows fan logic. I LOVE "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times" and would probably put it in my top five favorite Hanson songs period. Since "My Favorite Christmas Sweater" is also on that list, I suspect I have a way-too-soft spot for punchlines in songs, but I can't help it. Okay fine, "Compromise" is pretty good, too.

8. Continental Breakfast in Bed (2020)

Time will really tell where this one falls since it's so new, but this EP has two standout songs on it for me: "Miss You Like Crazy" and "All I Know." The opening to "Miss You Like Crazy" is close to "No Rest For The Weary" level of catchy and upbeat. "All I Know" now lives in the box with "I Lift You Up." I think that box may actually be a box of tissues.

9. Watch me Bleed (2003)

Don't hate me for ranking this one so low. I know "Down" is great, "End of the Line" is really fun, and "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade" is a fan favorite live. In my defense, I joined the fan club years after this one existed, so I don't have the same connection to it that a lot of people do. 

10. Leave The Light On (2008)

This one might have ranked higher if it had more than three new songs on it. All three are good, but "Coming Back For More" is the best.

11. Inside the Box (2015)

"Grace Unknown" is obviously the best song on this one. I do love the harmonies on "Don't Hide Your Tears" and think it's pretty underrated. The rest...kind of skippable for me. Honorable mention for the awful greatness of "Have it sauteed, grilled or filleted, we're cooking up a backbeat so pick up a plate," though.

12. No Sleep For Banditos (2012)

Fight me on this, but I love "Be My Own." I don't even usually appreciate sappy love songs, but I really like this one. "Heartbreaker" can be fun in small doses, and there was a time I was tired of the title song, but it's been so long since I heard it that I think I'm back to having potentially falsely fond memories.

13. Animal Instincts (2018)

"Young and Dumb" is absolute lyric gold to me. Unfortunately, I don't love the more techno/dance sounding beat of it. The piano and energy of "Working" is a highlight, but even Hanson seems to have forgotten it, so I'm not all that inclined to fight for it.

14. Fool's Gold (2009)

This is another one routinely forgotten by Hanson, and I think it is the least played live EP of all. Three of its five tracks have never been played. "Wait Here For You" has been played once, and "Devil's Nachos" has been played twice. I was there for all three of those and I still have to check hansonstage to see if it's "Wait Here For You" or "All I Have To Give" that I've heard. That's not a great sign for either song's memorability, especially when they're not even sung by the same brother. I will say I would be happy to hear "Take My Time" live one day, though. Maybe at BTTI.

15. Never Let Go (2005)

Again, you can maybe blame me joining the fan club in 2007 for why this one doesn't rank higher, but even so, I've never been a big fan of the song "Never Let Go." I also don't care much for "Call Me," and both have made me sob live. "So Lovely" is the song I like out of this bunch, and I mostly forget it exists.

16.  Time and Trouble (2010)

I'm gonna have to side with Nick and Nev on this. It might be partly their fault for planting that idea in my head before I wrote this, but even so, it's a cop-out answer I'm willing to run with. I had high-ish hopes of "This is the Jam" being kind of fan anthem-y live with lots of fist pumping and excitement, if only it would ever be played. Then Zac played it at his first solo show in Jamaica, and everybody just looked bored and totally killed my excitement for it. I think "Too Young To Kill" is fun in an experimental "what is happening" sort of way, and "Live Forever" can live forever in that tissue box I was talking about.

I'm not going to go back and ask myself if I'm sure about any of these picks because I could probably talk myself into rearranging several for way longer than would ever be necessary. Overall there are definitely some similarities and agreements about what's top and bottom EP material across my list, Nick's list, and the collaborated list between Nick and Nev. Here they are side by side. What does your list look like? Which EPs would you fight for?

You can follow The H-Bomb Show on Twitter at @HBombShow and subscribe to the podcast at hbombshow.podbean.com.

December 17, 2020

Sequins, Sweaters, And String Lights: The Christmas Ball

Every year around this time, I see fan stories about how Snowed In has been a staple in their Christmas traditions for decades. Some decorate their trees with family while playing the album, some remember playing it while baking cookies and wrapping presents, and plenty have now made it part of the next generation’s traditions. For me, Snowed In is a reminder of family road trips where one person being happy with the music selection inevitably meant that two others were not. It never stopped me from begging and insisting that we listen to Snowed In at least once per four hour drive to visit my grandparents. Every trip, I would “sneak” my Snowed In and A Chipmunk Christmas cassette tapes into the car. Mom would ask if it was over yet, Dad would tell me to “take those chipmunks out already” (even when the three brothers singing weren’t Alvin, Simon, and Theodore), but they always let me listen to it anyway. It’s been more than 20 years, and now there are only two of us in the car. These days the destination is a nursing home instead of my parents’ childhood homes. Mom still lets me listen to all of Finally It’s Christmas and complains every few songs. Sometimes I wonder if she thinks about my Dad when she does, even though Hanson doesn’t sound like chipmunks anymore. It’s a bittersweet feeling, and I’m thankful to share it with her and to have music that reminds me of all the great Christmases that came before.

But this isn’t a nostalgic blog post about Snowed In or about holiday memories. It’s about an exciting new event that gave me something to look forward to this holiday season instead of looking back. It’s about feeling festive, enjoying good music, and looking for the silver lining. Or in this case, the sparkly, shiny, dripping-with-sequins-and-disco-balls silver lining.

As soon as we found out about the themed streams, I was hopeful that December would be all about Christmas. I’ll be spending a quiet Christmas at home with just my mom, and a Christmas theme for these shows gave me something positive to look forward to during a season where I’ll be skipping all the best extended family traditions that I'm used to. I’m grateful for the opportunity and truly enjoyed getting to hear these songs and see all of the festive outfits and decorations. From ballgowns to onesies, Christmas trees to train sets (tiny fireplace ftw), and from living room selfies to front row tables—everyone really brought the cheer I've been missing.

Of course, I can't write about The Christmas Ball without first mentioning its namesake. The song "The Christmas Ball" is a truly deep cut in the Hanson catalog that had never been played live prior to these shows. It was released on a fan club EP called "Super Digital Pants" back in 2016, and I'm pretty sure I listened to it once and never looked back. Some songs take time to grow on me and need a very specific moment to reveal their potential. This was definitely one of those moments, and two weeks later I'm still catching myself singing "ho ho ho, mistletoe, now we're on a roll," which tbh is about a 250% increase in the number of lyrics I knew to this song prior to these shows. Consider me impressed that Zac knew them all, too.

"Joy To The Mountain" was every glorious note I remembered it being from the Finally It's Christmas Tour in 2017, and I'm giving extreme bonus points for the lack of catcalling. I can't wait for the moment it's safe to have regular concerts back, but on the bright side, a 10% venue capacity where most people are fan club members sure helps keep things respectfully quiet for acapella performances. "Wonderful Christmastime" with Hanson's "Come on It's Christmas" addition will also always be a favorite of mine; it's fully danceable no matter where you are and demands you to move even if it's awkward car dancing at a red light while the people next to you probably envision Mariah Carey on your radio. They don't know what they're missing. 

My absolute favorite, though, was "My Favorite Christmas Sweater." It's in my top five favorite Hanson songs of all time, maybe even top three material. I love it that much. It checks all my favorite boxes- it's catchy, it's sentimental, and it's one giant pun. I tried to tell Hanson that it’s one of my all-time favorites once and they seemed mildly confused, but I stand by it and wish it had made it onto the Finally It's Christmas album instead of remaining one of Hanson's best kept secrets. I’ll just be over here spilling it to anyone who will listen.

The setlists for these shows were very similar, but that's to be expected when they only have two full-length Christmas albums to pull from. During the first show I kept wondering if they were going to play any "regular" songs from non-Christmas albums since previous newsletters suggested it would be a heavy mix of Christmas with some other Hanson hits sprinkled in, but it never happened. Every last song was a Christmas song. I was thrilled, and I think stopping a wall of Christmas cheer to play "Where's the Love" wouldn't have felt like the right flow for the atmosphere they were creating. I also genuinely love their Christmas albums and haven't had the privilege of hearing live performances of them very often, so I was pleased with the song choices. 

The shows weren't error free. There were lyric flubs, keyboard malfunctions, a few guitar chord mishaps, and one moment they abandoned a song entirely and didn't play it until the following show. Taylor has since revealed on Instagram that he had a minor surgery not long before these shows and welcomed his 7th child the day after the last one. It’s probably a Christmas miracle that things went as smoothly as they did with all of that going on behind the scenes. If we were grading them on performance accuracy, they wouldn't get a perfect score on this one. But I'm not here to grade them, and while I might be literally here to review a performance, I'd rather do it holding a cup of hot chocolate than a sharp red pen. I'm not looking for perfection; I'm looking for a good time, and that’s exactly what I got.

"Everything is different, but nothing's changed" feels like a pretty accurate statement for how I feel about The Christmas Ball event. It can probably be applied and interpreted in many ways, but for me, it means being grateful for good music and for all the usual warm fuzzy feelings it gave me when so many things aren’t usual at all right now. I've made plenty of cheesy past references to feeling at home at Hanson shows (I might be just shy of a "home is where the hanson show is" doormat), and I think it's so true for many of us. So for everyone who might be missing out on in person shows or missing out on family gatherings this holiday season, I think it's fair to say-- "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my streams." Thanks, Hanson, for bringing us your brand of Christmas cheer. 💗