April 21, 2014

Underneath: How I Became a Hanson Fan

Ten years ago yesterday, Hanson released their third studio album, Underneath. It was their first independent album, and their first risk at taking complete control of their music career. Ten years and three independent albums later, I think it's safe to say it was a smart decision. Underneath debuted at #1 on the Billboard Independent chart and had a handful of other bragging rights, but you're welcome to visit Wikipedia for a more thorough lesson (or better yet, watch their documentary Strong Enough to Break).

Believe it or not, I'm not writing this to tell you a list of accolades Underneath has achieved in the last decade or how the songs have stood the test of time. This is a more personal story. Most of my posts here are related to traveling and seeing recent Hanson shows. For once, I want to rewind--not to 2004 when Underneath was released--but to 2006, the first time I heard it.

Maybe I should start by coming out of the closet. Hi, I'm Holly! And I haven't been a Hanson fan since 1997 like a lot of the hardcore fans in this fan base. Sure, I heard "MMMBop" in 1997, and I loved it. I had Middle of Nowhere on cassette, and I listened to it every day for hours on end. And then one day, I just didn't anymore. In fact I pretty much forgot about Hanson until 2006. Curiosity struck and one day I found myself Googling Hanson, wondering what in the world had happened to those three long-haired brothers that sang "MMMBop" and defined the summer before 4th grade.

What I found was that they were still making music, and their most recent album was called Underneath. I ended up at Wikipedia, the very same page linked up there in the first paragraph. I planned to skim the track listing and search a few of the titles on Youtube to get an idea of their new sound. So at 18 I sat there in my little dorm room, rediscovering this band that means so much to me now, and this was the very first thing that I read:
Track Listing:
1. Strong Enough to Break Wind
I'm not even kidding; that's how I got reacquainted with Hanson. All I could think was "Have they really gone that far downhill and taken some strange, uncharacteristic Weird Al turn?" (no offense to Weird Al, who is a lyrical genius as far as I'm concerned--but not just anyone can pull that off!) I almost closed the page and left Hanson right there in that 4th grade vault, but after a moment of harsh judgment, I kept reading to see what other ludicrous titles might accompany such an absurd first track. When I reread the list and realized my mistake, I stopped and laughed so hard that I cried. My eyes had somehow merged together "Strong Enough to Break" and "Dancing in the Wind," and to this day I think it's the best reading mistake I've ever made.

After I finished crying over my own stupidity, I eventually made it over to Youtube and heard "Broken Angel" and "Crazy Beautiful" for the first time, and that was it for me. If you ask a Hanson fan about the moment they became a fan, you'll get a lot of stories about the first time someone heard "MMMBop," a few mentions of Oprah and MTV, and some laughs about mistaking them for girls the first time. Truthfully, I don't remember how I discovered Hanson in 1997, but if there was a "moment" for me, it's this one, made up of Youtube and accidental potty humor and an album called Underneath. What a love story.

April 1, 2014

How To Tell Your Loved One That You're Going to Australia

1. Sit by idly and steep in your own jealousy when Hanson plays an Australian tour in 2012. The fact that it's the year Hanson decided not to tour the U.S. at all makes it hurt worse that you weren't financially prepared for this.

2. Start secretly stockpiling money so you can go the next time they return. (Now try saying "start secretly stockpiling" three times fast. No relevance--just funny.)

3. To build up excitement and keep yourself motivated in your savings goal, look at pictures like this:

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.04. 
4. And these guys:
Photo credit: fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au
5. Open up a separate savings account because you're GOING to go to Australia. It's happening, and it doesn't matter that you don't know if Hanson is returning in six months or six years. If you wait until tour dates are announced, there won't be time to save and you'll have to start back at Step #1.

6. Do internal flips when you're at a Hanson show in Vancouver in October 2013 and they FINALLY allude to returning to Australia "soon." You've been saving for almost two years now, and the slow churn of "soon" should be just enough time to afford your dream vacation.

7. When they finally announce tour dates in March 2014, it's time to write a blog post coming clean about your plans. Post it somewhere and tag your friends/family/significant other in it, or send them an email with the link to make sure they see it.

8. Allow 3-5 minutes of hyperventilation/intense anger/lamenting groans of anguish/jealousy/etc. from your chosen loved one. You've had a few years to get used to the idea; let them have a few minutes for it to sink in. (Hi Mom, Dad! Still love you! Hope the feeling is mutual.)

9. If the symptoms from Step #8 do not subside, comfort your loved one with the information that you've been saving responsibly for the trip. Ensure them that it is both safe and affordable and that you'll be traveling with a group of trusted, equally crazy friends. Remind them that you did this in 2012 before you went to Jamaica, and things turned out fine (except for when the bus broke down on the way to the airport, but leave that part out).

10. If symptoms still do not subside, refer your loved one to THIS IMAGE.

Update April 3, 2014, The Reaction:

One reaction I received from this "announcement" was better than I ever anticipated. On April 1st, I got up early for work and emailed the link to my dad. At best, I hoped for a stressful five minutes of reading time followed by a big sigh of a relief and some form of "haha, you got me!" (and probably a "that is SO like you"). I thought it would be your average lame attempt that only fooled anybody for about two skeptical minutes before the big reveal. What happened instead was pure April Fools' gold.

I got off work hours later and called Dad. It became clear within a few seconds of the conversation that he had indeed read the article--but not in full.

"Please tell me it's a joke," he said. Not so different from the reaction I got to the Jamaica article which was NOT a joke.

I just told him, "If you don't know the answer to that question, then you didn't read it all."

He admitted that he skimmed it but stopped reading because he had "already seen enough."

I told him to go back and read it again all the way through this time, and that as an ex-English teacher, I was pretty disappointed in his reading comprehension. At that point he had already believed it for hours and seemed unsure whether or not the "real" joke was that I was making it out to be a joke but was, in fact, going to Australia. Poor dad.

So to be clear, I am NOT going to Australia (this time ;-)), but I AM pretty pleased with my trolling abilities.


Update May 4, 2014. The prank that won't die:

Hi, me again. You thought this post was done a month ago? Me too. So what has happened in the month since April Fools' day in regards to this Australia trip? Nothing, because--and apparently I can't say this enough-- I'M NOT GOING. At some point in the last few weeks, I did decide it's time to replace the backpack I've been using as a carry-on item for trips. I can understand how maybe a sudden interest in new luggage might reignite my parents' suspicions of a big trip looming on the horizon, but the truth here is my 15-year-old Jansport is finally dying on me. The timing may be ironic, but the strap chose now to start falling off, and that just won't do.

I started researching travel backpacks to find the perfect fit, and I posted on Facebook about the one I chose. Innocent nerd talk about luggage ensued. Nothing of importance happened, or so I thought.

Fast forward to today, when my mom "admitted" that she had seen a friend's comment on Facebook about our new matching backpacks for our trip to Australia. Cue utter confusion on my end because--I'll say it again--I'M NOT GOING TO AUSTRALIA, and as such, there is no secret comment about our secret trip that my mom accidentally saw. True, I do have a friend going to Australia with her husband (in a trip completely unrelated to Hanson), and she did comment on my Facebook post about needing a new backpack. But I couldn't understand how my mom made the jump between me knowing someone going to Australia and me going with her.

Until I reread the comments:

Now if you're me, you know that the "we" my friend is referring to is her and her husband. But if you're my mom, it looks a whole lot like your daughter really is going to Australia and her friend just outed her on Facebook not knowing that her mom would see it. I have to say, I'm pretty delighted by the ambiguity in those comments and how much it really DOES sound like we're picking out backpacks to go to Australia together when taken out of context. I don't think I could have planned it better if I thought of it myself.

At this rate, I don't think my parents will fully believe I'm not going until August has passed. Even then, I should probably go visit a friend for a week just to keep up appearances, and then next April Fools' Day I can post a blog called "How To Tell Your Loved One That You Never Went To Australia."

Best April Fools' prank ever.