March 27, 2016

MMMStop: A Fan’s Reaction to Hanson in the Media

We’ve seen an unexpected spike in Hanson mentions lately, and it’s kind of ironic when you think about it. In the last twenty years, Hanson has had multiple new albums and tours, started a non-profit charity organization, founded a music and beer festival with over 40,000 attendees, and started their own record label, all while most media outlets were busy covering things like the next seasonal Starbucks flavor or which muffin looks the most like a Chihuahua. Meanwhile, all it takes is someone getting confused about the release date of “MMMBop,” and suddenly an article about singing the wrong words to a ~20-year-old song goes viral. As a die-hard fan, it’s a little annoying, but we’re used to the MMMBop commentary by now. I’ll hit the “share” button and smile knowing that maybe a handful of people will be reintroduced to a forgotten talent, because this is the internet, and I know all too well that sometimes you click a random link and find yourself 47 Youtube videos deep three hours later.

Right after these MMMBop articles made the rounds, I spotted a new article with the title "Reminder: The Men from Hanson Are All Grown Up Now" while scrolling through Facebook on a break at work. I spent the rest of the day thinking “Good for them. Here’s someone that actually wants to focus on Hanson’s current music.” I sat down at my computer to read it as soon as I got home, ready to applaud whatever forward thinker took the time to see past the apparent blinding success of “MMMBop.”

Maybe I should have anticipated that the entire article would be one big Buzzfeed slobberfest over Hanson’s appearances. It turns out grown-up Hanson is “hot enough to just melt the pants right off ya” and not much else these days. Somewhere around the gif of Isaac’s hair flip, it occurred to me that I can either continue to be annoyed by shallow articles, or I can stop hoping to click on that perfectly enlightened piece that doesn’t exist and write it myself. It won't go viral and I offer no sweaty gifs to lure you in, but here’s the truth every Hanson fan wants you to know every time you see another “MMMBop” article.

1. First of all, MMMBop rocks, okay?
It’s not the embarrassing Pokemon shirt you refused to take off in 3rd grade that your friends still won’t let you live down; it’s a Grammy-nominated song that hit #1 in 27 countries. You’re doing pretty well if that’s the one moment from your childhood that people choose to dwell on.

Also, every possible groan-worthy stick-an-MMMBop-pun-in-the-title variation has already been done. Yes, every single painfully cheesy variation. Time to mmmove on.

2. Who cares if they're pretty?
I’m not about to argue with the fact that the members of Hanson are attractive, but that fact is so irrelevant to their talent and their craft that it shouldn’t even rank in the conversation. It’s like writing an article about a presidential candidate and mentioning the fact that they have feet. Who cares, unless we’re looking for a candidate that can run a marathon in addition to a country? Nobody in Hanson is trying to be a model or a pinup, and I’m pretty sure Zac’s face isn’t going to surprise us with a killer drum solo any time soon.

3. The Hanson I know melts faces, not pants.
If you go to a show, yeah, they’ll probably play “MMMBop.” They’ll also play songs from their other five albums, and the whole crowd will know every word. The energy is intense, so you’ll probably get your feet trampled if you try to stand still during “If Only” or “In the City.” You’ll involuntarily stomp during “You Can’t Stop Us;” I don’t care who you are. If you're lucky, you'll get to experience their cover of the Beatles’ “Oh Darling,” and you’ll have to swear to yourself that you’ll never tell another soul that Hanson did it better. Their harmonies will SLAY you. I dare you to go to a show and not enjoy or at least respect some aspect of it.

4. Their current tour and/or album is neither a “comeback” nor a “reunion.” 

As a Hanson fan with an English degree, I'm offended by articles like this on two levels. Thirty seconds, an internet connection, and the ability to spell both “Google” and “Hanson” is literally all it takes to find out that Hanson has never stopped making music and has been steadily touring and releasing albums since 1997. Suggesting otherwise is pretty insulting to both the band and their fans, and it’s insulting to the entire audience of readers who expect accuracy when choosing to spend their time reading a publication. If I wanted fiction, I’d go to the library. It also says a lot about modern journalism when even the most reputable sources show zero effort to do research to verify basic facts.

And then you get the media outlets that post “reunion” articles every single tour, for which I can only suspect amnesia is to blame.

5. Hanson isn't a "boy band."
They're often lumped into this category for two reasons: 1. They were literally boys in a band, and 2. They became famous around the same time as several well-known boy bands. The term "boy band" refers to a group of male singers also known for dancing. They're typically vocalists/performers who do not write or play their own music.

Isaac, Taylor, and Zac have written and performed all of their own music since the band formed back in 1992. In the last decade, I have personally seen them play the piano, guitar, drums, harmonica, tambourine, mandolin, cajon, cowbell, glockenspiel, and half a dozen other percussion instruments I can't even begin to identify. I've seen Taylor and Zac drum in unison, mirrored on a set of left and right-handed drum kits. I was also on the set of a music video shoot that involved choreographed dancing in homage to the Blues Brothers. The finished product is solid, but let's just say no one mistook them for a boy band while we were filming the flashmob scene.

6. They continue to grow and change, just like everyone else.
And if you must judge them on qualities beyond their music, remember that they’re philanthropists and goofballs and genuinely good people. They aren’t afraid of hard work or criticism, and they’ve had lots of experience with both. I hope we never forget MMMBop, and I hope their faces will stick around for a long time, but man, I sure hope they keep making music more than anything. You guys can keep your nostalgia; I can't wait to see what they do next.

March 23, 2016

I'm (Not) With the Band

If you're going to follow a band, someone somewhere is inevitably going to call you a "groupie." The definition varies depending on where you look, but a quick Google search reveals the connotation most people connect to the term as "a particular kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in relationships with rockstars than in their music."

It's a harsh term that doesn't describe me in the slightest, but I have to admit I'm a little intrigued by anyone that would actually fit the description and claim that title. As an avid reader (and scourer of Goodreads recommendations), I've come across the book I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres on multiple occasions. It's an account of one of rock's "original" groupies coming of age during the 60's and into the early 70's, and it tells of her encounters with a slew of rockstars like Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, just to name a few of the most recognizable on the list. When I found out that Pamela was part of the inspiration behind the notorious Penny Lane in Almost Famous, I was further intrigued. After years of telling myself that it sounded interesting and that I would read it one day, I finally sat down and read her story.

I felt a little more than just morbid curiosity before I opened the pages. Here was a real girl that loved music and grew up idolizing her favorite musicians, and who also loved writing about it. To be completely honest, I think I was a little bit afraid that if you cut out the sordid affairs and some of the pages of star-studded objectification, I might be left holding some warped mirror in my hands. Maybe deep down my hesitancy to read this book comes from a strange jealousy, because I know that if I ever chose to write a book about traveling for a band, there are only so many people that would care to read about my clean, goody-two-shoes idea of a good time on the road. I didn't want to find myself in those pages, but I kind of had to know if there would be some kinship between a girl that follows the music and a girl that follows the musician.

I was a little bit relieved to realize that I didn't find myself going "OMG, me too!" at any point during the book, which falls right in line with my feelings on the fictional Penny Lane. (Like my fellow bloggers Miranda and Danielle have said, I'd choose to be William > Penny Lane any day).

In Penny Lane fashion, she explains early on: "I tried not to think of myself as being cheap or easy or any of those other terms that were used to describe loose, free, peace-loving girls; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music." (p. 57)

It's not a fear I'll ever have to worry about, but the second half of that sentence is something we can all relate to. The first half is practically a blank waiting to be filled in with whatever crazy behavior you're willing to carry out in the name of music.

"[Insert crazy thing you did here, followed by this excuse]; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music."

Maybe it's just a matter of your own personal circumstances and values to find out what you might put in that scary little blank. I'm sure I could fill it several times over with my own version of crazy.

"I camped out on a sidewalk all night; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."
"I drove for 20 hours without stopping to sleep to get to the show; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."

The list could go on for all of us.

By the end of the book, I found that I had grown to respect Miss Pamela more than I expected. Not because of her list of rockstar conquests or for her own growing claim to fame, but for showing no remorse or regret for any of it. If there's one message in this book that I can agree with, it's this: don't ever apologize for doing what you love. As she ends in her prelude: "I'm honored to have spent time with some of the finest and brightest that rock 'n' roll had to offer. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat."

As for other similarities, well...we chose the same blog title font?

March 3, 2016

Luggage Tag Giveaway

Confession: I call myself a traveling fan, yet I've somehow never owned a luggage tag. I guess it's not much of a necessity when you're a strict carry-on traveler who rarely checks a bag, but my new suitcase is just begging for an identifiable accessory. What better way to personalize my bag than with a Hanson lyric about travel? I had a hard time choosing the perfect lyric, but I love the end result:

I liked the idea so much that I decided I wanted one of you guys to have one, too! I opened a poll for readers to vote for their favorite travel lyric, but when there wasn't a unanimous decision, I decided to go a different route. The winner will get to choose their own lyric as well as having the back engraved with their personal contact information. The tag is handmade leather from Bramble & Beene on Etsy and will be custom-designed based on your preferences.

I thought about all of the actions I could request to get entries--like my page, share this post, answer this question, but in the end I decided I just want this to be a thank you for reading and for encouraging me to continue writing about the things I'm passionate about.

So how can you win this fabulous piece of leather craftsmanship?

There are two ways. Using the widget below, simply choose the "click here to enter" option for a free entry. You can earn a second bonus entry by selecting the tweet option to let others know about the giveaway. Entries will be accepted for one week and will close at midnight EST on Friday, March 11th (Thursday night). Everyone is welcome to enter, and the winner will be selected at random by The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours of the drawing and will have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you don't win? You can still head over to the Bramble & Beene shop on Etsy and order your own custom tag, passport cover, and plenty of other great gifting items. I'd love to see a picture of your creation if you do.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Update: Now that the winner has been notified and given her prize, I thought you might like to see the great lyric she picked: