November 15, 2018

Me Myself and I: A Theory

Let’s talk about Me Myself and I for a minute. It’s obviously a break up song, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that it was about the end of a romantic relationship even though that’s one interpretation. To me it has always sounded like a band break up song, but I oddly never worried that Hanson was actually going to break up even back when it came out in 2010. I guess I always assumed that Hanson, being the talented musicians that they are, were capable of imagining a scenario and writing in that head space even if just from a therapeutic, creative “what if” perspective. These are the guys that have written songs about divorce having never experienced one and wrote about the fleeting nature of life at the grand old age of ~10. I guess the bottom line is I always suspected that it was a band breakup song that must have been rooted in some real emotions but ultimately was not a declaration of anything I needed to worry about. They put it on an album. They toured with it. They obviously weren’t going anywhere yet.

Fast forward to String Theory. When my album package came, I sat down with a piece of paper, a pencil, and the In Verse lyric book for my first official listen. I intended to make notes about things like orchestral details I noticed for the first time on the album but hadn't been able to pick out live, whether or not I thought vocals had been rerecorded, and overall what my feelings were on the album vs. live. Instead, I found my pencil wandering away from the paper and into the lyric book itself (please hold all pitchforks for defacing an expensive package item for after class). I couldn't help but notice a few subtle differences between the lyrics on the page and the lyrics being sung on String Theory. I've been around long enough to know better than to put much stock into spelling and proofreading anomalies in the Hanson world, but surely a project so focused on telling a story and one providing the first ever formal lyric book would include a closer attention to detail, right? I’d like to believe that any variation between written and sung lyrics in this case were a careful stylistic choice made to better serve the story rather than a typo that made it past the editing stages. I’m probably kidding myself here, but regardless, for just a moment the subtlest difference in My Myself and I lyrics had me breaking out the chalkboard and forming string-free theories about what this song means.

The difference? Here you go:

String Theory uses “we will be fine” instead of “it will be fine.” For just a moment, the minute difference made glaringly obvious by spacious formatting had me reading “We” out of context as Hanson instead of the individual parts of me myself and I. So where I’ve always read “Me myself and I will never be alone” as a more poetic way of saying “[I] will never be alone, [I] will find a way to get along, etc.” this time I read the whole chorus in the context of Hanson. “[I] will never be alone, [We/Hanson] will find a way to get along, We [Hanson] will be fine, when all that's left is me, myself, and I.”

I’m oddly not sure if it’s happier or darker that way.

I had a few fleeting thoughts when the song came out that there was a nice symmetry to "Me Myself and I" being three entities when there were also three members of the band. I am probably an idiot for not reading more into that sooner, but now I find myself wondering: what if “Me Myself and I” was never about the breakup struggle of one person leaving behind something he used to care about? What if "Me Myself and I" was always a metaphorical way of talking about the dividing of one whole into its three sum parts: Isaac, Taylor, and Zac? (see how much better that looks with the Oxford commas? Just saying.) The fact that each brother takes a verse in the String Theory version pairs perfectly with this interpretation. Whereas I always took there to be only one speaker throughout the song, hearing them all sing a verse gives the feeling that each verse is the perspective of each member of the band individually, and they’re all coming to the same conclusion. You could practically put quotation marks around the whole thing and read it like a dialogue.

“When did it start getting old? When did it stop being worth the time just to see it through?”

“Well I tried to be everything that you’d want me to be. I don’t have to give you reasons why.”

“I don’t really care who was right. I’ll give you the last words tonight.”

It comes off more like a defeated conversation than an argument, which is almost worse and more final in a way. And it all makes so much sense—until I start thinking about the chorus. The verses are so dark and lonely and then the chorus talks about never truly being alone and finding a way to get along. The line that confuses me the most is “When I’m alone in a cold, dark room, well, there’s still someone that I can tell my troubles to.” Is it talking about still being able to talk to each other in spite of everything? The fact that no matter how alone each of them feels, they’re at least alone together? There’s clearly dialogue happening in the verses, which means they aren’t literally alone, but maybe it's just inner dialogue, the things they've always wanted to say to each other but haven't. It's a little bit "Breaktown" in that way. "I'm the walls that close in. I'm the words you won't say. I'm the voice that you choose to keep inside and lock away, every day. You keep it all to yourself, you're just like everyone else, so take a good look around."

I’d love to hear other perspectives on this. Who do you think this person is telling his troubles to? Have you always seen the song this way? Do you get something completely different out of it all? I'd love to hear what you think!

November 6, 2018

String Theory: Louisville

title photo credit: @hfrees

The Louisville Scream String Theory show was my last Hanson show of 2018. I flew in the day of the show and spent a whole 27 hours in Kentucky (and about two hours in Indiana for lunch just to knock a new state off my list). I booked a random Priceline hotel that ended up being right on the Ohio river. As I was admiring the view from our 14th story window, my friend Holly pointed at the walkway below and said "That's where the halfway speech was." I had no idea what she was talking about at first, but then I saw the flags and I understood. I had the vaguest memory of trying to stand on the base of one of those flag poles ten years before to get a glimpse of Hanson during a walk. Even standing on it, I could barely see Taylor's head. That was my ~8th Hanson show and I was a broke college student, completely exhausted from having driven overnight and "camped" for about 2 hours of sleep. It was kind of surreal being in the same place and seeing it from a totally different perspective a decade later. It's funny how much and how little can change over time. In the major plus column: 2018 Louisville included real beds, a flight instead of driving, the option to lounge in a hotel room and have Starbucks delivered right to your door, and front row without ever setting foot in a line. It turns out being older and lazier doesn't suck entirely.

This show opened with a lot of unnecessary screaming. People shouted straight through all three guys trying to talk about the meaning of the show, and they had to stop talking and tell everyone to "get it out of [their] system" more than once. Zac made a pretty pointed comment after one bout of random screaming and said "Well, you'd think 26 years had passed..." and then suggested that everyone try to listen to the show "as if you were listening to your favorite album." They used key words like "sit" and "listen" multiple times, and it was pretty obvious to me that they were silently begging us to sit down and STFU for lack of a better term. For my first draft of this post I had this whole spiel written out about the importance of reading between the lines when it comes to understanding what behavior Hanson wants to see from us this tour. I was prepared for some to say "But Holly, you don't really know what Hanson wants. This is all your personal opinion. They love to see energy in the crowd and people staying seated and quiet is stuffy and disrespectful." With all the cues and hints they've been dropping at every show, I'd consider that perspective borderline willful ignorance at this point.

But that was yesterday. Today, Zac shared his own blog post called "How to Fanson @ String Theory," and now I don't have to convince anyone to read between the lines; just read the actual, literal lines that have now been provided for us. I know it probably seems like I'm preaching to the choir, and Zac, too, since how many of the screamers and rebellious standers are really keeping up with blog posts? But I promise, some of the fervently nodding choir members have been misbehaving too, and most will probably find an excuse for it not to apply to them specifically. It applies to all of us, though. These guys work so hard to be recognized for their music and talent, and to scream while they talk and shout for attention during songs, or to stand when no one else does and make it so that others can't see or hear is to undermine their skill. And that's a shame, because they deserve every ounce of respect that they don't always get, especially from their own fans.

There were outbursts here and there throughout the show, but it didn't get as bad as I anticipated after the rough start. Hanson soldiered on and put on a great show that we probably didn't deserve. The orchestra was much smaller than at the other stops on this tour (a friend counted a total of 21 orchestra members), but they made the most of it and the sound was full enough that I didn't notice a big difference. There was a speaker directly in my face, though, so a lot of the finer details were probably lost on me this time anyway. I did kind of an out of character thing for this one and bought a single ticket for myself and enjoyed this show from front row just slightly left of center surrounded by strangers. It was my "best" seat all tour by normal show standards, but I stand by what I said in my last post. It was just a bit too close and wouldn't have given me a full show experience if it was my only opportunity to see String Theory. I could see Hanson just fine, but the extent of my view of the orchestra was an unfortunate waist-down perspective of a single violin player from underneath the piano. I'll always take front row violin crotch over sitting behind Standy McTayfan, though.

I tried hard to think about all of the best parts of the show as they happened and to take it all in for the last time this year. I walked away knowing I'd miss the special treatment that only an orchestra could provide for songs like "Siren Call" and "No Rest for the Weary" (which has a very catchy string part that reminds me of "Bittersweet Symphony" that is forever stuck in my head). I tried for the millionth time to remember more lyrics from "Battlecry," but I'll just have to wait for the lyric book to finally learn it for myself. "Tonight" is the one that managed to make me feel something every single night I heard it. It never fails to be a powerful reminder that we just don't know what life is going to throw at us, good or bad. And while I initially felt like "Feeling Alive" was missing from the final songs, I've come to realize that I think "Feeling Alive" would've created a more "happily ever after" ending than the story they're trying to tell. Instead, "Tonight" says be happy right now because right now is all we have for sure. A few shows in, I questioned for a moment if I really needed to see so many performances of an identical set. But then I remember that while I can hopefully see Hanson for years to come, String Theory has a much shorter shelf life, and the answer is a solid yes. See it tonight.

The String Theory tour as a whole has been a fun and very different experience from past Hanson tours for me. I did eight shows over four months, but never more than two in a single trip. I swear it was somehow more exhausting than doing eight shows back to back in ten days, and if I have to pack another liquids bag any time soon I may boycott shampoo. I loved not having an opener for the second tour in a row, but good luck to Hanson ever trying to bring one back now that we're all spoiled and used to sitting in comfy seats while we wait. It was harder to meet the band this tour, which mostly just reminds me how spoiled and lucky we've become. The fact that Hanson is literally playing two shows a day to rehearse with each orchestra and are still making time to increase M&Gs and occasionally greet fans afterwards speaks volumes about their work ethic. I have no idea how they do it all. After eight more or less identical shows, I kind of can't wait for the next "normal" show where I can jump and clap and be surprised by the setlist, but I'm also hesitant to let this one go when the time comes. I'll enjoy it while it lasts and look forward to what's next. Australia, anyone?

Until then, enjoy String Theory, break out Finally It's Christmas, and if you have any questions left about "How to Fanson at String Theory" after Zac's guide, you can always see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for some light reading about How to Behave and Why.